In 2001 I had just returned from a year of studying abroad in Austraila, where I had the time of my life traveling and meeting new people. I learned to surf in Margaret River, sky dived over Byron Bay, sailed through the Whitsunday Islands, learned to scuba dive on an island in the Great Barrier Reef, and traveled into the Outback via plane to learn about the Aboriginal Culture. I discovered lands much different from my home, but much the same. I learned that traveling made me feel alive.
However, when I returned I felt alone and out-of-shape from my year of "excess". The prior year I had collided with a truck on my bike and although I hadn't broken anything (miraculously!), I was severely bruised and immobile. My body and mind had some major healing to do. The year I spent in Australia was a year of indulgences to say the least, and I had to take control of my health.
My brother took me the local gym across the street from us at college in Blacksburg, VA. I attended my first yoga class with Eileen Crist, who became a great teacher and mentor in my life. I don't remember not practicing yoga since then. Although I was well on my way to a Biology degree in the Pre-Med track, I realized I wanted to study more about the body and how to prevent disease, not just treat it. After inquiring to my counselor how to incorporate these classes into my degree, I was told that these were not in the pre-med program. Baffled that exercise physiology, nutrition and kinesiology weren't integrated into medicine, I simply added on a major. I never went pre-med but I also I never stopped practicing yoga and yearning to learn more and more about what it means to have good health.
In 2005, I completed my first teacher training in Ashtanga Yoga with Jeff Tiebout of the Blue Ridge School of Massage and Yoga. Jeff showed me what a true yogi was, dedicated to the practice both in spiritual study and physical practice. I spent many mornings practicing with him, many afternoons talking about yoga, evenings traveling to where he was teaching. It felt more like an apprenticeship, I don't think many students get to experience that anymore.
In 2008-2009 I traveled to India to devote all my time and energy to studying yoga; asana, pranayama, bhakti yoga, learning Sanskrit and chanting for most of my day. It was intense and beautiful. After six months I traveled home and dreamed of my next trip back.
That next summer I got a call that my mom had stage 4 cancer. My truck was already packed up because I had just started my summer as a camp counselor. I led camps all over Colorado and the four corners with kids of all ages- best summers ever. The day after I found out my mother was sick I drove straight home. I stayed near my mother until she passed, settling down close enough to see her regularly in Fayetteville, WV. I learned a lot about needing to care of myself through this loss, dealing with grief, not eating and drinking too much to numb the pain and ultimately more immersion into how to prevent catastrophic sickness.
I went to India again in 2011, twelve days after my mother passed away from her long battle. My trip healed me. My practice healed me. It was a gift, the whole trip, the way I got back to India and the way the Universe took care of me and showed me the path. I spent two months living on the coast of Sri Lanka, teaching yoga and surfing every day. My mother was with me every sunrise on the water, she still is. I remembered that traveling soothed my soul, softened my heart and taught me acceptance of other cultures and people.
When I returned I started studying and practicing the ancient art of Thai Yoga Bodywork and learning how this blends so well with my yoga training. It allows me to share my energy with others in a more intimate setting and allow my clients to deeply relax, receiving this highly beneficial bodywork. I am constantly working to deepen my knowledge of the physical and energetic bodies so that I may help others heal themselves. Contact with other humans beings is so healing, and yet how many days go by without touch or a simple hug? This bodywork has allowed me to share this healing aspect of touch while educating others about healthy movement.
I currently study with Tias and Surya Little of Prajna Yoga in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I am working on my 500 hour certification with a focus on the more subtle components of yoga. I teach workshops and classes that focus on SATYA, (sensory awareness training for yogic attunement) primarily these days. This practice focuses on unwinding the mental, emotional and physical trauma that can lodge deep within our psyche and body and I feel it is lacking in so many of our yoga practices. SATYA is a somatic based practice that creates a space for practitioners to become more aware of their bodies, minds and soul. I had plenty of heat, power and vinyasa in my earlier years, but I felt like I needed to slow down, be delicate with my power and learn how to stoke the fire appropriately. It has transformed my body, as well as my client's bodies. Tias and Surya are great gifts to this world, as are all my teachers, who have allowed me to share these teachings with so many.
I am grateful to each one of my teachers for I weave all these modalities into my practice. I will forever be a student, and work to share my very best with those around me.
Given the time, space, and tools to heal ourselves, we can do anything. But we must take time to practice this balance- and you can't wait until it is too late. What are you working for? Who are you working for? Work for your love, joy and happiness and don't wait another day.