How do you define yoga?
I understand that many people use the traditional Sanskrit definitions to answer this question, but I will speak more personally about how this idea “to yoke, or discipline” affects my understanding of yoga.
My primary teacher, BKS Iyengar, talks about the way that abhyasa and vairagya function as the two wings on which yoga can “fly.” Abhyasa means long, sustained, uninterrupted practice and vairagya means a rigorous detachment from the fruits of that practice. What’s interesting about each of these ideas is that one needs both in order to develop a practice that can sustain a lifetime devotion to yoga. These are the ideas that make yoga such a deep form of inquiry for me, and one that never grows old.
How did you begin yoga? What made the practice stick to you?
I was lucky to have one of my old students, a wonderful dance alumna from Colorado College, come to visit me one summer. She had been training in Iyengar yoga in San Francisco and offered to teach me some of what she had studied. We had a great time together! She used a language for the body I had never encountered in all my years of teaching and performing dance, and I was amazed at how quickly my body responded. After all the injuries I’d accumulated as a professional dancer, my body felt “new” again. Pain melted away and I was full of energy. Even if it were not for the many ways yoga has gradually healed old injuries, I would “stick” to yoga for the numerous benefits that accrue through my practice.
What does your personal practice look like now?
To really understand what my practice is like, you’d need to take a look at my yoga room! It is strewn with books, props, notes, notebooks and sticky mats. I usually begin each practice in child’s pose just to open the “door” to what my body/mind needs that day, but after that it’s pretty chaotic. Some days I consult my library of notes and books to stimulate my thinking or to address a question that has arisen. Other days I take on a “theme,” saying to myself, “Okay, today we’ll do all of the standing poses (or back bends, forward bends, arm balances or twists).”
If I am exhausted, I’ll start with restorative poses. I might end there too, although I am often surprised by how my energy returns after a few gentle restoratives.
My practice is often guided by a particular student who has been struggling in class to learn a pose or kind of pose, and in that case, I practice as though I am that student, taking on some of their postural alignment or stiffness to help me learn what they need.
What and where do you teach?
I teach at Marmalade from 12:15-1:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays. I also teach a two and a half hour workshop once a month at Marmalade on special topics (special Sundays). I will teach a 10-day intensive course at Colorado College at the end of May. This course is open to the public and people can sign up through the Colorado College Summer Session.
How long have you been teaching? What is your training?
I began my teaching career in dance in 1975, but I’ve taught yoga since 1999. I spent two months studying with the Iyengar family in India in 2005. I received my second level certification in the Iyengar tradition in 2010.
For people who aren’t familiar with Iyengar training, I believe it is the most rigorous of all the yoga teacher training programs, requiring many years of extensive instruction, observation, mentoring and examinations by senior teachers.
For me, life is about learning, so I continue to drive to Denver almost every week to train with more senior teachers and to receive critiques on my teaching. It’s not always fun, but it does keep me honest!
Why do you teach or favorite part of teaching?
That’s hard to say because there are so many ways I feel I was destined to become a teacher. My great grandfather was a professor in Germany before he immigrated to the United States, so maybe this is genetic. I love the challenge of teaching someone whose life experience and body is so different from my own. It requires deep empathy on my part and that requirement stretches me in ways I can never anticipate. I find it absolutely thrilling the moment a student’s eyes light up with understanding and discovery.
Yoga is such a powerful and healing art, it is a privilege to share it with others, to help others experience what I find so profound. I don’t take credit for that part - that’s the yoga!
How has yoga changed you?
In every way I can imagine.
Favorite part of yoga?
I love the time of self-reflection and study. I think about yoga almost constantly throughout my day, even when I am not “practicing,” per se. I feel lucky to have a passion that is my teacher and my guide in all things.
What or who is your greatest teacher?
My teacher is, of course, BKS Iyengar. He is now 93 years old and continues to practice daily. He is incomparably generous with his teaching, and his brilliant insights into the study and practice of yoga have penetrated most yoga systems around the world. Many people study “Iyengar” yoga without realizing he was the one who introduced the props and principles of alignment used in their classes. Quite frankly, Mr. Iyengar is the only true genius I’ve ever known, and his profound contribution to the study of yoga will inform us for a very long time to come.
One piece of yogic teaching you would share with the world if you could?
Many people say, “Oh, I can’t do yoga, I’m too stiff.” I’d like to tell those people that yoga isn’t about flexibility of body. Rather, it is about subtlety of mind. We use the body as a vehicle to develop that intelligence. “Party poses” are for the acrobats, but true yogis know that touching one’s toes is often an obstacle to more refined intelligence.
How to find you (website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.):
I don’t have a website, but I do visit Facebook more often than I should. I don’t tweet (or squeak!).