Updated: Oct 12
From the time I was an awkward tween until working full-time as a stressed "adult" (and beyond) life has guided me little by little toward more profound experiences with Yoga. My first brush was at a gym, then on my college campus. Later I took a mindfulness course that deeply shook me, in the best way. Only by gazing back through time can I see with clarity how one thing slowly led to another, because when I signed up for a 200-hour hatha teacher training course in 2014, my 2013 self would not have seen that coming.
Her name is Mary Pat Murphy, and I fondly consider her my first teacher. The 10 of us met once a month in her basement in Northeast Ohio, where we practiced loving-kindness meditation, and read the Bhagavad-gītā, and shared about our "inner roommates" (from The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer). Our assignments included essays about how we observed Yoga philosophy coming alive in our personal relationships. We even had to do a one-day silent retreat, which turned out to be one of the most satisfying days I've lived yet. Those practices, readings, and discussions were formative for me as a student of Yoga.
Soon after completing the certification course, we moved to Austin, TX, where I was able to take a few months off and serve in the community. A few months turned into four years. During that time, I got to teach āsana in public libraries, recovery centers, affordable housing, and even the county jail. When Shawn Kent offered two trainings on trauma-sensitive Yoga, I jumped in to learn about the nervous system, what trauma does to it, and how Yoga can help us reset. We played cooperative games, watched informative videos, and experienced practices designed to recalibrate the mind-body relationship to one of friendliness and compassion. The experience shaped the approach I took to teaching group classes, specifically how I set the environment and tone, the language I used (and avoided), and the techniques I shared (and avoided).
In the midst of this work, I realized that my most important teachers - my students - were showing me they needed more. So many of them were dealing with pain, chronic illness, stressful home or work environments, and anxiety. Lots of anxiety. In 2018, then, I enrolled in an IAYT-accredited Yoga therapy program that opened my eyes even wider to the healing potential of this path. Chase Bossart taught us, "Meditation will change your internal geography in a major way" (and inspired the name Inner Landscapes). Emily Smith and Mark Uridel helped us understand how incredible and resilient the body is. Clarissa Smith introduced us to Ayurveda as a lifestyle of wellness. As part of the program, I also had to book a few sessions with a Yoga therapist, and honestly, that was the most difficult part! The therapist challenged me to look into my dark emotional corners in a way that I was not prepared for.
By early 2019, I had completed the first half of the Yoga therapy program, and I was ready to do my own inner work. I thank all the forces that brought Becky Deano into my life at the right time as my personal mentor. For years I had fought mightily with depression and chronic insomnia, all rooted in an unhealthy relationship with myself. Very slowly, very gently she has guided me to look more closely at my patterns and choose another way. We often return to the concepts of "dharma" as living in alignment with one's core values, and "kleśa-s" as the challenges that arise on the path of dharma to teach us where we still have work to do.
Soon after starting to work with Becky, my partner and I had the opportunity to relocate to Singapore. We said, "Yes!" even as I scrambled for how to finish the Yoga therapy course. Again, with life guiding me one step at a time, I realized I needed to start over and look for a new course. At Becky's suggestion, I searched for IAYT programs in Southeast Asia, and only one appeared - Yoga Vahini, in Chennai, India.
That was how, in July 2019, I began studying under Saraswathi Vasudevan, herself a student of TKV Desikachar. The past two and a half years in her Yoga vaidya program have been transformative for me. In fact, our saṃgha just completed our final round of lectures and assessments, and I am at a loss for words to fully communicate what this experience has meant to me. The best I can do is to share Saras' metaphor of the spiral - we begin at a point, expanding outward as we learn, but the path of Yoga will bring us back again and again past that starting point, helping us to see it all from a new perspective.
My spiral now has many rings to it, and with each spacious turning I feel richer gratitude for those who have lovingly guided me toward reshaping my own inner landscape. Perhaps the greatest of these teachers have been my students, from my first group class in 2014, to the incredible individuals I get to learn with today. Privilege of every kind has afforded me these opportunities, and I absolutely believe that when you have something good, it gets even better when shared.
Soon the clocks will turn over from 2021 to 2022. I will be digesting and integrating the learnings from Yoga vaidya, dreaming up all the ways I might share these precious teachings I have received. Sometime in the coming months we will relocate to the U.S. And most importantly, I will continue to use my daily Yoga practice as a compass guiding me toward the inner north of dharma.