When I was younger, I don’t remember being particularly good at anything. I wasn’t in the GT (gifted and talented program), was horrible at sports, and had zero self confidence. My GPA was 33rd percentile in my graduating class. My family couldn’t afford trendy clothes for me and I had very few friends. I remember most of my childhood being spent alone.
Things picked up in college but I went on to become a mediocre graduate student and an equally mediocre federal employee. My life was out of alignment in many ways, one of which is that I was not living my dharma. Within six months of finishing yoga teacher training, I left the USDA to pursue the craft full time. I was completely prepared to work insane hours for little pay, schlepping all over the DC Metro for whomever would hire an inexperienced teacher.
Three years later - I won Washington City’ Papers Reader Poll for Best Yoga Instructor in Washington, DC. It was a beautiful recognition of love from the community to which I’ve wholly dedicated.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone. Thank you for those who voted for me. Thank you for those who thanked me. Thank you to those who laughed at my dad jokes. Thank you to those who were vulnerable enough to cry in my classes. To those who brought their friends. To those who came back even after I messed up sequences, skipped poses, and took way too long to realize my playlist was on shuffle. Thank you to those who humbled me, who encouraged me, who took me down a few notches.
I would also like to thank my teachers, in no particular order, for sharing their wisdom and love.
Chanda Creasy - Chanda taught the second class I attended at the Studio DC - a place I’ve called home for the past four years. Thank you Chanda, for modeling to me compassion at every turn. Thank you for inviting me to co-lead what would be my first retreat. Your classes are drinking nectar from the moon. For hugging sincerely, plentifully, and enthusiastically. For showing me there is beauty in everything, for showing me the true nature of the heart is bliss. For teaching me to show up and unapologetically be myself.
Natasha Rizopolous - Natasha was guest faculty in my first teacher training, and primary faculty in my 500-hr program. Thank you, Natasha, for showing me that I am not my thoughts and feelings. Thank you for showing me the marriage between spirituality and asana. Thank you for healing my body and strengthening my soul. Thank you for refining my teaching and enabling me to help others in a way I never thought possible.
Jo Tatsula - I found Jo on yogaglo.com, and traveled to India to study with her for two weeks in Rishikesh, India. Jo, thank you for teaching the importance of tending to the sacred flame. Thank you for inspiring me to be creative, for teaching me about the breath between the breath, for awakening my heart.
Barbara Benagh - I stumbled upon Barbara via Natasha at Down Under Yoga in Brookline, MA. She was primary faculty on my advanced yoga training. Thank you, Barbara, for teaching me how to listen to my body and to observe my breath. For teaching me that yoga isn’t sweating, it’s paying attention. Without you, I wouldn’t have sampled the subtleties and softness of yoga. Learning breath from you was learning a new language, I will always hear it around me and within me.
John Schumacher - I consider John to be one of the most senior teachers on the planet and we are fortunate enough to have him in the DC Metro area at Unity Woods Yoga. Even after finishing yoga teacher training, I took his beginner series twice and learned every single class. Thank you, John, for showing me that there is yoga for everyone, and that tough and caring are not mutually exclusive.
Katya Brandis - Katya taught the first class I took at the Studio DC and inspired me to leave my comfort zone. It was through her that I realized my love of teaching. I now know that yoga can be fun, funny, and more challenging than I ever thought before. I am certain that I would not be a yoga teacher at all without her support, encouragement, and mentoring. Not only did she lead my initial teacher training, but she mentored me after graduation. I still remember her taking my Friday 630am classes while in her third trimester. Without her guidance and support in the early infancy of my teaching I would not be teaching at all.
One of the key points I’ve learned from yoga is to not identify with the external/temporary (prakriti), to identify with the internal/eternal (purusha). The external is always changing. Natalie Portman, winner of the best actress Oscar for Black Swan, cautions winners to remain grounded, saying: "When you start valuing yourself based on other people's accolades, it is a little dangerous, because then you have to start valuing yourself based on other people's insults, too.”
I see this less as an award for being gifted, but more so a validation for listening to my inner compass, and teaching from a place that is authentic to me in that moment. With time, my pedagogy will shift, my delivery will change, and my offerings will adapt. Like so many teachers, I am shifting away from sweat and power and exploring the softer, subtler sides of movement. My orientation and priorities are kindness and introspection, less handstands and heart rates. This is less popular, but more important. The role of a yoga teacher is not to offer what the student wants - but what the student needs.
The light in me bows to the light in you. Namaste.