Ever since I first stepped onto a mat in the late 1980s, I’ve been a full-fledged yoga believer. I loved the power of the physical poses and the way they reverberated strength and peace in my body and soul. Whenever I’d fall out of practice (and that would be often) and be away from the mat for a while, I’d inevitably come back only to find myself wondering why I ever stopped doing something that made me feel so centered, something that made me feel more like my true self than anything else I’d ever encountered.
In 1990, when I was deep into my practice and working as the part-time manager of the Austin Yoga Center in Texas, I signed up for teacher training, but circumstances made it impossible for me to get very far. Fast forward to two more near-misses with Yoga Teacher Training in 2011 and 2016, and I began to believe it just wasn’t meant to be. But when you’re meant to do something and you want to do something deep in your soul, the universe keeps chasing you until you put all the fears aside and take the leap. That seed of fearlessness was planted last summer. I wanted to get my yoga mojo back and signed up for a discounted new-student offer at nearby Jai Yoga School. Within weeks I was at Jai constantly, taking every kind of yoga class I could fit into my schedule. I didn’t just love the classes; I loved the community, the chanting, the whole package, and I quickly dusted off my old dream, pushing aside worries that 57 was far too old to take up a physically rigorous and mentally challenging program.
What began in January, with an amazing group of yogis learning alongside me, culminated in our graduation on Oct. 11 in a beautiful, socially-distant ceremony that was buzzing with emotion, energy and joy. We had traversed a pandemic-infused YTT program that lasted twice as long as planned due to COVID changes and required us to wear masks and refrain from hugging, much to our chagrin. Through anatomy and philosophy classes, sequencing and practice teaching, we carried on, pushing beyond our comfort zones and letting our guards down. We became a family, and we will remain a family forever because we have peered into each other’s souls, and you can never go back from that. And isn’t that a beautiful, magical, mystic thing.
Since graduation, I’ve been thinking about the yoga teachers who have walked with me on this journey — teaching me, inspiring me, motivating me, loving me. So let me start at the beginning, even if most of those teachers will never read this. Thank you to Sarah Brumgart, the modern dancer and yogi, who first introduced me to yoga and taught me semi-private lessons for the years I lived in Austin in the late 1980s. She was the first person to inspire dreams of being a teacher, and I will be forever grateful. Thank you to Suzy Yoga, who taught me pre-natal yoga when I was pregnant with Chiara and reminded me how much I loved and needed this practice. Thank you to the many teachers who only briefly touched my life but made an impact, such as Larissa Hall Carlson and Father Tom Ryan, C.S.P., both of whom taught me on my one visit to Kripalu, and Lauren Toolin, who encouraged me when I considered YTT in 2011 and 2016 and tried to get me to look beyond my fears.
Thank you to Deanna Beyer, who is not just a teacher but a dear friend who taught those pre-dawn classes at the Bethlehem YMCA that fed my soul and kept me sane. I loved the drive through darkness to those classes that Deanna managed to infuse with a spiritual light even though we were in a gym room next to treadmills and weight machines. When my dreams of YTT were dashed by what was believed to be a hernia, Deanna gave me personal training, helping me bring my yoga down to the most basic level so that I could maintain a simple practice while nursing my condition. She never gave up on me.
Finally, thank you to Meg Horan, my lead teacher at Jai Yoga School, who is not only an amazing yogi and teacher, but a beautiful human inside and out. I was so blessed to find your school and land in your classes and YTT program. Such a tremendous gift! There is nothing I can say that could adequately convey just how grateful I am for all you have given me. Thank you, too, to Dustin, Sabrina, Kristi, Natalie, Allison, Deb, Blair, Mandy, Mareena, and Laurel — all the teachers at Jai who have helped shape my training and my practice over the past 18 months. You are an amazing community.
A huge shout out and thank you to my family — Dennis and the kids, who put up with my long hours away from home and frantic studying and practicing. I could not have done this without you, and I am so grateful, not only for your support, but for your enthusiastic encouragement of all my crazy dreams and schemes. I love you to the moon and back.
Probably one of the common questions I get when I tell people about this journey is whether — or how — it complements my Catholic faith, or even if it’s possible for the two to co-exist in the same spiritual universe without harming one or the other. I am here to tell you that they can more than co-exist; the practice of yoga has made me a better Catholic, a more prayerful and compassionate person, and a more engaged and energized spiritual pilgrim. Years ago, I wrote about this in an essay called Where the Amen Meets the Om. You can read that HERE,
For those who don’t venture over to that essay, here’s the bottom line: My Catholic faith is my bedrock. The message of the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus, are essential to my life, to my very being. But I also know how easy it is for me to get distracted, to skip prayer or find it impossible to settle into prayer. Enter yoga, a practice that slows down my fast-moving body and mind and settles my soul just as it settles my limbs on the mat. When I step onto my mat and stretch and balance or sit cross-legged and breathe deeply, I open up a space where God can enter. And that is why yoga is so vital to my own Catholic spiritual life. And it is why I am so excited about teaching others how to use their practice to deepen their own prayer lives and to move them forward on their spiritual journeys in the most beautiful way.
If you’d like to know how to book a yoga class or retreat, or just want to know more about my yoga journey, visit my page dedicated to this topic HERE.