I seriously stepped up my yoga game after my daughter was born; one, to get back into shape, and two, to help manage my anger. I didn’t want to repeat cycles of violence I’d experienced as a child. But being a new parent was stressful and I realized I had no skills to cope. Moving my body regularly immediately took the edge off, reduced stress, and gave me space to process.
I wanted more of it, so I decided to do the 350 hr. teacher training at Swan River Yoga. Making that choice, opened quite a can of worms in my life! The path towards Self realization, growth and transformation is a messy one. There are all kinds of obstacles in the road and detours that must be made…
Initially, increasing the regularity and intensity of my practice aggravated all of my old injuries. I had been a gymnast. I was proud and sure I was doing everything right. I didn’t want anyone to know I was hurt, so I explored the pain on my own. I began to put my attention on my lower back and SI joint while I practiced. And I started asking questions, “Why does this hurt?” “What am I doing wrong?” (P.s. I’m learning not to think in terms of wrongness and judgement anymore.)
As I began to dig deeper into my hips and pelvis, strange bits and pieces of dark memory began to surface. At first I literally wondered if it was mine. But then a more detailed story line began to emerge… All I can say is: the human psyche/ mind:body connection is complex and fascinating. We are so innovative in the ways we cope and protect ourselves. It’s amazing how the mind can create walls and the body can store information to be processed at a later date when we’re safe.
This was the first time that any of the “woo woo” shit I’d heard about chakras actually made tangible sense. I read “Wheels of Life” and “Eastern Body Western Mind” by Anodea Judith. I began to see the body as an expression of our “converging histories,” physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. There is a blueprint for optimal alignment of the body that enables the energy to flow smoothly bringing health and vitality to all parts. When we create walls and cut off pieces of ourselves, the energy gets stagnant and stuck, literally creating dis-ease in the body.
I became obsessed with the idea of working with and realigning the physical body as a way to access and heal these energetic blocks. I took the Alignment and Therapeutics Course with Kelly Haas in 2013 and again in 2015. I shadowed and assisted her in a Beginners Yoga Class for a year. This enabled me to witness and apply the “universal principles of alignment” to many different bodies, body types, and injuries, all the while, going through the healing process myself.
Around this time, I also began to practice Iyengar Yoga with Heidi Grace at Yoga Bywater. It was very different from the flow based practice I was accustomed to. Lots of props, long holds, and really precise alignment instructions that I’d never heard before in my life. It was agonizing, mostly on my ego. I felt like I knew nothing, like I was back at the beginning after 12 years of practice.
And what a wonderful place to be! I began to learn, grow and build strength rapidly. I had a vision of how my yoga teaching and practice could be more balanced, directed and effective in the long run. I began to design 7 Week Series that work from the ground up to realign the body physically and energetically. These series work to integrate all aspects of Self, with the earth and the universe. So that we can connect more deeply, channel more energy, and direct it more intentionally towards building the lives, relationships and communities that we desire to be a part of.
New students, clients and opportunities began to show up for me. One huge blessing came in the form of Jena Mastronardi-Frederick, the founder of the Schema Therapy Center. She stumbled upon one of my classes and saw value in it. She hired me to design private and small group series for her clients, to compliment the work they were doing in therapy. (It may all just have been an elaborate plan to get me into therapy myself, but…) It was an amazing opportunity to gain hands on experience, to apply these ideas and do really deep work with folks over a long period of time.
So many of my new students were experiencing or recovering from low back pain/surgery and/or SI joint injury. So many of them had experienced childhood trauma similar to mine. Was this a coincidence? Jena encouraged me to use my intuition with clients and get creative with integrating all the tools I had to serve them. Restorative Yoga, Thai Yoga Massage and, later, The Bars proved to be extremely effective in complimenting a more vigorous practice and/or therapy. (For more information, check out the descriptions of the offerings on my website http://www.mariposayoganola.com)
Now a days, I continue to practice and teach in seven week alignment series, always returning to the foundation to reset my intentions, to check in with the trajectory of my evolution, to refine my skills of creation and manifestation. I teach a regular public class every week at Yoga Bywater (Alignment based Flow M. 12:30). I also offer private and small group classes at my home studio, where I continue to creatively combine my repertoire of tools to create space to process, facilitate release, and empower folks to choose the next right step in their journeys of healing, growth and evolution.
Recently, I have become obsessed with the question of how to make these individual healing practices relevant to and effective for the collective. If we aren’t making adjustments to restore balance, to create freedom and justice for the earth and all beings, are we really doing yoga? I don’t pretend to have all the answers here. But I know it begins with digging deep; unpacking white supremacy, patriarchy and spiritual bypassing. We must own our short comings, our ignorance and complacency. And then choose to do something different. If you are interested in collaborating or would just like to continue with this conversation please feel free to reach out to me.
I’ve been collaborating with a solidarity coach to create, Teaching to Transform, a 350 hr. yoga teacher training that will dig deep to address these topics, and train teachers to utilize the practice to confront these social justice issues. You can get more details about it on my website, http://www.mariposayoganola.com ❤ ❤ ❤