Reflecting on 17 Years of Yoga

How many of us remember our first yoga class? Our first week of yoga classes? The first few months? First year? Probably recently if you are new to the practice. My first official yoga class was about 17 years ago. I had practiced on my own prior to attending a group class: Richard Hittleman (look it up), Rodney Yee on VHS and Bryan Kest on VHS.

But 17 years ago was my first official class with students and teachers. It met once a week in some old building on West Wash and the class was up two stories of creaky wooden stairs. I was nervous, petrified, really. It was an Ashtanga Primary Series 90 minute class. I don't remember who the teacher was. I don't know where she is now. I know I pretty much prayed to get through the first class and that I would not die and she talked about BANDHAS a lot and I had no #$@&%* clue what that was. The next day I was extremely sore. Must have been the BANDHAS hurting, but I did it.

And I went back the next week. And the next. ETC.

I remember reading an article about HOT BIKRAM YOGA in Yoga Journal (I read it avidly cover to cover).  Then, lo and behold, one day I was driving down University Avenue and see an “opening soon” sign in the window for Bikram Yoga College. There was no internet to run home to and look it up, but I found the opening date and probably attended my first Bikram yoga class and joined whatever offer they had for first time students: A week? Two weeks? A month? I don't remember. I went almost every day. I was scared every class. I remember a lot of feeling of nausea and dizziness. I attended sporadically, and then eventually became a member.

Carrie Newton, Marit, Dar, and Maira were my first teachers. The best thing I remember is kind of being invisible. No one ever talked to me. I went in and put my mat down and practiced and left. Once in a while someone said bye. I don't think anyone knew my name though. I was pretty INVISIBLE. I was going through a whole bunch of life #$@&%*! then. God. The yoga helped. The anonymity was what I needed. 90 minutes of checking the hell out of it all. In a really HEALTHY way.

Eventually I worked the front desk, pre-MindBody online. Marit taught (her first real teacher training) Karen Rigsby and I to teach Bikram. I started teaching. I did a 200 hour training. I did a 300 hour training. I went to tons of workshops in Chicago on the weekends. I went to Santa Rosa, Kripalu, Ohio, and Esalen and on and on to work with the BEST teachers I could find.

I was HUNGRY to know it all.

I taught a lot, became teacher training director in 2011. My own practice had its ups and downs. My teaching had its ups and downs. My life had its ups and downs.

Because it is all just practice you see. There is no starting or quitting or anything. Yoga starts NOW all the time. (Yoga Sutra 1.1). That is all anyone needs to know. I started practicing Zen Buddhism almost two years ago and that REVEALED all of that. It is all REVEALING right now.

I didn't or haven't gone anywhere.

You might practice the rest of your life. You might become a teacher. You might quit. It all unfolds the way it is supposed to. It can't be any other way.

I am though IMMERSED right now in my personal practices and going back to STUDYING and working with the best teachers I can find. I am still teaching and will teach. Closer to home.

My thanks to the following:

Staff at INNER FIRE. You are all the best. Your job is hard. You field problems so teachers can go teach.  You are our BEST FRIENDS. You know all the studio GOSSIP! HAHA

Management and Marketing Michael, Erika, Sarah, Kate. Same deal. To all the managers in the past. You all make our lives easier as teachers. I KNOW these people WORK REALLY HARD ALL THE TIME. BE NICE TO THEM!!!

Teachers are the best at IFY. Some of you have been my first teachers, most important and if you were my first teachers (Dar, etc.) it was because of YOU that I wanted to teach. I had the FIRE to teach
RIGHT AWAY. Teachers who I trained. <3 <3 <3

Teacher trainee relationships are some of my best memories from IFY. You all taught ME a lot. Even things I did NOT WANT TO LEARN. Eternal gratitude.

Students at Inner Fire are kind and gracious. I know you all have problems. BIG ONES. BUT you show up.  You are kind to new teachers. You are honest in feedback. To the ones who hung around and attended my strange progression in teaching, you are ETCHED IN MY HEART.

MARIT.  What can I say about MARIT. I have said this to her. I have seen her ups and downs. The business aspect of it. Can be SO MUCH #$@&%*!. But she is the most gracious, compassionate, and generous person I know.  And a genius really. I MEAN EVERY ONE OF THOSE WORDS IN A BIG WAY. She is so supportive and committed to her staff and will do anything to build them up. She has VISION. (I am jealous of that. I don't really have vision lol). She seems to do it all effortlessly, but I know it is hard. She is a mom and has her shit together with priorities. HER FAMILY COMES FIRST. She had the vision and was the first to bring BIG EPIC studios to Madison and created a new FAMILY.  EVERYONE copied her. Madison has yoga studios on every corner now because the family is big. The innovator. Much love and TRUE FRIENDSHIP to you Marit.

I am not good at marking time and always am moving on. It is almost SHOCKING I stayed there as long as I did, BUT Inner Fire Yoga is my yoga home.

Keep practicing. Grow. Change. #$@&%*! up. Fix shit.

It all works out.