I’ve always been a fitness junkie- a runner, rock climber, mountain biker, Cross Fitter…the more intense the exercise and experience the better. I mostly used these activities as a means of escape- from emotional or physical pain; I didn’t use them as means to understand or appreciate my body and my experience, but rather a way to get out of it.
My first experience with yoga was a Bikram studio; it was the only studio in town. When I moved to Colorado, I sought out another Bikram studio, but also realized there were so many more options! I was drawn to Ashtanga for its fiery charge and the level of fitness and athleticism that it demanded. I would later realize that it exacerbated my ‘type A’ personality, as I used the practice to beat myself up physically and emotionally.
It wasn’t until I had a panic attack in a relatively mellow flow class and re-lived trauma, that I started to realize I needed to pay attention, and become interested in what was going on in my body. I discovered Iyengar, which helped me to learn that I was hypermobile and floppy flexible, but it began to create a rigidity both in my practice and in my body.
Over the years, I studied as many different modalities as I could, with as many different teachers as I could. I expanded to Pilates, barre fitness, cycling and functional training- I began to collect puzzle pieces, that would ultimately lead me to create my own teaching methodology.
When I think back on some of my most impactful teachers, I can’t help but think of Maty Ezraty, especially with her recent passing. Maty was the first to bridge together different traditions (Ashtanga and Iyengar), which not only encompassed and celebrated the physical fitness side of yoga, but also the deeper emotional and even spiritual aspects. With her guidance, I learned that brute force and strength wasn’t the goal, it was wholeness, acceptance, peace and love for myself, my body, the practice and the journey.
Postures are a tool to observe yourself- it doesn’t matter where your gaze is, how your body looks, if you have a heel to arch alignment in Virabhadrasana I. Her way of teaching took away the pressure to do something “right” by someone else’s standards, for the first time, I had permission to do what was right for me, and not only that, I had permission to modify and even come out of a posture. Inclusive, adaptive, mindful and loving- these were new concepts for me and they ultimately changed my life, and how I taught classes. Maty gave me permission to find my own way, and I am forever grateful for that.