The Yoga Teacher Telesummit
The Yoga Teacher Telesummit
Starts: may 2011
Ends: june 2011
Host: Tal Rachleff
Go to the Website Hosting the Teleseminar Series
Susanna Harwood Rubin
SPEAKERS AND TOPICS
Mark Whitwell: The Yoga of Krishnamacharya and You
Racheal Cook: Conscious Business Design for Yogis
Susanna Harwood Rubin: How I Learned to Stop Worrying…and Love to Blog (Part 1)
Kris Ward: Why Leaning Into Your Pleasure is the Most Spiritual Thing You Can Do
Laurie Gerber: What Happens When Yoga Meets Life Coaching
Eric Stoneberg: Shaktipat Goddesses: Akhilandeshwari & Chinnamasta
Ally Hamilton: Real Yoga for Real Life
Suzanne Sterling: Art, Sacred Activism, and Global Service
Tiffany Cruikshank: Yoga for Life: Yoga Therapy at Its Fullest Potential
Elena Brower: Teaching from Your Heart: Finding the Real Love in Your Teaching
Kathryn Budig: Aim True: Fulfilling Your Highest Potential
Rolf Gates: Yoga and the Art of Happiness
Sadie Nardini: Unleash Your Inner Rockstar and Pack Your Classes
Bernadette Birney: Become a Yogic Badass
Hillary Rubin: The Three Keys To Unshakeable Self-Confidence
Kelly Morris: Shadow Boxing: How Embracing Your Darkness Supercharges Your Relationships, Transforms Your Life, and
Makes You a Way Cooler Human Being
Hala Khouri: Yoga, Healing Trauma, and Self-Regulation as a Path to Liberation in the Body
Mark Singleton: Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice
Chris Chapple: Connecting with Nature and the Elements: The Liberation Dance
Amy Ippoliti: The Top Five Things Every Local Yoga Teacher Needs to Cultivate
Darren Main: Creative Marketing for Yoga Teachers
Paige Elenson: Service in Action: Lessons from the Africa Yoga Project
Laura Cornell: Step Into You Power With the Divine Feminine! The Liberating Story of the Sun and Moon Salutations
Les Leventhal: The Business and Ethics of Being a Yoga Teacher
Nikki Myers: The Yoga of 12-Step Recovery
Krishna Kaur: Prana, Pranee, Pranayam: The Breath
Ana T. Forrest: Fierce Medicine
David Lurey: Leading Wildly Successful Yoga Retreats
Noah Mazé: The Power of Intention, The Art of Optimal Sequencing
Sara Ivanhoe: You Are Already a Green Yogi!
Douglas Brooks: Dharma, Lila, and A Brief History of Yoga
Matthew Sanford: Inner Body, Outer Activism
Schuyler Grant: 3 Kids, 2 Studios, and 1 Festival: Finding Time to Get on the Mat, Remain a Student, and Inspire as a Teacher
Hala Khouri, M.A., E-RYT, has been teaching the movement arts for over 20 years. Her roots are in Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga, dance, Somatic Psychology, and the juicy mystery of Life itself. Creative movement and honest self-exploration has always been a source of tremendous healing for Hala, and her calling to share this with others has been clear to her since she began teaching at the age of 16.
Hala earned her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Religion from Columbia University and has a Master’s degree Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She wrote her thesis on using yoga and other complementary disciplines such as eco-psychology and somatics for self-empowerment to inspire a global shift towards peaceful and sustainable living. She is also trained in Somatic Experiencing a technique which focuses on trauma’s impact on the body-mind and ways to resolve it.
Hala is one of the creators of Off the Mat, Into the World, along with Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling. This is a yoga and activism initiative that aims to get yogis to take their practice outside of the yoga studio and to touch the lives of others.
Hala has taught yoga and the movement arts to a wide variety of people ranging from schizophrenics and at-risk youth to mommies and rock stars. Teaching is her absolute favorite thing to do! She currently lives in Venice, California with her husband Paul and their two sons.
After receiving a harrowing, incurable diagnosis — Multiple Sclerosis — Hillary Rubin ditched her glam job at Prada and embarked on a wellness quest around the world. Along the journey, she cultivated a set of wellness tools, practices + inner scripts for living symptom-free, pain-free, medication-free — and free of emotional agony and self-loathing. Today, she serves thousands of women as a catalyst for deep catharsis, integrating Anusara Yoga principles with intimate mentoring, mind-body alignment + meditation techniques.
Hillary is the creator of the Yoga Foundations DVD, and has been featured in Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, LA Times, LA Yoga, Yoga International, The Los Angeles Times, Conscious Choices & on Fit TV. Through 1-on-1 coaching and group mastery programs, she creates a safe space for women to stop licking their wounds, and start living their lives.
Find Hillary online at HillaryRubin.com + on Twitter at @hillaryrubin.
Boost your well-being with a free gift at http://www.hillaryrubin.com/gift
“I’ve spent more than 20 years walking the razor’s edge between the softening, feminine embodiment gained through Yoga and the achievement, masculine orientation of so much of Yoga being taught today.
I know firsthand the pain that comes from living primarily in my action-oriented, masculine side, with no idea whatsoever of how to access the feminine qualities of spontaneity and ease. Moving towards balance and integration is my life’s work!
I first discovered Yoga while recovering from chronic fatigue and childhood trauma. Although I always loved the Sun Salutation, I gained even more awakening and empowerment through learning and teaching the Moon Salutation, a series of 16 postures created by and for women at the Kripalu Center.
I went on to found the Green Yoga Association, where I catalyzed a national movement towards the greening of Yoga studios, sold 10,000 non-toxic mats from my living room, and produced two international conferences on Yoga and ecology.
I’m grateful for graduate education in East-West Psychology and Humanities, as well as profound Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapy Trainings, but my greatest learning came when I began to heal my relationship with time and money, grounding deeply into the feminine principles of self-care and self-love.
Today, I am more committed than ever to the Divine Feminine in all her forms: as the face of nature, as the energy and wisdom of the body, and as the aliveness we feel when we connect with ourselves and others.
I am passionate about helping you too find the find the clarity, grace, and commitment needed to heal yourself body and soul, and to move from there to healing and blessing the planet. I invite you to join me.”
Sianna is an internationally recognized Anusara Yoga teacher who delights in the flow of Shakti through the many paths of Divine Love. She began her studies of yoga in 1989 and subsequently had the great blessing of meeting her primary mentor John Friend in 1995. Sianna apprenticed with John for 4 years, during which she traveled with him widely, and has continued to study with him extensively ever since their first auspicious meeting. In 2008, she was featured in Yoga Journal as one of 21 talented young teachers shaping the future of yoga world wide. Sianna playfully weaves alignment, therapeutics, and creative sequencing with mythic-inspired stories, poetry and Tantric philosophy that embraces the fullness of life. Her passion is assisting the sacred activation of community and serving in the way of collaborative gatherings. She bows to the light and wisdom of all her teachers on this path of the heart awakening, especially to John Friend, Paul Muller-Ortega, Douglas Brooks and Bill Mahony.
Christopher Key Chapple is the Navin and Pratima Doshi Professor of Indic and Comparative Theology at Loyola Marymount University. Dr. Chapple received his undergraduate degree in Comparative Literature and Religious Studies from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and his doctorate in the History of Religions through the Theology Department at Fordham University. He served as Assistant Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions and taught Sanskrit, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism for five years at the State University of New York at Stony Brook before joining the faculty at LMU.Dr. Chapple’s research interests have focused on the renouncer religious traditions of India: Yoga, Jainism, and Buddhism. He has published several books, including Karma and Creativity (1986), a co-translation of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1991) and Nonviolence to Animals, Earth, and Self in Asian Traditions (1993), Hinduism and Ecology (2000), a co-edited volume, Jainism and Ecology: Nonviolence in the Web of Life (2002) and Reconciling Yogas (2003)
Certified Anusara® yoga teacher, founder and co-owner of Virayoga in New York City, and Jonah’s mama, Elena has been teaching yoga for 13+ years. After graduating from Cornell University with a design degree, she worked in textile and apparel design for 6 years, living in both New York City and northern Italy. After completing a year studying Art Education at the New School and teaching in 2 schools in downtown New York City, she trained with Cyndi Lee, subsequently met John Friend, and began studying Anusara. After over ten years of study with Douglas Brooks and Hugo Cory, she’s now immersed in the methodology of the Handel Group, designing practices based on their vision. Elena’s work is a masterful, candid blend of articulate alignment and attention cues, to bring patience to your mind, empowerment to your body and clarity to your heart.
From Wanderlust to the Great Lawn at Central Park on the 2010 Solstice, Elena is honoured to offer larger-scale experiences of yoga, but her true service is in shifting your awareness within the smallest interactions; one family, one household at a time.
Elena holds Reiki Levels I/II Certification and practices Pranic Healing. As the 2010 Global Yoga Ambassador for adidas, Elena traveled worldwide teaching the methodology of Anusara. She loves collaborative teaching, alongside colleagues such as Sianna Sherman, Christina Sell, Noah Maze, Christy Nones, Amy Ippoliti, Ross Rayburn, Elizabeth Rossa, Schuyler Grant and Kathryn Budig. She’s been featured in the New York Times, Yoga Journal, the Element Yoga for Beginners DVD series, FitYoga, ABC News and NBC News. Recent classes are available in HD at Yogaglo.
Yoga Therapist, E-RYT500, MBA, Somatic
Experiencing Practitioner, Founder/Owner
CITYOGA School of Yoga and Health
Nikki is an accomplished yoga therapist, teacher and practitioner on the path of Yoga.
A unique focus of her path has been the integration of yoga in healing. In fact, Nikki came to yoga in the midst of her own health crisis, but quickly realized yoga was centering and firmly grounding her in a scared space that allowed healing to happen far beyond the physical. Nikki’s study led her to The American Viniyoga Institute, under the leadership of Gary Kraftsow, where she received certification as a Viniyoga Teacher and continued her study in Yoga Therapy. She has completed her second year of study in Somatic Experiencing, the distinguished trauma healing methodology developed by Dr. Peter Levine.She regularly assists and co-teaches with international yoga celebrity Seane Corn at workshops and conferences across the U.S. Her extensive travels have lead her to joyous work/study in Africa, Cambodia, India, Thailand and more. Born out of her personal struggles with addiction, Nikki is a cofounder of Y12SR, the acclaimed Yoga of 12-Step Recovery program featuredin the New York Times and Yoga Journal. She is quick to tell the world, ‘The 12-step program and Yoga saved my life – one is my lifeboat, the other my launching pad’.
Noah Mazé is celebrated in the yoga community as one of the most advanced and proficient practitioners and teachers of Anusara® Yoga. Born into a household of yogis, Noah grew up steeped in the yoga tradition and its practices. In the 1990s, Noah worked as an outdoor educator and wilderness guide, helping people access the transformational power of nature. After a
life long study of yoga, Noah began studying with John Friend in 1995 and was awestruck. Not long thereafter, he also became a devoted student of Tantric scholar, Dr. Douglas Brooks. Noah was certified to teach Anusara® Yoga in 2002. Widely sought out as a teacher’s teacher, Noah is one of only twelve individuals worldwide serving on the Anusara® Yoga Curriculum Committee. He also sits on Anusara® Yoga’s Certification Assessment Committee, and has been invited to teach with John Friend at both of Anusara Yoga’s “Grand Gatherings.” Noah’s therapeutic teaching is informed by years of anatomical study, successful practice with rehabilitating injured students and his experiential knowledge of the body and its innate healing capacity. Noah maintains an active local, national and international teaching schedule. In his limited spare time, he enjoys riding his bike, shopping at the farmer’s market and reading obscure yogic texts. Noah lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Tracy, and their sweet toddler, Madeleine, and four rescued four leggeds.
Ana Forrest has been changing people’s lives for nearly 40 years. An internationally recognized pioneer in yoga and emotional healing, Ana created Forrest Yoga while working through her own healing from her life’s trauma and experience. With thousands of licensed practitioners around the world, Forrest Yoga is renowned as an intensely physical, internally focused practice that emphasizes how to carry a transformative experience off the mat and into daily life.
By teaching asana, breath and an awareness of the movement of energy through the body, Ana teaches yoga from an intuitive and highly developed understanding of the human body and psyche. With her meticulous guidance, Ana’s students cultivate an acute awareness of their own practice and life process, resulting in an exhilarating journey into self-discovery, cleansing and healing. For Ana, this is her intent. “In teaching Forrest Yoga, I am doing my part to mend the hoop of the people – to inspire people to clear through the stuff that hardens them and sickens their bodies so they can walk freely and lightly in a healing way, in a Beauty Way.”
Ana took her first yoga class at age 14 on a dare and became a certified instructor at age 18. Her extensive study and clinical application of healing modalities, including homeopathic and naturopathic remedies, anatomy, reflexology, pressure point therapy, craniosacral therapies, Shiatsu, chiropractic, polarity and hands on healing, always informs her work. In her life-long pursuit of becoming a better teacher and healer, Ana has undertaken intimate studies in Sweat Lodge, Pipe Ceremony, Vision Quest and Sundance with various Native American and African healers.
Ana is an ordained practitioner of Native American Medicine, a Reiki Master, a Certified Regression Therapist, and a graduate of Anthony Robbins Master University. She is a Faculty Member at The University of Bridgeport College of Chiropractic and sits on the Boards of F.A.R.E. Play (Foundation for Athletic Research and Education) and Earth & Sky Circle (organization for Native American Ceremony). She is the recipient of a Los Angeles Mayoral Commendation recognizing her outstanding teaching and healing work in the community, the first time a major U.S. city bestowed such an honor on a yogi or yogini. Ana is a regular contributor to Yoga Journal and a consultant to the USAF 48th Fighter Wing (RAF Lakenheath, UK), Exalted Warrior Foundation (Tampa, FL) and hiwecanhelp.org (Newcastle, UK).
Ana has generated extensive worldwide media coverage. She continues to teach throughout the year around the world. Her book, Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit, (HarperOne) was released May 2011.
For more than 15 years, Tiffany Cruikshank has taught yoga throughout North America, empowering her students to transform their lives through mindfulness and dedication. Her classes and workshops are full of humor, heart and hard work.
In addition to teaching yoga classes, retreats and workshops internationally, Tiffany is the Acupuncturist and yoga teacher at the Nike World Headquarters in Portland, Oregon, runs 200hr and 500hr yoga teacher trainings and has been featured in various video and print ads for Nike and Lululemon.
Combining her education in Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Holistic Health, Sports Medicine, Nutrition and Herbal Medicine, Tiffany created the Optimal Health Program, a unique system of looking at a person’s whole body to help them achieve a personalized, vibrant state of health. Her book, Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life, was recently published as a 30 day detox for optimal health.
Matthew Sanford has inspired and enhanced the lives of thousands by sharing the fundamental importance of the mind-body relationship. For him, connecting mind and body is not just a health strategy; it is a movement of consciousness that can change the world. He works on a variety of fronts to spread his message:
Matthew’s core message of personal and organizational transformation is powerfully practical for a wide variety of audiences.
His inspirational story of realizing opportunity in the face of change shows the way to better living, greater success and increased purpose. He connects with audiences nationwide, including corporations, major conferences, healthcare organizations, universities, colleges and national yoga conferences.
Matthew shares his personal story in his critically acclaimed book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence. Waking not only received two book awards, but was also reviewed in many national publications. “I wrote a memoir, not to tell you something about me, but rather to show something about the mind-body relationship,” he notes.
Founder and President of Mind Body Solutions
In 2002, Matthew founded Mind Body Solutions, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming trauma, loss and disability into hope and potential by awakening the connection between mind and body.
Nationally Recognized Yoga Teacher and Workshop Leader
Matthew teaches at national yoga conferences, studios and institutions around the country. He teaches traditional students and is a pioneer in adapting yoga for people living with disabilities. The fact that he teaches people in both demographics tells you something not only about Matthew, but also about yoga. “We all live on a continuum of abilities and disabilities,” he says. “The principles of yoga apply to all people, to all bodies.”
Matthew was an active member of the Investor’s Circle from 1995 – 2008 and is now a founding member of the Slow Money Alliance. He believes sustainable investing (investment practices that balance financial returns with social and environmental impact) is an essential and practical expression of mind-body integration.
Jason Crandell was recently named “one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future” by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Take a class from Jason and you will leave feeling grounded, clear, and content—and more informed of the nuances and habits of your body and mind. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to vinyasa yoga.
In the past 10 years, Jason’s “knack for explaining subtle body movements in a way that anyone can understand,” (Yoga Journal) has opened many doors. Most recently, Jason created two Yoga Journal DVDs, Yoga for Wellbeing and Your Complete Home Practice Companion: Yoga for Morning, Noon, and Night. He is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website—many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). Jason teaches extensively at conferences in the United States and abroad, is part of numerous teacher-training faculties, and directs the prestigious Mind/Body Center at the San Francisco Bay Club. He has recently partnered with Yoga Journal to continue creating high-quality, home-practice DVDs.
Jason’s integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and wellbeing in their practice— and in their lives.
Douglas Brooks is a scholar of Hinduism, south Asian languages, and the comparative study of religions. He lived in India with his teacher, Dr. Gopala Aiyar Sundaramoorthy, for many years studying and practicing Srividya, Auspicious Wisdom, and the modern traditions of goddess-centered Tantra. Currently Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester, he holds both Masters and his doctoral degrees from Harvard University.
Dana Flynn is the Co-Creator and Director of the Center and School at Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF. Together with Jasmine Tarkeshi, they created their signature Lotus Flow style of vinyasa yoga. Dana is known as the “teacher’s teacher,” and is celebrated for her wildly poetic sequencing and her raw and generous energy. She approaches her practice and life with fresh insight, exploring the movement as medicine, the romance of the breath, and the freedom of the soul as a mind-blowing, heart-expanding daily blessing. She bows to the amazing teachers that have inspired her along her cosmic way, especially Sharon Gannon, Rodney Yee and Shri Geetha. She is blessed to share what she loves ALL over the world.
Eric Stoneberg lives in New York City where his distinctive approach is deeply informed by his dedicated study and personal practice of Rajanaka Tantra, a shakta (goddess) lineage of Sri Vidya – or Auspicious Wisdom. A Certified Anusara Yoga teacher, his evocative classes use basic asana to springboard to the courageous practices of the heart: meditation and mantra. These subtle realms are the heart of who he is as a yoga teacher. He leads popular tantric philosophy & meditation series on a wide variety of topics at Virayoga in NYC. Eric also treasures the indigenous Andean shamanistic traditions of Peru and works closely with shamans of the Ausangate lineage. He leads local and international retreats and is especially looking forward to bridging the worlds of yoga and Andean shamanism this summer by leading his first ever adventure to Peru.
His beloved wife Heather is a screenwriter and they share a home in the spiritual heart of Manhattan, Sugar Hill, Harlem with their son Jasper, age 4, and two cats.
For more about Eric visit sugarhillyoga.com
Sadie is a renowned Ultimate Wellness and Yoga expert and the founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga. She travels internationally bringing a real-world mix of eastern and western techniques to her yoga and lifestyle teachings. Yoga Journal calls her a “star instructor” for her ability to inspire real transformation in body mind and heart.
Her 15 years of study in the yogic arts, energetics, eastern and western philosophy, nutrition, anatomy and Ninja training, attract students of all styles seeking to draw the powerful energy of Center into their yoga practice and their lives.
Sadie’s signature Core Poses amplify the benefits of any practice, as she directs her students to access and express themselves from that deep connection.
Her Total Body Transformation DVD series are #1 bestsellers on Amazon. Sadie is on the faculty at Omega and Kripalu, and tours with the Yoga Journal Conferences. She’s the Ultimate Wellness and Yoga expert for the Dr. Oz based website phenomenon Sharecare.
Her accessible teaching style, down-to-earth yoga tips and centered-living tools are regularly covered by the national media including Elle, Glamour, Self, the New York Times, CNN, Yoga Journal. She’s a regular blogger and columnist for national magazines like Yoga Journal, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Magazine, the Huffington Post and the Elephant Journal. Sadie is also the author of the life-shifting book, “The Road Trip Guide to the Soul” (Wiley, 2008) which is currently being produced as a TV show.
She is a prolific presence online with over 200 videos, 6 million views and 20,000 regular subscribers, as well as over 10,000 fans on Facebook. She lives and Oms in Brooklyn, New York and takes it on the road touring internationally sharing her gifts.
Paige is a native New Yorker and has been practicing yoga since the 90s. Before falling for yoga, Paige worked as an Accelerated Transformation Consultant on Wall Street for Cap Gemini/Ernst & Young’s, it was there that she realized that yoga was the ultimate tool for transformation. As well as being a Thai Bodywork practitioner, she has Baptiste Power Yoga, Jivamukti, and AcroYoga certifications. For the last 7 years, Paige has studied and taught Baptiste Power Yoga, as well as assisted Baron Baptiste at his national and international workshops. In 2007 Paige moved to Africa and co-founded the Africa Yoga Project, an extraordinary movement that empowers the youth and women of Kenya, creates opportunities to learn and contribute, and changes lives through the transformative power of yoga. She has been dedicated to this movement for the last 3 years and now lives in Nairobi.
Susanna Harwood Rubin
Susanna is a Certified Anusara® yoga teacher, based at Virayoga in New York City. Susanna’s classes interweave myth, poetry and philosophy, offering a multiplicity of ways for students to experience their inner beauty. She has studied for over 9 years with Anusara’s founder John Friend and renowned Tantric scholar Dr. Douglas Brooks, with whom she has traveled several times to South India to delve into the traditions of Rajanaka Tantra.
Susanna combines her life as an Anusara teacher with her career as an artist, exhibiting internationally, and widely represented in both museum and private collections. Previous to becoming a yoga teacher, she lectured and wrote extensively for the Museum of Modern Art including co-authoring the book “Looking at Matisse and Picasso.” She has been profiled by FitYoga, YogaCity NYC, and SocialWorkout. She writes a weekly column called “Finding Beauty” about yoga, creativity, and cultivating beauty in everyday life for SocialWorkout.
Mark is interested in developing an authentic yoga practice for the individual, based on the teachings of T. Krishnamacharya and his son TKV Desikachar, with whom he enjoyed a relationship for more than twenty years. Mark’s teachings clarify the profound passion and relevance of ancient wisdom to contemporary life.Mark has taught yoga for over twenty years throughout the US, Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Mark was the editor and contributor to TKV Desikachar’s book, “The Heart of Yoga,” as well as the author of Yoga of Heart: The Healing Power of Intimate Connection and Hridayasutra.
Suzanne Sterling is an ecstatic vocalist, innovative teacher and invoker of the sacred. Both as a performing and recording artist, as well as a facilitator of transformational workshops and intensives for many years, Suzanne has received critical acclaim. Her devotional music has been commissioned for film, theatre and DVD. She has enjoyed mainstage billing at festivals such as Wanderlust, Bhaktifest, Burning Man, Boom, Harmony and The World Festival of Sacred Music (hosted by the Dalai Lama). Suzanne is a Priestess, who for more than 20 years, has developed curriculums, teacher trainings and apprenticeship programs combining ritual and activism for numerous communities nationwide. Her Sing Yourself Awake® workshops and circles offer a unique blend of yoga, music, sacred ceremony and activism to events and studios worldwide. Recently she has been a featured speaker/artist at several Yoga Journal Conferences, Omega Institute, Esalen, The Institute of Noetic Sciences. and Earthdance where she led the worlds largest Spiral Dance for 5000 people.
Suzanne is also a co-creator, with Seane Corn and Hala Khouri, of Off the Mat, Into the World®, a project offering nationwide training programs combining yoga and sustainable activism. She loves riding the edge where art and ritual meet and is committed to creating sacred community and empowering others to be their authentic, expressive selves.
For more information visit suzannesterling.com
Who I am and what I do:
My name is Kris Ward, and what I do… it freakin’ LIGHTS ME UP. I’d venture to say I’m one of the most passionate and multi-talented “yogi-preneurs” on the planet today. (Oooh, even THAT feels limiting. I’m not a huge fan of titles. But that’s the best one I’ve found for me yet.)
What’s a “yogi-preneur” you ask? It’s me. Yoga teacher, artist, and dancer/choreographer by trade. Mindful Marketer, speaker, online entrepreneur, lifestyle design coach, and lover of life by way of making that trade WAY more joyful, impactful, and profitable––a truer expression of the real me.
Because I’m not JUST a yoga teacher. I’m an advocate of full self-expression––of NOT limiting ourselves by conforming to anyone ELSE’S opinions or belief systems, but instead tuning into to what’s REALLY alive in us, and honoring that truth, no matter how scary or different it might be from the “norm”.
Whether I’m on the phone with a client, teaching a yoga class, or speaking in front of hundreds of people, the only thing I’m ever really doing is reminding people to be precious to themselves. Helping them remember their value, their brilliance, and their uniqueness; that when it comes to life, they really CAN’T get it wrong and they don’t need to rush. It really is supposed to feel good. And everything they desire, it CAN be theirs if they really want it and are ready to make the decision to create it. Ultimately, I give people the kick in the rear they need to start living their lives by design, not by default; by choice, not by chance.
So my greatest creative contribution thus far is Abundant Yogi™, a brand I founded to empower my fellow yoga teachers, coaches, and other holistic wellness professionals to create financial, spiritual, and emotional wealth through compassionate entrepreneurship. I love working with this group because they carry a lot of GUILT around making great money doing what they love (as if they should only make great money doing work they despise. Weird, I know, but this belief is like an epidemic within the community). So I help them ditch the guilt, once and for all, and get back in their power, PRONTO… so they can make a bigger difference and spread their love juice a lot more generously.
Sara Elizabeth Ivanhoe began teaching yoga in 1995 while receiving her BFA from New York University. She holds a Yoga Philosophy degree from Loyola Marymount University as well as their Yoga and Ecology degree completed in accordance with the Green Yoga Association. She has completed teacher trainings with Erich Schiffmann, Yoga Works and John Friend in the Anusara style. Sara is the instructor for the “Yoga for Dummies” series, the “Crunch Yoga” series as well as the collaboration with Russell Simmons “Yoga Live” all together selling over 4.3 million units worldwide. She is currently on Fit TV’s “All Star Workouts” and her self-produced “Yoga on the Edge” runs on Exercise TV. Sara has been a regular on Vh1’s “Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab” and has been featured as one of the “Titans of Yoga” in the new critically acclaimed documentary.
Schuyler Grant is the co-creator of the Wanderlust yoga and music festival as well as the director of Kula Yoga Project in New York City. Born and raised in California, she is proud to have created a downtown oasis which perfectly blends a West Coast chill atmosphere with an NYC style intensity of experience. There she has developed a popular style of vinyasa called Kula Flow, known for its emphasis on intelligent alignment and high creativity. She has been singled out by the New York Times as the go-to teacher in New York for an advanced-level yoga practice. One ingredient that characterizes Schuyler’s teaching is the addition of bandha work to the traditional blend of breath and asana. She takes great pleasure in sharing the recipe with her students.
As one of the youngest and most widely recognized faces in yoga, Kathryn Budig’s appetite for yoga is infectious. Kathryn’s playful mixture of challenging classes with her lovable personality is the recipe for a truly inspiring class. As an avid food lover, she is also passionate about sharing healthy, organic and eco-friendly recipes.Kathryn shares her zest for life, yoga & food in her contributor writings for The Huffington Post, Yoga Journal, Yahoo Shine’s Living Section and MindBodyGreen. She has graced the covers of Yoga Journal, Yoga International, Om Yoga and Common Ground. Budig has been featured on E!Entertainment, The Food Network, Shape and The New York Times. She also serves as the brand representative for apparel company ToeSox and ambassador for Pangea Organics.Kathryn is dedicated to giving back to her community. She co-founded “Poses for Paws”, an organization dedicated to raising money for animal shelters through yoga.You can practice with Kathryn around the globe or save yourself the plane ticket by practicing with her weekly online at Yogaglo.com. Find her on faculty at Yogaworks Santa Monica, Kripalu or through her upcoming Gaiam DVD, “Aim True Yoga”.
Rolf Gates, author of the acclaimed book on yogic philosophy Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga is one of the leading voices of modern yoga. Rolf conducts Vinyasa Intensives and 200/500 Teacher Trainings throughout the US and abroad. A former social worker and US Airborne Ranger who has practiced meditation for the last twenty years, Rolf brings his eclectic background to his practice and his teachings. Born in Manhattan, Rolf Gates grew up in the Boston area as an avid marathon runner, long distance cyclist and champion wrestler. As the descendant of six generations of ministers, he gained an understanding of service and dedication at a very early age.
Rolf and his work have now been featured in numerous magazines to include Yoga Journal, Natural Health and People Magazine and as one of Travel and Leisures’ Top 25 Yoga Studios Around the World. A frequent conference presenter, he was the Keynote Speaker at the 10th Annual Midwest Yoga Conference, IL. Rolf is also honored to be a contributor in the newly released Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood being featured nationally on television and in print to include Ron Reagan’s Air America, Fox and Friends, EXTRA and The Tyra Banks Show and more. (All proceeds from this project go to support groups working with men and boys at risk).
Rolf Gates is the co-founder of the Yoga + Recovery Conference, Esalen Institute, Big Sur CA. (Next Upcoming Conference: November 2011) and brought Yoga and Functional Stretching to the US Department of Defenses’ Tri- County Summit on Sustainability. He is pleased to be working with the US Military on sustainable care for the troops and their families. Rolf also works weekly one on one with clients in his Yoga Life Coaching program.
Rolf now lives in Santa Cruz with his wife, Empowered Kids Yoga Teacher and Director, Mariam Gates, and two children, Jasmine and Dylan. He has become an avid surfer and puts his yoga to work on his board and as a husband and father.
Founder and director of Conquering Lion Yoga and The Conquering Lion Yoga Teacher Training Programs, Kelly is a lineage holder in the Gelupka tradition of His Holiness The Dalai Lama. Featured numerous times in the New York Times, New York Magazine, and Yoga Journal as one of NYC’s most influential, sought-after teachers, Kelly teaches many celebrities including Willem Defoe, Sting, Russell Simmons, Chris Botti, Kim Raver, Christian Slater, Donna Karan, Madonna and Jennifer Jason Leigh. She has been teaching sold-out classes and retreats worldwide for 12 years and is on faculty at the Omega Institute. A close student of Sharon Gannon, David Life, Geshe Michael Roach, Lama Christie McNally, Lama Kimberley Theresa, Lama Jack Brady and White Lama.
An author, teacher, leader, do-gooder, and entrepreneur, Amy enjoys bridging the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and our modern lives. She has been studying yoga since 1986, and became one of the first certified Anusara Yoga teachers in 2000 after being to drawn to Anusara yoga for the artistic, heart and community centered teachings. Amy apprenticed closely for many years with Anusara founder John Friend on his national tours, and currently chairs the Anusara Yoga Curriculum Committee. Amy is widely recognized for her down-to-earth teaching approach, lucid instruction, and for assisting her students in achieving personal breakthroughs on and off the mat.
Racheal Cook is the Founder of The Yogipreneur, a boutique business consulting and coaching firm specializing in bringing abundance to the Yoga and Holistic Health community. As a small business consultant and coach, Racheal has helped hundreds of small businesses and entrepreneurs create new opportunities for prosperity to achieve their greatest vision and contribution. Racheal holds a Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and Small Business and more recently, completed her first yoga teacher training under the later Arlene Bjork. You can find Racheal at www.TheYogipreneur.com, where she writes about yoga, business, mamahood, and conscious living.
David Lurey has been teaching Yoga since 2000 and is a self-titled ‘Global Yogi’. Since 2005, he has been sharing Yoga as a traveling teacher in Brasil, The United States and Europe with teaching inspired from different paths of Yoga focusing on the dynamic transformation when Body, Mind and Spirit align towards self-realization. With a physical practice that focuses on foundation and alignment he supports students in awakening the inner teacher and with mindful awareness he guides students to a place of peace of mind so the essence of the heart can be revealed. As a musician, David leads weaves mantra and heart songs into classes supporting the opening and he also leads Kirtan chanting with an open and energetic feel awakening positive vibrations with a playful and loving connection. For more information please visit Find Balance
Bernadette Birney is a dyed-in-the-wool, freedom-loving tantrika. When she’s not busy conquering the world, taking hostages, feverishly freelancing, working on her book, and posting on-line essays, you can find her practicing the art of life-on-purpose, and teaching in Connecticut.
Bernadette has had the good fortune of studying with the great ones: she’s a certified Anusara yoga instructor, and has long pestered her Rajanaka Yoga mentor, Douglas Brooks. Known for her poetic and precise articulation, she insists that you can maintain a hard-core yoga practice and a sense of humor, too. Her classes, immersions and trainings are steeped in a life affirming philosophy that will invite you into the exploration of your own potential.
Bernadette was one of the earliest Certified Anusara Yoga instructors in CT, and continues to mentor the local teaching community, leading trainings and retreats. She has contributed to Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Elephant Journal and Srividyalaya Amrta. She is also a lululemon ambassador, and the author of the quirky, award-winning blog www.berniebirney.com
Laurie Gerber is President of the Private Coaching Division of The Handel Group™ an international coaching company which specializes in teaching individuals to take focused and powerful action in every area of their lives. For the majority of her adult life, Laurie has been teaching and coaching adults and children in a variety of settings including lectures, discussion groups, seminars, classroom teaching, tutoring and one-on-one coaching. Passionate about personal development, Laurie has dedicated the last 10 years to coaching hundreds of individuals and leading groups at Kripalu Center, Esalen Institute, Equinox Fitness, Soho House, the JCC of Manhattan and Natural Health Magazine’s Women’s Wellness Weekends. She is also a contributing writer to Big Apple Parent, Businessweek’s Coaching Corner and is a featured life coach on Vogue.tv. Public speaking, teleseminars, blogging, radio and TV are her current favorite modalities for bringing the Handel Method® to the world.
Tal Rachleff has been immersed in the worlds of yoga and Eastern mysticism since he was in grade school and read a children’s version of the Bhagavad Gita. (Okay, that’s a bit of an over-statement. But seeds were definitely planted back then. In 7th grade he wrote a 70 page research paper on acupuncture when it was unheard of in his hometown. In high school he became fascinated with reading body language and energy.)
He traveled to India during college in the early 90s and discovered the physical practices of yoga while watching fellow-travelers do their Astanga practice on a hostel rooftop.
Upon returning to college he began his yoga practice and has never looked back. (Okay, that’s not really true. He’s looked back plenty of times. But it sounds cool to say and write that, doesn’t it?)
Tal completed his first Yoga Teacher Training with Alison West of Yoga Union in January of 2002 and became a co-founder and co-owner of Kula Yoga Project with Schuyler Grant in June of 2002. During his years teaching at Kula and around the world, Tal studied intensively with amazing teachers, including John Friend and Douglas Brooks.
Tal left NYC and Kula in the summer of 2006 and after some explorations in various parts of the world (which we won’t get into here), he has since chosen to make the Bay Area of California his home, where he has the opportunity to study and teach with some of the most creative and forward thinking teachers of our time.
Over the past several years, while becoming more and more engaged in social change work, Tal also began to study conscious capitalism and social entrepreneurship. This alignment of business, yoga, and social change gave birth to the idea of the Yoga Teacher Telesummit.
“I’ve realized that the community of yoga teachers around the world is one of the most powerful collective agents for change that I can imagine,” says Tal. “In the 21st Century, Yoga Teachers are filling the roles that priests, rabbis, imams, and other figures used to hold for their communities. Yoga teachers are being called upon to help guide us into a new way of being and doing on this planet during a critical time for the evolution of our consciousness. I’ve summoned some of my favorite teachers as well as some of those teachers I’ve only read about who have had a profound impact on the world so that other teachers may be inspired, instructed, and empowered to guide their students with greater skill and authenticity.”Tal doesn’t normally write about himself in the 3rd person, so the preceding paragraphs have been slightly awkward to write.
Still, Tal hopes you have a better sense of him and why he is convening this Telesummit.
Mark Singleton has a Ph.D in Divinity from Cambridge University. He has published extensively on modern yoga, including the first collection of scholarship on the topic, Yoga in the Modern World (2008), and the ground-breaking study of the modern history of asana, Yoga Body, The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. He is a yoga teacher in the Iyengar and Satyananda traditions. His opinions on yoga have appeared (among other places) in the New York Times and Yoga Journal.
There is usually a reason people come to the mat. I started practicing my senior year at Columbia University when I found myself at a real crossroads in my life. Without going into too much personal detail, a series of events forced me to look carefully at the choices, the big choices, I had been making. I realized with some alarm that none of them had anything to do with me, at least not in any real way. I had been making decisions based on other people’s needs, mostly, or on what I thought I should do, but I had no real understanding of what I wanted. I was an adult, but I did not really know myself. Just the basic things, even–what makes me happy? What do I need, or want? What am I here to do?I took my first yoga class with Dharma Mittra at the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City, where I grew up. At first, I kind of kept sticking my toe in the pool, practicing once or twice a week. It wasn’t an instantaneous lightbulb experience, it was just that little by little, I began to realize that my moments of clarity, of awareness, of feeling really myself, were happening on the mat. And so my practice became a sort of lighthouse, a beacon, it just kept drawing me in, and soon I was practicing six days a week. My stairmaster collected dust, became a coatrack, and was eventually put out with the trash. I had no desire to go to step class, or an abs class, or to lift weights while listening to my walkman. I did not want to plug in, tune out, and focus on aesthetics, I wanted to tune in and find out who I was. I have always been blessed with phenomenal teachers, people who have shown up at the perfect time. I do not believe this is coincidence. There is the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”; I have found this to be true, both as a student, and as a teacher. The best teachers I have had have taught by example, just by the way they lead their lives. At a certain point, my practice kind of took hold of me, and began to fill more and more of my time, and the deeper I went, the more I committed, the more there was to learn.
And every time I looked up, there was someone there to illuminate something else for me. Some of my biggest influences have come from Dharma Mittra, Bryan Kest (at whose studio I taught for over 5 years, and for whom I will always feel enormous gratitude), Jorgen Christiansson (I began practicing Ashtanga yoga with Jorgen in 2001, and eventually assisted him), Baron Baptiste, Max Strom, and Saul David Raye.
The gratitude I feel for my teachers surpasses anything I could write, but truthfully, the practice itself is your best teacher, just showing up on the mat. In 2009 I felt moved to open my own space, and fill it with amazing teachers. It wasn’t part of my long-term plan, but sometimes the universe gives you a huge kick in the ass (which is usually preceded by several smaller ones you may have ignored), and as a result, Yogis Anonymous and my daughter were born on the same day. They joined my then almost three year old son. So I had a plethora of teachers arrive all at once. Any yoga practice begins as an internal journey, and often students ask about this. It’s true, you have to turn your attention inward…..my breath, what is happening in my body, in each and every moment? The most amazing thing, though, is that this internal journey will eventually lead you back to your connection with everyone and everything else. There are countless benefits to any regular yoga practice, one of which is just getting comfortable in your own skin, both physically and emotionally. What is the truth? Not what do I want it to be, or what do I think it shoud be, but just, what is? This is a practice that has Eastern roots, and here I am, this Westerner. We live in this hyper-commercialized society, where so much value is placed on the external. How things look, very big in this country, and if you are reading this in Los Angeles, VERY big in this town. And there’s so much to support that. Three minutes of commercials is all it will take to convince you that you don’t look right (you should try this diet), you don’t smell right (better buy this deodorant), and apparently, you don’t feel right, either (better call your doctor to get this medication, quick). And so many people suffer as a result. Always in search of those external factors to make things right–”I’ll be happy when I lose 10 pounds, find my soulmate, have that giant house, or new car, or better job, or fill-in-the-blank”, and there will ALWAYS be something else, and happiness will be this hummingbird, always in sight, but just out of reach. It takes so much energy to fight the truth, whatever it is. We grow up, and even those of us with the most loving parents are told, “Don’t be sad”, or ,”Don’t be angry”, and so we are taught that only certain feelings and behaviors are all right, are acceptable. And little by little, we lose the ability to even identify what we are feeling, let alone sit with those feelings. I have a vague sense something is wrong…let me, quick, turn on the television (“you don’t look right or smell right or feel right!!!!), or the internet,(Facebook, anyone?) or pick up the phone,(maybe I have a friend who’s worse off than me? or someone I can pull into my misery? is there someone I can gossip about?) or race to a movie (where I will likely be convinced that if I could just find my soulmate, I’d be happy), because I don’t want to FEEL anything but good, and here comes life with all it’s ups and downs, and I just don’t know how to deal with feelings of loneliness, or rage, or boredom.
And so we fight the truth of what we’re feeling with distraction, or just a refusal to even acknowledge it, whatever it takes to push it down, make it go away, but this takes SO much energy. And suddenly everyone’s exhausted and there’s a coffee house on every corner. It’s possible that all of our so-called advances have actually set us back. There are so many awesome facets to a yoga practice, and one of them is just that. Identifying the truth of the moment, even if it is challenging, confusing, confrontational, even painful, and being all right with it, learning how to breathe through it calmly, with compassion, staying grounded ,centered. This morning I am in Ardha Chandrasana, and I feel that I could hold it forever. Tomorrow, I am falling all over the place, convinced someone has replaced my mat with a surfboard. So be it. This is the truth of the moment, and either way, I am breathing. So many opportunities, microcosms on the mat, and little by little this stuff starts to seep off the mat and into your life. I am in love, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, I am breathing. I got dumped, it’s freezing out, and those same birds just crapped on my shoulder, I am still breathing. The truth is, there is no way to control anything. Great things will happen, sad things will happen, things I want to happen, won’t, and things I don’t want to happen will, and this thing, this happiness of which we are all in search, is nothing more and nothing less than just steadiness through it all. Inner peace, serenity, wisdom, gratitude, call it what you will. They cannot bottle it, and you cannot buy it. But you can absolutely find it, have it and hold it, and the best and only place I’ve found to start is on your mat.
Looking back over my life, I realize that I have been practicing yoga for a very long time which I now see as an art and a celebration of life, the way it is and not the way I think it should be based on efforts I put forth. Years ago, when I was a competitive swimmer, there was tremendous attention paid to the breath – so I was practicing pranayama before I even knew it.
I remember some days of training were about diving into the pool and swimming under water to the other end and seeing if the turn could be made and head back for home in a single breath, certainly a breath retention. Where now, a breath retention is about being still and watching the inhale and how whole, full and complete that one breath is. Then watching the exhale and pausing to be empty of breath and noticing how whole, full and complete I am even without breath. This kind of awareness stirs up the prana or life-force within me that moves me to study and explore what it is that I am doing and why I am doing it.
My introduction to yoga occurred at a gym during a time when I was busy lifting weights as hard and as fast as I could. I was working furiously to carve and chisel the body on the outside in an attempt to cram and jam that outside look to an inside feeling. It never worked and then one day I jumped – and yes I jumped into a yoga class with vim vigor and pep and I understood nothing and forced everything and fidgeted everywhere. Thank goodness that teacher was Steph Snyder and she had a sense of humor that day and helped me laugh at myself for putting so much effort into that simple task of backing off and letting go. By the end of class, when I collapsed into Savasana (corpse pose), honestly, I felt dead. I remember feeling a bit emotional and embarrassed to show that, yet at the same time there was something quite soothing in the willingness to let go of everything, finally, for those few moments. I was hooked. Sign me up for the year class pass and so I did. I started practicing a couple of times a week and then I found Michael Cooper on Fridays at noon. My whole week revolved around that class. Every Friday, I left work early and thank goodness my boss always worked from home on Fridays until one Friday he didn’t. He asked where I was going and I decided to be honest. I let him know how important it was for me and what it was doing for me. Then I did a little headstand for him and he let me go.
Over the years, I have practiced with many many amazing teachers. I find every teacher which is really just everyone I meet in life to be amazing. Some of them guide me to continue studying the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Others guide me to explore meditation and the 8 Fold Path of Buddhism. Others remind me to be humble and grow in my compassion for all people and still others remind me of how I used to wander through this life in fear. These teachers give me permission to embrace this life, all of it which has been so freely gifted to me. Every step and every breath that I have taken, regardless of occasionally not being able to see the teachings through the valleys, has brought me to this moment. These are the things that I want to share with you the most.
Somewhere around 2003, I got a little pregnant. There was this feeling inside my spirit and soul, a yearning for something loving and something that completely allowed me to wake up, open up (even in times of fear) and offer up everything without hesitation or thinking that I would not be taken care of. That baby was born in April of 2005 when I left the corporate world which really provided me a tremendous beginning and laying of a foundation that continues to be important to how I live my life today. Without being completely aware of if I wanted to teach or not, I signed up for the Forrest teacher training with a let’s check it out attitude. In a few simple words, Ana woke me up, she opened me up and she offers up. I started teaching immediately. Since that first training, I have assisted Ana in her teacher trainings and workshops and along the way I found Tias Little – another amazing teacher for me who re-introduced me to my gentler loving Les and has provided me an opportunity to weave the 8 Fold Path with the 8 Limbs in a way that doesn’t feel religious or separating but rather all inclusive. I say that because I used to live my life so separate from everything and everyone and the yoga that I teach and the yoga that I still practice everyday is all inclusive for all levels – all are welcome to stay whether it’s your first day of yoga and your teachers are challenge, frustration and confusion or it’s your 10th year of yoga and your teachers are joy and inversions or maybe injuries. Often our greatest teachers for compassion are injuries whether it is your knee or even your heart.
One of the things that is so important to me as I continue on this path towards my true Sava pose is to always be a student, then a student teacher, then a teacher. I found teaching because I had such passion as a student. Although things do shift, I want to always continue exploring as a student and continue studying with amazing teachers and amazing people. There’s never been a single yoga class that I’ve attended where I haven’t learned something new and had a chance to explore more intuitively how I hold my yoga on and off the mat, how the rolling out of my mat truly reflects my life off that mat and where I tend to hold the more challenging aspects of this lifetime in my body.
A final thought or word – I think that we’re meant to have everything, joy and frustration, anger and love. I think that opposites of this world are really the parallels that show us in times of challenge the level of appreciation we might cultivate for this incredibly short life. If you have kids, let them remind you how to just live without filters and judgments. If you don’t have kids, get some cats and dogs or other pets and if that’s not an option – go get some ice-cream (single scoop – everything in moderation even your yoga). I truly believe that at some point I will meet up with the divine and I will get to ask many questions and see the true answers and that I will be able to embrace the person that I am as I move through this life as my yoga shifts on and off the mat. Today, the asana is an important limb to me – so I focus a lot of attention there. I hope that as my life changes and as perspectives shift and I weave in the other limbs and teachings that you will embrace those with me.
I thank you for your trust and your love and I look forward to a lifetime of learning with you and as a great man sings……Stay Human.
I was born on January 20, 1971 to two wonderful parents. My mother, Kathy, was a housewife, and my father, John, was a heavy equipment operator and a farmer. Both my parents were a bit odd, but then again, whose parents aren’t. In spite of the baby fat and mom’s bad haircuts, it was a fun time for me.
My mother was very religious and would attend church every day. Fortunately, Sundays were the only day she made my brother, sister and me join her. While I was given all the guilt that being raised Roman Catholic seems to entail, I am very grateful that I had some spiritual structure. My mother has always been the backbone of my life. Although her religious beliefs were strong, she never failed to show me gentleness, compassion and unconditional love. To this day I still call her if I have a “tummy ache.”
My father was agnostic. The farm was his “God,” and I could tell that it brought him the same peace that my mother’s faith brought her. He would spend most of his free time on the farm, and on weekends and summer vacations, so would I. My father is one of the most stubborn, old-fashioned people I know, but he has a strength and integrity that I strive to model in my life. In many ways he is my moral compass. Whenever I find myself facing a difficult challenge, I ask myself what my father would do. It never fails to bring me the clarity I need.
My parents were married for over twenty-five years, but not happily. While they were always civil to one another, they were far from satisfied. They rarely spent time together, and shared little in common. Eventually they divorced. It was a very respectful break-up, and they are friends to this day. They are both remarried now and very happy with their new partners.
I have a wonderful relationship with my brother and sister. Even the best childhoods can be rocky at times. Around each corner are a new obstacle and a new drama. I had the privilege of sharing that time with Jason and Jennifer. The three of us have very different lifes now, but the bond of sharing the innocent turmoil of childhood is strong. Even now, living more than 2000 miles away, I draw strength from that bond and consider the two of them among my closest friends.
My brother, Jason works with computers in Groton, Connecticut and is doing very well (even if he has to spend most of his day working with Microsoft Windows). He has a beautiful wife, Amy who is like a sister to me. They have a beautiful daughter named Zoë.
My sister, Jennifer, is an occupational therapist and works at a retirement home in Mystic, Connecticut. Like me, she has seen some rough times which culminated in a very bad car accident. She has pulled through all of that however, and those experiences have made her one of the most compassionate people I know. Her work in the retirement home is just one example of her compassionate heart. She and her husband Alden have a the sweetest daughter, Haley.
My teenage years were anything but happy, From the ages twelve to eighteen, my life was filled with pain, rage and confusion. Drugs were one manifestation of my inward turmoil, and the strain on my family was immense. The storm raged on for nearly five years, which to a young person might as well be an eternity. Some of this had to do with the normal issues of growing up and discovering one’s own identity, but not all of it. In addition to all the usual experiences that young people need to work through, I was also dealing with my sexuality.
Growing up queer is not easy, even today, but at the time there were no gay role models, and I didn’t know what to think about my sexuality. Part of the problem was that I didn’t feel gay . . .I liked women a lot and still do, but I couldn’t chase away the desire to connect with men too. All of the pressures that society puts on boys to be straight combined with the piles of guilt acquired from my Catholic upbringing made for a very tumultuous time.
In spite of all the acting-out, I can see that even then I was deeply committed to finding spiritual peace. I was simply looking in all the wrong places. Rather than embrace my pain, I had been taught that pain was something to run from. I thought I had found “God” in drugs and sex, but this only offered a temporary reprieve and ultimately resulted in greater suffering. On February 17, 1989, shortly after my 18th birthday, I hit my bottom. In a suicidal fit, I felt my ego begin to buckle under the weight of my guilt and shame. I had reached a point in which my only choices were life and death. I no longer had the luxury of walking through life like one of the living dead and I no longer had the will to live. Yet deep in my heart I knew that I wasn’t ready to die. It was in that moment that I first experienced the healing power of spiritual surrender. I had in that instant what is commonly called a spiritual rebirth, and nothing in my life has been the same since.
On that night, I found myself lying on my bed, crying hysterically and yet feeling peace— real peace— for the first time in my life. If an angel had appeared to me in that moment and told me what I would be asked to do from that point on, I probably would have picked up the razor blade again. I may have found peace, but courage and faith would be something that would take years to develop. From that “dark night of the soul,” I have journeyed a great distance. I have found a number of tools to assist me in this journey and countless friends and teachers who have shown me that peace is a choice.
My first step on to the spiritual path came in the form of a twelve-step meeting. For me the twelve-steps were the missing keys that I had been looking for. This is not to say that I liked them. In fact, I resented the twelve steps for years. Their insistence on finding a higher power didn’t thrill me. After years of Catholic inspired guilt, I had little use for “God”.
But I did recognize the importance of following the steps, so I did my best to find other approaches to spirituality. Mystic, Connecticut is not known for being spiritually progressive, so my choices were few. I decided to check out a yoga class.It was quite a sight, me at eighteen sporting a bleach blond mullet surround by a room full of middle-aged housewives chanting “Om”. Ellie Brown, the teacher was one of the most important figures in my life. In spite of the awkward poses and being the only person under forty, I kept coming back. I had found home. For me finding yoga was like love at first sight. To this day it is the centerpiece of my life because I know that without it, I would most certainly be dead.My yoga practice quickly led me to seated meditation, which became my second love. My whole life had been filled with wild thoughts, and not the type of thoughts that lead to a well-ordered and joyful life. Seated meditation continues to bring me the peace and clarity I need to make all sorts of decisions that are inspired rather than fear based and ego driven.About a year into my spiritual journey, I began to study A Course In Miracles (ACIM) and in time I even picked up the Bible (which in itself was nothing short of a miracle). While meditation and yoga helped me to quiet my mind, ACIM put me on a fast track to reprogramming the computer that was my brain. I felt as though my meditation and yoga practice was constantly sabotaged by my ego mind, but with the help of ACIM, I began to see things in a new way and my mind began to find healing on the deepest levels of my psyche. So for me, my path, is a three-step approach that involves yoga, seated meditation and ACIM.Each of these three elements in my path helped me to let go of my preconceptions about who I was, and I began to see myself as a spiritual being, as an expression of the divine rather than a set of roles such as gender, social class, or occupation. More importantly, I began to see that same light in virtually everyone I met. This healing process continues daily.During my senior year in high school, I began the oft-times difficult process of coming out and admitting to myself and others that I was queer. This went well at times and not so well at others. For the most part my family has been very accepting. Others have reacted with bitterness and hostility. For me, it has been a journey that has led from self-loathing to self-acceptance and ultimately to self-celebration! This was a difficult leap to make, and a leap that I hope many more queer men and woman will make as well. It is one thing to acknowledge and embrace who you are, it is yet another to see that who you are is the most valid and perfect thing you can be. For me being queer is not an illness or a defect that I need to accept or learn to live with. It is part of the unique and beautiful person that Spirit created me to be.I owe a lot of this process to my friends, Michael and Jasper. Michael was my best friend in college (and still is today). He was a few years older than me and helped me find myself and my place in the queer community without getting lost in a sea of unhealthy behaviors that plague the many gay men. Although Michael and I are very different, we are there for one another no matter what.Jasper was the first man I fell in love with. We were young and foolish and both had many naive ideas about what a relationship should look like. So many mistakes were made, but all were worth it. My relationship with Jasper taught me volumes. I credit so much in my life to meeting Jasper, and although we didn’t live happily ever after as romantic partners, Jasper and his son, Bodhi and his partner Donny are family.As my own personal healing began I felt drawn to help others find their path too. At first I thought the best way to do this would be through social work. I went to college and studied hard. I loved much of what I learned, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that modern social work was only a temporary solution. It was like the Buddhist proverb about rearranging the furniture in a burning house. No matter how many welfare checks get distributed or school hot lunches get served, the underlying pain and suffering that created the need in the first place would still be there. So I decided to move on to a different profession.
I studied massage therapy at the Bancroft School of Massage in Worchester, Massachusetts, and Yoga and Meditation at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lennox, Massachusetts. In addition to that formal training, I read and studied with a passion and attended lectures, workshops and retreats. I found a great home in San Francisco, where I do most of my teaching. I do travel throughout the country lecturing, teaching workshops and leading retreats. In 2002 I started leading Yoga Teacher Training programs which have been wildly successful. Teaching others to teach yoga and then watching them go out into the world to share yoga in their own unique way has been beautiful and rewarding. It is a beautiful thing to see your work growing and thriving in the world.Writing is also a big passion of mine. It is a great way to convey my thoughts and ideas and to go deep within myself. For me writing, be it articles, short stories, or my books, is a profound form of meditation that I have the honor of sharing with folks all over the world. I continue to write and have several new books in the works that I hope to have released soon.When I was a child, I always hated when a TV show would end with, “To be continued. . . ” But I have come to realize that that is the nature of my life. The story is never ending and always unfolding. I have been blessed with the most amazing family, friends and teachers and I look forward to each new day knowing that if it’s my last day, I will leave this world without regret.
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