An INTERVIEW with the President of the Arizona Yoga Association. August 2011.
Tom Mendola: You have been past president of AYA, the originator and promoter of the Bisbee Yoga Expo and a teacher of yoga for many years......could you talk about how you got into yoga and what inspired you to excell....
Marcia Galleher: Thank you Tom for this opportunity.
M: It was 1969. I was 15 years old. My mother went to observe a yoga class in Queens, NY. She came home to announce,"It wasn't for me, but you might like it." The next week she took me to the same class. The room was dark and lit by candles. The male East Indian instructor wore a white tunic and turban. (probably a kundalini class). In that first class, we were taught the headstand. During savasana, I fell asleep, awakened by the startling sound of myself snoring. I experienced a deep sense of rest in that first class; very soothing for an active teenager with hormonal changes and peer pressure challenges. At the time, I had rounded shoulders, acne and a portion of the hair on my head had fallen out. The yoga offered relief for my overly stimulated nervous system.
Living nearby New York City, I found the Integral Yoga Institute, Swami Satchidananda's center on 13th street. This traditional form of yoga was very appealing. It emphasized the inner health of the body. Being in certain hatha yoga poses could relieve a headache, indigestion and tone the complexion. This path is deeply integrated into my teaching today.
During the first year of college, a friend introduced me to Transcendental Meditation, offered to the west by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I went to the TM center for initiation. Led into a private room, an initiate gave me a specific meditation mantra. She said, "Practice this for 15 minutes. I'll be back". I sat with this new inner sound, repeating it over and over in my head for what seemed like an unusually long 15 minutes. Releasing further inquiry, I continued to focus on the resonance of the mantra and it's affect. Suddenly, the door opened and I heard the initiate say," Oh, there's someone in there". They forgot and 45 minutes had passed! Transcendental Meditation was my first method of meditation. It evolved into further spiritual exploration, leading to the satsangs of Sri Chinmoy. Carlos Santana was a disciple of Sri Chinmoy. He attended the satsangs also, singing for the attendees and to his guru. Like a thristy soul in search of water, I followed Sri Chinmoy's teachings in Hartford, Connecticut and in NYC during 1972 - 1974.
Enter Ram Dass. He offered talks and retreats in Gainesville, Florida during my years at the Univ. of Florida. Ram Dass had recently returned from India inspired by his guru Neem Karoli Baba. His book, 'Be Here Now', selling for $3.33 then, was a classic inspiration for budding spiritualists. I became a vegetarian, put on long, flowing skirts, let the hair on my legs grow and became a true hippie.
A nearby center outside of Gainesville, known as the Temple of the Universe, hosted Amrit Desai. I attended satsangs and a retreat with this master. Amrit Desai taught the spontaneous flow of sequential postures and applying it in our personal practice. This intuitive method is directly linked to my private yoga practice and weaved into my class instruction.
T: How did you meet John?
M: Shortly before I met John, my soul mate and husband-to-be, I participated in a one day Rebirthing seminar offered by Leonard Orr. It took Leonard all day for each one of us to understand the concept, 'You create your own reality'. At the time, in the unfolding of consciousness, this was a new awakening. Seamlessly following this event, I became initiated into the Sufi Order, a heart opening path. The Sufi master gave me the name, 'Shireen' (a beautiful women with a high ideal of love). With my heart chakra open and knowing that I create my own reality, the vibrations attracted love into my Life. John was co-directing an alternative school in Gainesville called the Lotus Land School. (now called Jordan Glen School) I did my art education internship there. He was on the non-dualistic, Advaita Vedanta path and also studying the tantric Buddhist teachings of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. We practiced yoga and meditation together.
John and I have lived in Bisbee since 1978. I started teaching yoga here 18 years ago. During this time (1993), the Arizona Yoga Association was conceived. I attended free yoga classes in Tucson offered through AYA's Teacher Exchange program and took classes at the Yoga Connection. As our family grew (3 children) my involvement with the local Bisbee community expanded also. I organized the annual Bisbee Earth Day Festival for fifteen years. The acquired skills were transferred to the origin of the Bisbee Yoga Expo. This annual event was offered in February for the last six years to an enthusiastic and very supportive yoga community. Coinciding with the Expo, I accepted the invitation to become the president of the Arizona Yoga Association. My journey crystalized in this position. It was another opportunity to widen my horizons and develop statewide relationships with students, instructors and studios.
Now this position is yours Tom to link what has been created by all the previous AYA presidents and board members. I honor you in the evolving quest to unify, strengthen and serve the Arizona community.
All is One.