An INTERVIEW with the Arizona Yoga Community 2013
1. What was your first yoga experience like, and how did you eventually decide to become a teacher?
The year was 1969, during the revolution of consciousness (the Woodstock era). I was 15 years old, living in Forest Hills, New York. My mother attended a yoga class as an observer. She returned home and said, "It wasn't for me but you might like it." The following week she drove a girlfriend and I to the same class. The studio was dark and lit by candles. The east Indian male instructor wore a white Hindu tunic with a turban on his head, as did his two female assistants. At the end of the class, while laying in savasana, I fell asleep. It was sort of embarassing when I awoke from my own snoring. It wasn't until years later that I reflected back on that first class and realized the power of yoga... because 15 year old teenagers don't usually relax that deeply. I learned later, also, that the class must have been taught by a Kundalini instructor.
Wherever I was, whether in college or traveling, I continued to attend yoga classes. When we (John and I) moved to Bisbee, Arizona in 1978, there were no yoga classes offered. Being almost a ghost town, because the mines had closed at this point in history, there were numerous vacant shops available. I started a yoga class for the community the following year in the vacant storefront at 7 OK Street. My practice and teaching, to this day, has always been inspired by Swami Satchidananda's Integral Yoga. The health benefits gained from moving the body in various positions originally sparked my interest in yoga.
2. What yoga courses do you teach currently? And Where?
I'm still living in Bisbee, 34 years now. It's a small town full of artistic, creative people who also love yoga. Although I have taught yoga in Bisbee and Sierra Vista for the last 20 years, with numerous classes a week, presently I teach two Hatha Yoga classes and a Chair Yoga class in Bisbee only. The classes are held in a beautiful. cheerful studio, upstairs in the Club Kilimanjahro, while the Chair Yoga instruction is offered in a nearby historic church annex.
3. What are some of your favorite types of yoga classes to teach and why?
A student who attended my yoga classes years ago will still find a similar type of class today. Grateful for this ever-evolving path, I consider myself to be one of the yoga elders inspired by the traditional roots of Hatha Yoga. This hasn't changed. My classes encourage each student to retreat inward as postures are presented spontaneously in a smooth sequence.
In past years I offered special 'Yoga Day' events in special places, taught 'Partner Yoga' at the 1st Annual Bisbee Yoga Expo (2005) and 'Beautiful Backbends' at the 1st Annual Flagstaff Yoga Festival. My meditative style of instruction is translated into the Chair Yoga classes. The poses are adaptations of classic Hatha Yoga postures, using the chair for support. Last year, after continued encouragement from the students, I produced a 40 minute DVD, 'Chair Yoga Flow: Wellness for Every Body'. It is very satisfying to provide Chair Yoga to older students or to those who have physical disabilities. They appear so content and tranquil at the end of class.
4. You also specialize in creating unique jewelry... How is the practice of yoga incorporated into the jewelry making?
It's interesting that you should ask about this, Larissa. The Mobius Strip is a twisted shape with one continuous surface. This design was originally discovered by a German mathematician, August Ferdinand Mobius in 1858. Each one of our jewelry pieces is a Mobius Strip; pendants, earrings and bracelets. There is direct symbolism between the Mobius design and yoga. Within the jewelry, the outer surface twists to become the inner surface, no separation, no duality. It represent Yoga, Union, Oneness, Infinity. Our jewelry display card reads, "It's one-sided surface flows from inner to outer and back again, expressing the continuous journey along the pathway of Life." One of our sterling silver pendants has 'ALL IS ONE' engraved on it. John authored a book called 'The Mobius Transformation' to compliment the jewelry. The back cover of the book reads, 'There's only one side...and we're all on it."
5. You also enjoy travelling, can you tell me about your favorite places to visit and about some of your most profound experiences while travelling?
We live 10 miles from the Mexico border and so it has been easy to get on the bus and head south. Yoga on the beach! We took a trip to Sayulita a couple of times and I always attended yoga classes while visiting. Absolutely divine, yet the yoga experience that was most profound was at the Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, California. True bliss. John and I had a 'Mobius' booth there three times. It was so special to have direct relations with the yogis at the festival, looking in the eye of another and seeing only One Self. The kirtan music was transforming. I tap into that blissful feeling within from time to time, ignited by the Bhakti Fest.
6. What advice would you give to somebody who is interested in starting a teacher training program?
Honestly, I am not very familiar with Yoga Teacher Training programs. I received my RYT 500 status by being 'grandmothered' into Yoga Alliance. In 2006, I submitted pages of documentation to Yoga Alliance with proof of teaching 5,000 hours prior to December 31st, 2002. It included all my instruction from 1979 to 2002. I believe this option for Registration is no longer offered through Yoga Alliance.
In 2007- 2009, I served as President of the Arizona Yoga Association. Amongst the responsibilities, I also monitored the website www.azyoga.com. We had a page dedicated to YTT programs in Arizona.The listed trainings were extensive, comprehensive and empowering to the student-teacher, offering many direct styles of yoga, the philosophy and history, while emphasizing a path of personal transformation.
7. Any additional information to add?
My husband and I organized the annual the Bisbee Yoga Expo. It took place each February for six years, from 2005 - 2010. From it's origin, the event continued to expand with instructors from all over Arizona coming to Bisbee for a long weekend of 'community'. We were very fortunate to have Amy Weintraub, Frank Jude Boccio, Jeff Martens, Cain and Revital Carroll, Laura Brown, Tom Beall, Sally Weber, Maria KaliMa and Josie Lazarus, amongst others, as conference presenters. This event planted seeds of growth for all attendees; now the Flagstaff Yoga Festival and the Sedona Yoga Festival carry the torch forward.
Thank you Larissa and the Arizona Yoga Community for this opportunity. Many blessings to you in your continued service.