My Yoga Story

1990.  photo: almost certainly my mom


photo: almost certainly my mom

Every body has a story. Here is mine. 

I love yoga. But my first love is dance. I began ballet class when I was five years old, and dance has been a driving passion ever since. I loved the music, discipline and community, even if I was never the most talented in class. When I was 16, I made the tough decision to quit my studio to focus on preparing for college. But beyond (extremely) lackluster participation in gym class, I didn't have much exposure to any other physical fitness.

Enter yoga. My mom suggested I try a class at her gym and I was immediately hooked. It's a little embarrassing to admit this now, but I don't even know what kind of yoga it was. If you're reading this and you're a yoga teacher in Central New Jersey named Cheryl who worked at a Bally's Fitness on Route 22 in the early aughts, get in touch. I even did my final project in Honors Physics on the science of yoga. (I got a B.) 

Then I went to Northwestern and back to the dance studio. I loved dance classes at my college, and became deeply immersed in the open class community in New York while on breaks. After college, I leaned in to the dance world. Yoga was a fading memory.

Then I got injured. It started slowly, tendinitis at the top of my hamstring. I started foam rolling. I tried ice, then heat. I got a cortisone injection and went to physical therapy. Then the pain spread to bursitis in my hips. I got another cortisone injection and a new physical therapist. 

I stopped jumping in dance class and got more cortisone injections. (I had a total of 11.) I cried. A lot. I tried Pilates. I tried to go back to yoga, but the strict alignment and holding of traditional Vinyasa left me sobbing in savasana. 

Then I found Strala. Founded by fellow dancer Tara Stiles, the concept of allowing my body to move in whatever way felt good was a revelation. On days I could barely walk, I could practice Strala, and I began to build strength and discover a new way of living, moving and being. I found a better physical therapist and I practiced Strala religiously. 

photo: Katie Thyken

photo: Katie Thyken

I finished graduate school and went on a trip for my birthday. Laying on a towel with my feet in the sand, I felt called to begin my Strala training. I completed my 200 hour "Ready to Lead" training in late 2014. I began teaching public classes and volunteering and never looked back. In 2017, following a heartbreak, an apartment move, and a desire to explore, I discovered "The Rocket," an Asthtanga Vinyasa derivative that was developed in San Francisco by Larry Schultz in the 1980s. The sequences resonated deeply for their ferocity, playfulness and near limitless promise of growth. In 2018, I completed my Rocket immersion training to carry them into posterity. 

Guiding yoga is the privilege of my life. I love working with all types of bodies and minds, and freeing people to explore the natural power and strength they can discover when they match their body to their breathe. I live for those precious moments right after class when everyone wants to sit on their mat forever. 

I still have flareups of my hamstring and hip issues. My body has a lived experience that shows up every time I'm on my mat. But my Strala yoga practice, combined with some carefully-selected ideas from Ashtanga yoga, informs every movement I make. 

Every body has a story. My calling is to help people deepen theirs.