If you had told me in the middle of 2009, mere months after my 40th birthday, that I would be opening my own creative movement and healing dance studio, I would have looked at you like you were insane...and had three heads...and perhaps green skin.
If you had gone on to explain that my chronic, lifelong, and rather debilitating depression and anxiety would be a thing of my past, that I would change my entire body from the inside out, that I would be starting to perform again, that I would teach other people how to love themselves and feel their own power and beauty, I would have just assumed you were a figment of my imagination. And a rather mean figment, at that, because this would have felt like a sort of torture -- being teased with this seemingly impossible version of myself.
Alas, it would have turned out that you were a true and honest soothsayer.
I believe with my whole heart and soul that I am now living the life that I was born to live. I also believe that it took me this long to get here, that I had that many hurdles to jump, so that I might be the sort of teacher I am today.
I have been there and back again, and so I understand when it feels impossible for you to get out of bed, when it seems that nothing will ever make you feel whole, that life will never get any better than "manageable" or "okay."
I am a living example that life can not only go beyond manageable and okay, but that it can be joyful, passionate, playful, meaningful, and exciting.
I am a living example that there is hope. That little girl who you think is lost forever -- the one who dared to dream so big? -- she is not only still inside of you, but she is aching to be freed and there is a way to free her.
When I was very small, I did not often feel safe.
Yet there was one place where I felt not only safe but completely encased in love and completely witnessed for my true self.
The place where I felt completely safe and loved was the home of my great aunt Ardelle.
My great aunt Ardelle was the beautiful human who would listen to me sing, laughing with appreciation and asking for more; she was the beautiful human who told me I would one day be what I now am.
I believe her brief witnessing of the true me saved my life. Her brief witnessing wrapped my inner true self in a cocoon of love, until it was time for the butterfly to emerge.
It makes sense, then, that when the time was right, the Universe/God/Mother Mary made my studio space come alive mere doors away from where Ardelle's house used to stand. (In the picture below, I am standing approximately where her house stood, and my studio is the red building at the end of the block.)
I stand in safety and strength and thus can FLY.
I have formal sorts of certifications, but no amount of any sorts of hours can create the "certification" of living through what I have lived through, coming out the other side, and dancing my way back into my Soul.
The Formal Sorts of Certifications Part
for People Who Care About Such Things
and for Others Who Are Just Curious
I have been dancing for as long as I have conscious memory of being alive.
I think I stepped into my first actual class at the age of 8. At the age of 11, I looked around and decided to believe that I was as good if not better at this dancing thing than everyone around me. (My ego was strong but my belief in my talent was not misplaced.)
I continued to explore Jazz, Tap, and Ballet with International and Modern thrown in once I went away to college. In my early 20s, Depression told me to stop.
Luckily, at the age of 25, I discovered yoga and have been studying many schools since then (for about 18 years).
I explored so much: starting with Iyengar (of the Erich Schiffmann variety), I moved through Integral, Vinyassa, Ashtanga, Kripalu, and anything else I could get my hands (body) on. I not only studied the physical aspects of yoga (which came naturally to me because of my dance background but also because I was raised by a physician and had a love early on for anatomy), but I immersed myself, too, in the spiritual context, occasionally mistaking myself for a mala-bead wearing, India loving hippie. (I am mocking myself there. I am a little too conservative for that persona.)
About 11 or 12 years ago, I happened upon Kundalini yoga and consider myself beyond fortunate for this discovery. I have pretty much stuck with Kundalini exclusively since then, having a most difficult time returning to classical yoga once I found this fluid, feminine, ecstatic version.
Eventually, of course, I returned to dance in 2009.
- I immediately sought out study. I am certified in Yoga Dance by Megha Buttenheim at Kripalu (one of the best, most amazing yoga based institutions of learning in the world, thank you very much). (Fall 2009)
- I finally got to spend time with the real, in person, flesh and blood Erich Schiffmann at a workshop about his Freedom Yoga. (September 2010)
- I have also had the honor of experiencing the teachings (many times) of Dan Leven, the creator of Dance Kinetics at Kripalu and an expert in somatics and too many forms of dance to list, and Toni Bergens, the creator of JourneyDance. (I am deeply influenced by the work of Gabrielle Roth and her 5 Rhythms.) (Various times)
- I have had the incredible privilege of going through a Master Class/Workshop Intensive with world-renowned Butoh artist, Maureen Fleming. Her work and what she taught me continues to inspire me in new ways every day. (February 2011)
- And because of my own experiences with depression and trauma, I have also taken the time to study healing the mind through the body with leading trauma Psychiatrist, Dr. Bessel von der Kolk, MD, of the Trauma Center, and the man who, literally, wrote the first book on PTSD. (July 2011)
- In April of 2012, I spent time with Katy Bowman, M.S. in two workshops: an overview of whole body alignment & the psoas is NOT a hip flexor. Katy is a biomechanical scientist, approaching the body from an engineering and physics perspective. There is a flood of misinformation out there in the yoga, exercise, and medical communities, and Katy is on a misson; I am happy to be one of her foot soldiers in training. (And a little inside foot joke there...)
- In August of 2012, I returned to Kripalu and my original mentor, Megha Buttenheim, to get an advanced certification in Let Your Yoga Dance for Special Populations. This training focused on working with people who may not be as fully mobile as a more general population; we learned about working with Parkinson's (Megha's specialty), MS, post-cancer treatment, and more.