The other day as I was behind the desk at YAF, I had the privilege of reconnecting with a student returning after many years. She shared that she felt so welcomed as she was hesitant to begin again, and that our name was what inspired her courage to start again with her practice.
I often feel that sometimes in life we are gifted with divine intelligence, and the real effort of living is listening to that small quiet inner voice. Our intellect will shout louder and drown out those moments with the habit of its usual refrain of “I can’t”. It is only through the heart that we take those grand steps into our true self and move forward. I heard a deep siren call to service. Some people hear go to Central America, and some people the far lands of Africa. For me I heard ”go to the Heartland”.
In the early morning of January 17, 1994, Los Angeles was in the midst of its worst earthquake in decades. I found myself under my dining room table as the car alarms were sounding, the glass crashing around me and the earth rocking. In those moments of complete surrender, I made a pledge to find a more stable home.
It took a year of seeking and making effort to let go of what was familiar. I had finished my masters and had become a marriage and family therapist; and yet, I was witnessing a change in the mental health field as pharma was quickly becoming the new wonder of modern medical relief.
As a yoga teacher, I was combining the work of yoga with my counseling skills, encouraging the mind to focus on the breath, and actually feel the discomfort as the body begins to release the pain and trauma of holding on too tight. Having gone through my own journey of addictive behavior to mask my fears, I was excited about the possibility of bringing these amazing tools of yoga to a new area.
Exactly one year after the earthquake, I drove my little Saturn car to Chicago. Having lived in NYC and LA, I decided to live in suburbs of Naperville!
I will tell you most people thought I was crazy, that I must be running from the law. Who would ever leave sunny warm LA for the freezing cold winters of Dupage county? Without family or a job, what was I thinking to begin this new journey?
Looking back, I had passion, energy and faith. Slowly, I started to meet the most lovely and kind people, who even today I call my friends. I taught in various health clubs, rented rooms and traveled anywhere to share the teachings of yoga. I spoke at various corporations; I went to breakfast business meetings. I was fearless and at the same time terrified. I was teaching to a group of students that were becoming my friends. A yoga community was beginning to form, and I felt that if I ever opened a center it would be called, Yoga Among Friends.
Yoga is a lifestyle. It is a more than exercise, body image, or competition. Yoga is a way to connect heart to heart—to share a common good for the bigger picture of living with compassion and kindness. When one opens the door to our center, my only desire is bring forth the feeling of “belonging" that will welcome you into our space. A space of safety and nourishment and love. We are not corporate, and as I say, we are not "fluff and buff." We do not complete with any other fitness center nor hot yoga studio.
Yoga Among Friends is a healing yoga community; and yet on the mat, you will get a practice that meets you where you are. Every teacher offers amazing wisdom and depth of integrity. We are friends, which in the teachings of the sutras is called a Sanga.
Life presents opportunity when we ask for help; and back in that moment under my table, I was asking! Back then everyday I didn’t know how to “do Life”. So I just asked for help in a way of listening, and my inner voice spoke when I let go of that distracted voice of doubt.
This summer I am once again answering that inner voice. I am going back to Greece for a retreat and tour. I lived on a Greek Island in my early 30s, and it was where I found my heart and started my journey into yoga healing. Now I am being called to return.
I feel this inner connection to the light of Greece—the people, the spirit, the passion, and of course, the most incredible blue color of sky and water. Not to mention the food! It is a place where my soul heard its YES. In a world where fear and doubt take us away from shared communities, I know the power of retreats to reconnect with old friends and make lasting new friends. And I am inviting you to join me, my friends.
Enjoy each day with love and light,