Practice with Sarah:
* Every Saturday from 12-1:15pm: Yin Yoga
An Interview with Sarah:
What started you on a path toward yoga?
I took a Zen Buddhism course my first year of college where we practiced some mindful body-scan meditations. This introduced me to the idea that by moving more deeply into my body, my mind naturally settled down. This inspired me to start taking a yin class down the road and it was the endorphins and the mystery of how emotions are stored in the body, like how certain deep hip opening postures provoked emotions for me that led me to want to know more.
What wisdom has come to you through your yoga practice?
Circumstances, people, situations in life are constantly rearranging and changing. These things we sometimes have no control over, but learning to be my own friend, and learning to find inner-stillness amidst the outside turmoil is like having a haven to return to. When there is nowhere else to go I know that I can go there. That is something deeper than the physicality of the asanas, but the asanas have helped me to surrender enough to find my way to that deep well of inner peace that is our birthright. I suppose you can get there through other modalities, like tai chi, or through music, or through a runners high… but for me yoga has been the most reliable escort to that inner sanctuary.
What is the most challenging experience that you have overcome?
I spent a year in Ghana west Africa when I was twenty. I discovered such an affectionate, communal culture and simple way of life there. Classmates, girls, and guys, held my hand walking to class so casually… while riding public transportation there was such a closeness among strangers… arm to arm, squeezed so tight next to each other. Women would often put their baby in my lap while retrieving something from their bag when people ate a snack they’d never do so without offering you some. I’d walk through a neighborhood and someone would offer for me to join them for a meal.. it was absolutely heart-opening. When I returned back to Atlanta, oh boy, the contrast of the two cultures was harsh. I felt that cashiers at the checkout lines hardly looked in my eyes. All the people I loved seemed to be on antidepressants back in the U.S. (nothing is wrong with that, but it certainly says something about our social wellbeing). I felt like a stranger in my own home. I have come to understand how lucky I am for many of the conveniences of living here in America but that transition was undoubtedly one of the hardest periods of my life and was doubly difficult after having fallen in love over there and being a long distance from my sweetheart.
Tell us about your practice:
My personal practice is never planned and is always a spontaneous sequence of movements that feel the most delicious in my body at that time. Often that means deep hip opening yin postures, or more dramatic backbends and flips and inversions. I use a vigorous practice to energize myself when I am depressed, I use balancing postures to ground myself and pranayama to soothe anxiety. Chanting and song are my form of prayer. I attend all kinds of yoga classes with no particular affinity towards any one school of yoga.
What can your students expect from a class with you?
My classes are calm and steady paced.. my music is rhythmic/ soulful and I often share poetry that is meaningful to me. Alignment is important to me because in my first years of delving into yoga I hurt myself. Both by trying to “attain” certain postures too soon and by not having proper alignment. Guided meditations, “talk downs” and descriptive language are parts of teaching that I love to incorporate, as well as physical assists.
Tell us about your yoga training.
My first yoga training in Atlanta was very much focused on alignment and an athletic approach to vinyasa/Hatha. My second training in India incorporated more yoga philosophy than the first, which I really valued, and was a much more holistic approach to all areas of yoga. Our schedule was strict and we began our day at 6 am and ended at 8 Pm. We practiced Kriyas (that word may mean different things to different people) but for them, that meant “cleansing”.. and on those days we performed a number of exercises to cleanse the body, such as drinking 6 glasses of saltwater on an empty stomach and making ourselves throw up (I kid you not), or stringing a piece of string through our nose and our mouth to cleanse our nasal passageways. It may be hard to believe but I actually grew to really appreciate these practices. They left me feeling unbelievably light and vibrant.
Are there any specific teachers or practices that have made a major impact in your life?
My first teacher Damien Vierra, a free-spirited guy from Puerto Rico with so much soul and a very warm easy-going creative approach to teaching. “Just Be cool”, he’d tell me. I’ll always hold him in my heart dearly and I’m certain he influenced my approach to teaching. Wendy, a teacher at Asheville community yoga has also left a big impression on me. She shares the most meaningful poetry in her classes and that had encouraged me to do the same.
Do you have any particular offerings that you consider your specialty?
I don’t think my specialty is in any particular type of yoga per day, but rather in my demeanor and my approach to teaching, which is calm, neighborly, warm and gentle.
What gifts has your yoga practice brought into your life?
The gift of body and breath awareness, and thus the ability to recognize when I am triggered by a person or situation and to get myself into a clear space before responding.