1- In less than a minute, tell us who you are and why we keep hearing good things about you.
I’m a perpetual twelve-year-old, energetic and curious, stuck in the body of an adult with Parkinson’s. The awareness that yoga brings has allowed the kid in me to continue to explore, learn, talk, laugh, talk, cry, laugh some more, hang out with horses and play with my dog (when he’s not working as my service dog). Living with a progressive, degenerative neurologic disease has taught me about being present. Yoga reminds me how.
2- What inspired you, if any, to join the Warrior Flow 200-Hour Yoga Training’s faculty?
I was drawn to your philosophy of inclusion. I love that learning adaptations for various populations of yoga students is integrated into your curriculum. I like that it, first, brings an awareness that there are different populations with unique needs. Second, it shows how those populations could better benefit from an adaptive yoga approach. I’m excited to be a part of the Warrior Flow faculty and have the opportunity to reach out to more teachers on how to teach yoga for Parkinson’s.
3- In simple words, what does yoga mean to you?
Years ago, a woman in one of my senior classes asked me, ‘If I could define yoga in one word, what would it be?’
I answered, ‘Awareness.’
These years later, I find it’s still true. Being alert to how I move, attentive to how I speak, mindful of my thoughts, appreciating what is, consciously breathing, pulling myself back into now, to me, is what awareness is all about. It’s what yoga is all about.
4- What is the main difference between learning yoga now and when you took your first yoga training?
I’m much further into this disease. I’d filter everything through ‘what would this look like in a person with late-stage Parkinson’s?’ I think I absorbed more when I was in the early stages. Now, there are a few more resources on yoga for Parkinson’s. They are aimed mostly at people more recently diagnosed. Not too many on the approach to and benefits of yoga for later stages of the disease, though. Maybe I should write another book.
5- In your opinion, why is this a key moment in time to learn yoga?
I think that to learn about yoga in this time of technology is to learn to remain connected, with the present moment, natural world, others, ourselves.
Like the Roman god of passageways, Janus, technology has two faces. One looks to open doors. Before virtual sessions, people who couldn’t physically attend a class had few options. Virtual yoga has opened up the wonders of yoga to disabled, elderly, housebound or chronically ill individuals who can now easily learn and connect.
The other face of technology looks to close doors. While the internet has connected us geographically, we’re not connected ‘locally’—as in, with others or within ourselves. Social media, entertainment, news flashes, texts lure us away from the present and attempt to keep us away. I know that when I’m plugged in, I find myself pulled out of the moment, enticed to judge and urged to indulge in my monkey-mind chatter. Learning yoga in this time of technology could be the key to countering our current level of disconnection.
6- Who would you be without yoga?
Oh, no, I’m not sure I could live with that person. Instead of making intentions to accept what is with grace, she’d carry the disappointment of unmet expectations with her like a badge, with bitterness and resent. And she’d have no sense of humor at all.
7- Who were your role models? And what pushed you to learn and become who you are today?
Ask that first question to anyone with Parkinson’s, the answer would be a resounding, Michael J. Fox. But as for my role models, no one person comes to mind. I see different traits in different people that I want to try on and some fit. I see traits in others that I don’t want in my wardrobe at all. Like fashion-don’ts, they push me to do the opposite. I can say that I’m fortunate to have an incredibly supportive family, my husband and my sister especially.
8- What were the pivotal roadblocks and challenges you encountered along the way that helped you define your path?
I started my teacher training a year after I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. My brain and body—particularly the left side, had already survived a childhood stroke. The Parkinson’s was manifesting on my right side. I was running out of sides. Yoga rescued me by showing me that I still had what was inside.
Later in my training, as I was writing my final paper, I could find nothing on yoga for Parkinson’s except for a half-page mention in an Iyengar book. Studies had been done showing that people with Parkinson’s reported improvement in their symptoms but nothing about how to or what to do. That didn’t seem right, so I continued my research and wrote the book Yoga for Movement Disorders.
9- What can we all do right now to make this world a better place?
Bring awareness wherever we go. Kindness and compassion will be right there with awareness.