The palms gracing Fifth Avenue South in Naples, Florida pull the eye to the unseen horizon where the beach meets the Gulf of Mexico. The horizon becomes visible at the pristine beach at the end of the road. From the first hint at the vastness of that place, I knew that Indiana would not be my home again. It was May of 1971.
Small town Indiana, where two of my high school teachers had taught my father and would teach my two younger brothers, was a great place to establish roots, but the corn and wheat fields did not contain the same allure as the wide open feeling of the place where the sand meets the sea and the breeze carries the promise of freshness with a hint of infinity.
My career choice has always been the hospitality industry. The only differences between teaching t’ai-chi and yoga and serving food and beverages are the items being served. It is all about being in service to our fellow humans.
When my son Andy was six years old and wanted to learn martial arts after watching “The Karate Kid,” we went to Shuman’s Black Belt Academy to discover a world of possibilities. After observing for a time, I joined the fun. From taekwondo (the way of the hand and fist), I learned the joy of using my entire body in a new way. From there, t’ai-chi was a natural segue for me and Yang-style t’ai chi ch’uan was love at first step in 1995. Then other styles of t’ai chi ch’uan became mine—first Wu, then Chen, followed by Sun-style as well as Bagua and several weapons forms. Weapons might sound at odds with ahimsa, or non-harming, but the focus of the sword is to balance or project beyond the body to aid in understanding. In 1997 I began teaching Yang-style t’ai chi.
As I ventured into the world of t’ai chi and yoga, my husband was my biggest supporter. We were together since 1982 and married in 1984. His greatest love in this lifetime was his family. He had a quick wit and the warmest hands of anyone I had ever met. He had a ferocious, fiery temper and passion for life and an undying love and loyalty for his family. He passed away in 2010, which still feels so raw in my heart.
The book, Yoga, Youth, and Reincarnation by Jess Stern was my introduction to the age-old tradition of yoga. I learned from this book that yoga is so much more than the physical practice and is based on an entire philosophy of the eight limbs of ashtanga. The title was intriguing and told the story of the author’s immersion into the mysterious yogic world. The next thing I learned was that I needed a teacher, so yoga took a back burner to the rest of my life—family, home, career, finances—the four pillars of muladhara, or root chakra.
My second t’ai chi workshop with Dr. Paul Lam, where I began my study of Chen-style t’ai chi in 2003 featured yoga as an evening activity. Troyce Thome, a professor from Saddleback College in California, led us through a yoga practice that was an experience words cannot explain. Regular practice was still a few years off for me until I would meet Bonnie in 2007. My first class at The Yoga Sanctuary with Cody McClymet (sp) was Iyengar style. Upon reflection, that was a life changing moment. I came away with the seeds of a love for yoga.
Teaching, for me, rises naturally from my scientific mind that always wants to know the how and why of what makes something work. From the first TYS offering of teacher training it became my goal to participate and become certified in my home sangha, or community—a goal that became realized in 2015.
My goal as a teacher is to learn kindness, patience, and to understand the drive of all humans to be the best human possible, practicing kindness and patience themselves. I also strive to live the Maitri prayer that Melissa Goodwin reintroduced at ahimsa practice: “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I dwell in peace.” It is from there that we learn to substitute “All Beings” for “I”: “May all beings be happy, healthy, and may they dwell in peace.”
I am inspired by our teachers. Jennifer, who so skillfully presents shoulder stand in an upright, achievable form before turning our perspective upside down, making the seemingly impossible exciting and available in a safe manner; Anna, who brings India, the home of yoga, to life with her photos and her sense of purpose; and Heleen, who always questions and explores as we converse. I am inspired by my son, who points out the successes and looks to the next rung on the ladder, prompting me to do the same.
My Hong Kong orchid tree that was uprooted by Hurricane Charley inspires me because it is a symbol for thriving after adversity. It is in riotous blossom now and home to many species of butterflies and bees. The fragrance greets me as I venture outside, carried on the gentle wind. The knowledge of Self that comes from the study and practice of yoga and t’ai chi is my inspiration.
Warrior I is my favorite yoga pose, which is the foundation out of which has flowed the combination of yoga poses and t’ai chi postures that converge to create a synergy where I find the flexibility and strength that is greater than with each practice on their own. Brush the Dragon’s Eyebrows and Toe Kick are my favorite t’ai chi postures, which flow out of Warrior I to bring prana and chi (life force) into alignment.
My favorite yoga book is The Heart of Yoga, by T.K.V. Desikachar, which explores and simplifies the teachings of Krishnamacharya, the father of modern yoga who bridges modern and traditional yoga. My favorite t’ai chi book is The Dao of Tajiquan by Tsung Hwa Jao, whose dreams are becoming reality as t’ai chi is being practiced in the beautiful parks of this country as it is practiced in China.
My favorite quote is by Rumi, from his poem “The Guest House” quoted by Annie Moore in the first class I took at TYS:
“This being human is a guest house.
Every morning, a new arrival.”