Favorite Yoga Instructor 2011, Natural Awakenings Magazine

Jennifer is our Director of Teacher Development, Organizer of Community Events, and is currently earning her 500-hour yoga teacher certification with Master Teacher Tias Little.

Over the years, I have come to realize that teaching yoga is truly the greatest possible thing that I could be doing with my life. I’ve always been an idealist-when I was younger I wanted to change the world. As I’ve gotten older I realize that we can’t all be doctors or lawyers “fighting for the little guy.” We can’t all move to a faraway country to feed hungry children, invent the next greatest thing that will change lives, or even lead people to change the world. However, yoga allows me to do just that in my own small way right here in Punta Gorda. It is truly the greatest thing that I am capable of doing.

I took my first yoga class as a senior in high school. I remember only a few things about that class. First, it was in someone’s living room; second, we did some form of Shoulder Stand with no support (little did I know how important I would later find many different props in my own teaching); and third, I remember Savasana-very clearly. I was lying on the ground beside a coffee table in a dark room with my eyes closed. I felt like I was floating in the stars. I had the feeling that I was part of something more, something bigger than myself.

My more formal exploration in yoga began in 1998. After young-adult conversations with a friend about my curiosity of life’s big questions (Who am I? Why are we here? What is my purpose?), he recommended yoga. I bought a book he suggested, and a few months later I went to classes taught by a teacher he recommended. That was the real beginning of my yogic path.

As yoga became more of a lifestyle for me than a hobby, many things began to change. Although I don’t know if I would have said, “I’m making these changes because I am practicing yoga,” in retrospect I realize that I couldn’t have become who I am without my practice. I was a waitress/bartender keeping very late hours- I smoked, I drank, and I certainly didn’t eat very well. Now, instead of going to bed at 4 a.m., I’m much more likely to wake up at that time. I haven’t smoked in years, and while I do enjoy a glass of wine or sake with dinner, I certainly don’t drink as much as I once did. Also, I haven’t eaten beef, pork, or poultry in over two years. But most importantly, my ability to just be in the world with others, in relationships of all kinds, has blossomed. I am able to see myself and others more clearly and compassionately. Not always, of course, but I try to remember-it’s all a practice!

When I’m not at The Yoga Sanctuary, well…it’s yoga, yoga asana, yoga philosophy 🙂
I also love to make whatever I am doing an adventure. My fiancĂ© and I spend a lot of time in bookstores, or exploring Sarasota, Fort Myers, or wherever. We try to experience everything we do like it’s happening for the first time. I also love keeping up with my little nephews who are in upstate New York with the rest of my family. I love seeing photos of them and finding out about what they are up to every day! Believe it or not, Facebook helps keep me in close contact with them.

Some of my favorites:

Favorite pose – Right now my go-to pose is Downward Facing Dog. It’s like a cure-all pose. It’s opening and invigorating when I need it to be, but also quiet and calming when I need it. My favorite short sequence is Down Dog to Standing Forward Fold to Legs Up-The-Wall. Together, these poses are like a warm bath-calming and restorative.

Favorite book – Many books have influenced me over the years, and right now I am reading an amazing book called How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard. It is an exploration of how to live with chronic illness or pain. There are no yoga poses in this book, but Toni’s techniques for dealing with her own chronic illness have helped me relate to so many of our students’ experiences.

Favorite food – That’s easy. Sushi!

My most challenging pose: As long as I can remember, Warrior I pose has been my greatest challenge.