From a very young age, I was inspired by my mother to move, dance, and be joyful. She travelled and performed with the Young Americans and the Kids Next Door as a teenager, and as a young mother she was very involved in our community theater and choir. I remember going to rehearsals for productions of “Annie” and “Scrooge” and wishing I could be up on stage with her; wishing I could be that bold. Her laughter and presence is magnetic, her joy for life immense.
I didn’t take to dance lessons as a little one though, so athletics were my first foray into physicality... gymnastics, cross country, track and volleyball. I found dance and my artistic side in college, at age 19; I was a late-bloomer, but it came naturally and sparked a new passion: expression, and even healing, through movement.
My father inspired my empathic nature, introducing me to radical thinking, spirituality and living a life of compassion. As a devout Catholic, he would take me to the hospital to give Communion to the sick and dying when I was just 6 years old. I recall my fear of the smells and sights giving way to feelings of ease at the pleasure these folks would get from me offering my hand or a kiss on the cheek. When I was ten, my dad joined the Franciscan Friars, and I lived out my childhood around a bevy of “uncles”, his fellow monks, being introduced to community, prayer, devotion and service. Through my father, the teachings of St. Francis and St. Claire impacted my developing mind and heart, particularly when it came to the poor, mentally ill and marginalized. With my dad by my side, as a precocious eleven year old, I was serving coffee and donuts to homeless people on the streets of Las Vegas, communing with schizophrenics and visiting those suffering AIDs or drug addiction in treatment centers. I was taught to see human beings as human beings; all with essential goodness, all worthy of love and affection.
At 14, my Papa (Grandpa) took me to Medjugorje, in former Yugoslavia, on pilgrimage to a holy site where it was said that the Virgin Mary was appearing. It was the ten year anniversary of the appearances and thousands of people gathered on a hilltop to pray. I was beginning to question my faith and the Catholic religion, and explore other ideas around spirit, but I remember well the intense sensation of praying with thousands of other people. Within our own group, we prayed the rosary in seven different languages. That event had a huge impact on me. It imprinted me with the palpable power of communal prayer; the power of collective intentions of love and peace.
Driven by these influences and a desire to connect fully with my own Spirit, as well as that of others, I set out on my life’s path. After high school, in 1993, I spent a year in South Africa as an exchange student. The country was raw with political newness. Nelson Mandela was elected in their first democratic elections. And miraculously, I got to meet him. That year opened my eyes to the bigger soul of the world, native cultures and the true injustices that we as humans are capable of imposing on one another, but also the sweetness of hope and activism. It made me feel more connected, and therefore, more responsible to figure out how to do my part in service to a greater good. After three years of college, (one in Reno, NV, two in Eugene, OR) I took a another year off to travel and explore South America on a solo trip. Travelling and experiencing the way life works outside the US, as well as seeing unspoiled beauty and nature continues to hold big sway in my life’s focus and desire to connect. It’s influenced the way I treat the Earth, the way I pray, and my understanding of just how truly connected we all are.
After traveling, I moved to San Francisco to pursue dance. I received my BA in Dance and Performance Choreography in 2000 from San Francisco State University and danced semi-professionally for 7 years with some of the most creative and talented young choreographers of our community. To support my dance therapy (as I considered it) and to feed my anatomy nerd, I got certified as a Pilates instructor through the Ellie Herman Studios in 2001. Very quickly, I was drawn to working with injuries and rehabilitative clients as it gave my brain more to do...anatomical puzzles to figure out. I completed the Lizz Roman Rehabilitative Intensives (twice, because I love learning so much) to begin more specialized work. I was blessed to then work under the tutelage of Tom McCook at Center of Balance in Mountain View, CA, and while there I developed a deeper relationship and understanding of skilled movement, healing and integrity, of both body and heart. Through Tom and my own yoga teachers in San Francisco, Les Leventhal and Stephanie Snyder, I was introduced to Forrest Yoga. Recognizing that healing physically must always incorporate an aspect of mental and emotional shifting, I decided I needed more training, more vocabulary to speak about emotions and Spirit, on the road to healing. I did my Forrest Yoga Foundation Training in 2007, and moved to Portland, Oregon right after. I was questioning my career in teaching as I was beginning to feel run-down, depleted and resentful (as many teachers/healers do when they don’t have a good strategy for self-care) but Ana taught me how to breathe deeply for myself. It changed my relationship to teaching and validated that I was indeed doing what I was meant to do. I completed the year-long Forrest Yoga Mentorship program with then-Guardians, Kelley Starkweather Rush and Suzi Zobrist, in 2010, and in August of 2012, I completed the Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training.
In addition to teaching public classes and private clients, I am on staff at Living Yoga, a non-profit organization that brings trauma-informed yoga to marginalized and vulnerable communities. I've been studying trauma-informed practices and the neurobiology of trauma since 2012. As a teacher trainer, I help to educate, prepare and support our volunteer yoga teachers. We teach yoga in prisons, drug and alcohol recovery centers, homeless shelters, community health clinics and more, for both adult and youth. We want all people to recognize their own worth and goodness, and to empower students to make self & communal care, and coping strategies a real and tangible experience. I still volunteer teach classes too, which continues to ignite my heart and remind me of who I am.
All combined, my teaching reflects my deep passion for anatomy and alignment, movement therapy, Chinese medicine, meditation, athletics, Pilates, modern dance, Forrest Yoga, science and ceremony. I absolutely LOVE teaching and helping others to find their own healing powers. I specialize in one-on-one private sessions, and am especially skilled at working with athletes, injuries, nervous system and auto-immune disorders, pre and post-natal clients, the elderly and those struggling with body image related disorders. With a down-to-earth, realistic and sometimes humorously, sassy approach, I want to share with you how to breathe deeply, move consciously and feel fully to connect with your Spirit and truth. My own movement and meditation practice continues to heal and teach me; it’s also been the key to experiencing more abundant presence and joy in my life.
When I’m not teaching, you can find me dancing, yoga-ing, reading, playing in the awesome Pacific NW outdoors, spending time with loved ones, camping solo, doing crossword puzzles, cursing like a sailor, star-gazing, watching major league baseball, or baking.