I was inspired by my Mexican mother to move, dance, and be joyful. In her youth, she travelled and performed with the Young Americans and the Kids Next Door; as a young mother, she was involved in our community theater. I would go to rehearsals for “Annie”, “Scrooge” or “Oklahoma”, wishing I could be up on stage with her; wishing I could be that bold. Her presence is magnetic, her joy for life, immense. At six years old, I tried to follow in her footsteps with dance lessons, but I didn’t take to it, so my first foray into physicality was through sports--gymnastics, track & cross country running. Eventually I would get into cheerleading and dance, and always, my mama supported me in moving and finding pleasure in my body.
My Sicilian father stoked my empathic nature, introducing me to radical thinking, spirituality and living a life of compassion. A devout Catholic, he would take me with him to offer Communion to the sick and dying. The fear of odd smells and sights gave way to feelings of ease when I realized the pleasure these folks would get from me simply offering my tiny hand or a kiss on the cheek. When I was 10, my dad joined the Franciscan Friars, and I lived out my childhood around a bevy of “uncles”; I was 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 dad by my side, I was serving coffee and donuts to homeless people on the streets of Las Vegas, communing with schizophrenics, and visiting those suffering from AIDs or addiction in treatment centers, all before I was a teenager. I was taught to see humanity in all people, all with essential goodness, all worthy of love, safety and belonging.
At 14, my Papa (Grandpa) took me to Medjugorje, on pilgrimage to a holy site of alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary. It was the 10-year anniversary of the appearances and thousands of people gathered on a hilltop to pray. I was beginning to question Catholicism and explore ideas of spirit, but I remember so well the intense sensation of praying with thousands of others. Within our own group, we prayed the rosary in seven different languages. That experience imprinted me with the palpable and mystical power of communal prayer; the power of collective voice & intentions.
Driven by these influences and a desire to connect with my own spirit, I set on my own seeking. After graduating high school in 1993, I spent a year in South Africa as an exchange student. The country was electric with political newness. Nelson Mandela was elected president in the country’s first democratic elections. Serendipitously, through a dear friend, I got to meet him. That year opened my eyes to native cultures, the injustices that humans are capable of inflicting on one another, AND, to the power of voice and activism. It made me feel more connected, and therefore, more responsible to do my part in service to a greater good. I returned stateside, attended three years of college, (one in Reno, NV, two in Eugene, OR) and then took another year off to travel through South America on a solo trip. Traveling, experiencing other cultures and being in nature continues to (re)direct my life’s focus and purpose. It’s influenced the way I treat the Earth, the way I pray, and my understanding of how connected we all are.
After traveling, I moved to San Francisco to finish my degree. My love of dance had been reignited at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, and it sparked a new passion: emotional expression, and even healing, through movement. I received my BA in Dance and Performance Choreography in 2000 from San Francisco State University and performed semi-professionally for 7 years. I trained to become a Pilates instructor with Ellie Herman Studios in 2001. I was quickly drawn to working with injuries as it gave my brain more to do, anatomical puzzles to figure out. I completed the Lizz Roman Rehabilitative Intensives (twice, for fun) to begin more specialized work. I was blessed to next work under the tutelage of Tom McCook at Center of Balance in Mountain View, CA. While there, I developed a deeper, embodied relationship to skilled movement and realized that healing physically requires an aspect of mental and emotional shifting; I knew I needed more training, more vocabulary to speak about emotions and spirit. I was also beginning to question my career, as I was feeling depleted and resentful (as many teachers/healers do when they don’t have a good strategy for self-care). Through Tom and my personal yoga practice with Les Leventhal and Stephanie Snyder, I was introduced to Forrest Yoga.
In 2007, I completed the 200hr Forrest Yoga Foundation Training. Ana Forrest taught me to breathe deeply for myself. It changed my relationship to teaching and validated my career path. I quit dancing and moved to Portland, Oregon at the end of that year. In 2010, I completed a year-long yoga mentorship program with Kelley Starkweather Rush and Suzi Zobrist; in August of 2012, I completed the Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training. Since 2012, I’ve been dedicated to studies in trauma-informed practices, following the teachings of Peter Levine, Bessel Van Der Kolk, Resmaa Menakem and more.
In addition to teaching public classes and private clients, I am on staff as a trainer & facilitator at Living Yoga, a non-profit organization that brings trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness practices to marginalized communities. We offer volunteer-led classes in corrections & reentry, addiction treatment & recovery, and community health programs, for adults and youth, as well as public trainings and continuing education workshops on topics such as embodied resilience, social & racial justice, understanding gender, and trauma-informed care. We seek to foster healing and resilience in every layer of our communities. I still volunteer-teach classes too, which continues to ignite my heart and remind me of who I am.
My teaching reflects my passions for anatomy & alignment, social & racial justice, trauma-informed, embodied healing, breath, equity, ancestry, science, ritual, prayer and ceremony. I aim to empower others to find their power and gift. I specialize in one-on-one sessions, especially in working with injuries, anxiety, nervous system regulation, auto-immune disorders, pre and post-natal clients, the elderly, and body dysmorphia. My own movement and meditation practice keeps healing and teaching me; it’s my key to experiencing more presence, resilience and joy in my life.
When I’m not teaching, you can find me dancing, reading, hiking, writing, snuggling with loved ones, camping alone, doing crossword puzzles, cursing like a sailor, watching major league baseball, or baking.