Teacher Feature: Mary Schooley

TBY Teacher Feature
Mary Schooley

By Julia Jonson

The room is always brighter once Mary Schooley enters. This yoga teacher’s lovely disposition matches her skilled class sequencing. Mary went through the House of Shanti teacher training program led by Lourdes Paredes and Pam Udell and continues to study and grow as a teacher. Mary incorporates her knowledge of yoga and essential oils in all of her classes, along with words of wisdom borne of her own life experience.

J: We all know you as the friendly, and direct yoga teacher who offers a smart, challenging sequence with a loving approach. Some students may not know that you were diagnosed with breast cancer and you beat it (thank goodness!). Describe how this journey through healing transformed you as a teacher and as a person.

M: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. It was a shock that really rocked my world. It was as if the ultimate curveball had been thrown my way, yet I was prepared to hit that ball thanks in part to yoga. My yoga mat was my safe space. It was like a familiar warm blanket and a place to heal. During my practice time, I could connect with my breath, rest and give thanks for my body and help it to heal and recover. I believe that, because I had a consistent practice leading up to my diagnosis, I was prepared to handle my cancer treatments with greater strength and peace. To me, being diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment was a season of life. Much like in a vinyasa yoga class, life is full of constant change. It ebbs and flows, and offers challenging poses and ones that are restful and restorative. Your  blog on the TBY website from April, 2017 resonates with me as I move through each season of my life. I have to be like water to flow through the obstacles.

J: Your life is about to change again with your first-born going off to college. Describe family life and explain how your own yoga practice helps you in the role of wife and mom.

M: Yes, indeed, my family will be going through a big change soon. This is more vinyasa-style living for me, as it is my intention to proceed through the changes skillfully with both wisdom and heart. My family is truly my greatest joy! I am blessed to be mom to three great kids and I have a wonderfully supportive husband. My mat time teaches me remain present through the flow of life. Together, as a family, we learned during my year long cancer journey, how quickly the bad times can pass. And through that, I realized just how much faster the good times can race by. That has really helped me become aware of the really special moments but also how to create excitement in everyday life. It is important to hug a little longer, to listen a little closer, and to live a little fuller. I believe that things come to us when we need to receive. The way I did the physical poses changed significantly during cancer treatment. I was so grateful for the stillness I found during my yoga sessions.. The first days back to my mat after each surgery and during my hardest chemo days were simply holding child's pose. It was a blessing just  finding my breath and being in the energy of a community of people that didn't question my efforts or even demand more than I could do in any given pose.

J: When did the “yoga bug” bite you and why did you decide to start teaching?

M: This question makes me laugh because I was very resistant to trying yoga. My impression of yoga 10 years ago was people sitting still and meditating. I was a stay-at-home mom and my daily workouts were at 4:30am on my elliptical cross trainer before my young children woke up. The thought of sitting still was not something I could ever imagine. When my youngest turned 3 and started preschool, I took my first yoga class and it was at Total Body Yoga. I would have been better served in a basics class, but the only thing that worked for my schedule was a level 3 class. I tried it and had no idea what I was doing, yet something about that first experience hooked me. Shortly after that, I purchased my own mat (commitment!) and started my regular, and more appropriate leveled, yoga practice. I fell in love with all things yoga and was hungry to learn more. In 2012 I embarked on teacher training. I’m so grateful and honored to be teaching in the same space where I began my yoga practice. 

J: Who or what inspires you to continually keep progressing or advancing as an instructor?

M: There is no question that what inspires me to continue my own practice and progress as a teacher is the TBY yoga community. I feel honored by the presence of the people who show up in classes that I lead. I’m equally inspired when taking classes as a student by everyone around me. We are each on our own yoga journey. Whether it’s as instructor or participant, we come together and support each other, through the flow of practice, through our  intentions, and breath by breath. There is such a powerful energy that radiates in a yoga class and a yoga community. I find this energy to be intoxicating and contagious and that is what inspires me.

J: Yoga is not your only healing modality. I was privileged to experience your talents as a raindrop therapist first hand and just loved it.  Describe your pathway into the land of essential oils and hands on healing.

M: Thank you! I discovered essential oils when I needed them most. The oils provided emotional healing after my cancer recovery. Similar to my yoga journey, my hunger to learn more about how oils support the body’s natural healing process when paired with hands on healing made me an avid student of aromatherapy and healing touch energy work. I am currently studying to become a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist. This allows me to work with the healing properties of essential oils. I will eventually take an exam that will make me a Registered Aromatherapist with a certificate in Raindrop Technique. I look forward to sharing this modality of essential oils healing and energy work with our TBY community (details on appointment scheduling below). 

J: What do you think about the continued rise in popularity of yoga in the United States and how are we, as teachers, responsible to keep the tradition alive, but also evolve as teachers?

M: I'm really excited that yoga continues to rise in popularity here in the states. As teachers and students of yoga, I think it is our responsibility to welcome and honor each person who delves into this type of self study. Every practitioner shows up for a distinct purpose and has something they are seeking. Whether it’s healing, pain relief, community, relaxation, connection; physical activity or whatever the reason, it seems most who begin practice receive something greater than first imagined from this body, mind, spirit discipline.  

J: Tell us about “off the mat Mary.” What do you do in your down-time -- or share a little known fact or two.

M: As Mary off the mat, I love watching my kids discover and live their passions, just like I am discovering and living my own.

Mary’s teaching schedule:

*Sunday - Restorative 6:00pm
*Tuesday - Level 1 8:00am
Thursday - Level 1 8:00am
*new class times for Mary

To schedule an appointment for a healing service with Mary at Wild Lavender Clinic, call 847-302-4602 or email maryschooley.yoga@gmail.com. The website, which is currently under construction is: www.wildlavenderclinic.com. To see how to incorporate essential oils into your daily routine https://yldist.com/maryschooley/

7/26/2017   Tags:  Direct Link

Cultivating Inclusiveness in Yoga



By Stephanie Rehor


Anyone who is a yogi probably knows the difference between being in a yoga community and being a part of the “yoga scene.” For me, I was forced to learn the hard way. After 6 years of practicing yoga, I found myself attending more mainstream yoga events, purchasing overpriced yoga equipment, exclusively participating in vigorous classes and doing all I could to shove myself into the role of a western yogi. The ego took over as I became obsessed with the physicality of the poses. I pushed my body to the extreme and no matter what I did my skill level was still not up to par with any of the images the media fed me. While my physical practice wasn’t quite up to standards, my emotional practice never came close. When I expressed any sort of emotion to the world, any sort of intensity, it was met with resistance because “I thought you did yoga?” and “chill out, go do yoga” and “I’m surprised you would react that way because you do yoga”. These statements are not only emotionally manipulative but it becomes draining and invalidating to be constantly shoved into a box. All of these experiences led me to the realization that yoga stereotypes create exclusivity that harms this community.


The way things are now, we can be yogis as long as we are not overweight, have no mental illness, not disabled, not queer, trans, poor, black, or anything else that deviates from the “norm”.  Western yoga stereotypes keep this community from being diverse and steers people away from something that could be life-changing for them. The danger of the yoga brand is that it creates an idea that being a yogi has less to do with how someone is experiencing life and more to do with how they look, what they are wearing or their level of flexibility. Yoga is a birthright. Every person who is alive should be able to experience yoga. Whether someone is doing a physical practice or not is irrelevant to the fact that they are worthy of peace.

Peacefulness is a wonderful effect that the poses have on the body but it doesn’t end there. Yoga is more than just asana. Yoga is reflective self-care. This type of self-care not only offers relaxation but a deeper look into one’s patterns and inner experiences. It works to rewire our thoughts and actions so that we may live in a more positive, honest, and fulfilling way. People who are oppressed and have trauma are in desperate need of reflective self-care. However, we are fed images that lead us to believe that yoga is only for white, able-bodied, privileged individuals. As yogis we need to be mindful about who is absent from the space. We need to look around to see who is missing and start creating a space that is inclusive. How do we do this? Awareness is the first step, but after that we start with ourselves. Begin inviting a little more ease into the practice and drop the idea that we have to look, act, or be a certain way to feel included. If we want to experience growth we must reject the falsehood and pressure of societal expectations and live in truth. Through self-love, understanding, and presence we can create a community that not only welcomes diversity – but also celebrates it.

4/11/2017   Tags:  inclusiveness; all are welcome; yoga; stephanie rehor Direct Link

Go with the Flow



By Julia Jonson

To go with the flow, to be adaptable and to to roll with the punches seem to come so easily for some. As we've all experienced, the random and dynamic nature of life make it impossible to be prepared at a moment's notice all of the time. Because life will inevitably throw curve balls, adopting a more yielding way of being does a body and mind good.

Vinyasa, a term used in yoga classes to describe an intelligent way of flowing (linking breath and movement), is a concept that can be directly applied to your daily existence. Vinyasa refers to gradual sequences that unfold with an inherent intelligence and accord. In Sanskrit, the word is derived from nyasa, which means to place, and the prefix vi, meaning in a special way. Vinyasa can also mean wise progression, or an approach that takes a practitioner from one point and skillfully lands them in the next. In essence, vinyasa could be viewed as a symbolic metaphor for life. When we practice putting our trust in instinct, garnering wisdom and learning from our experiences (both on and off the mat), we allow energy to flow more freely so that we may thrive.

Challenging transitions in class serve inform you about where and how you need to move to heal in your own life. Do you ruminate over transitions and life's unavoidable obstacles? Most of us do! A powerful metaphor for being adaptable is that of a mountain stream. Even when the stream encounters obstacles, it adjusts effortlessly and keeps flowing forward. If we can be like the moving water, then we will find that life is decidedly less stressful, thus sparking the process of healing. Yoga requires that we cultivate an awareness that links each action to the next—one breath at a time.

Vinyasa, which is not a style of yoga, but a pattern of flow present in all yoga traditions, is a reminder that constant change is simply a normal part of life. Therefore moving skillfully and in a wise way on the mat can assist us in proceeding skillfully with wisdom and heart with any action in life.

May it ever be so that you embody a life where energy flows more freely, may you follow your heart, be yourself and go with your inner flow.

4/5/2017   Tags:  vinyasa flow yoga julia jonson Direct Link

Inner Growth

By Thomas Tiernan



“We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” -Ernest Hemingway


Personal growth is often a destructive process. The dread of facing our own fears can lead to a vicious cycle of avoidance. Paradoxically, when you learn how to stop running from life’s inevitable problems, and mindfully face them head-on, you will find you are in greater control.  


Your body, your mind and your surroundings are ever changing. It’s easy to apply labels of like or dislike to what’s happening both inside and around you. It is human nature to avoid what we don’t like and gravitate toward what we find pleasing. However, if we are willing to remain present, and not push away what we label as bad or difficult, we are then able to see past the pain and into the potential.  


We are often taught to do what we can to avoid fear, rather than working through it. It may seem easier to resort to using alcohol, drugs, sex, food or any other activity that temporarily allows us to feel good. This type of avoidance adds layers of suffering that, when unresolved, will likely grow and perhaps even snowball. Learning to embrace dark times teaches us to work with the pain and see obstacles and woes for what they really are: potential growth opportunities.


Working with our inner pain takes us to the source of suffering so that it can be dealt with directly. Self reflection and meditation help us to move past what’s keeping us down, rather than masking or burying our hurts. The seemingly simple acts of sitting down, closing your eyes and having awareness of breath begins a journey of inward healing. Over time and with regular practice, meditation creates new neurological pathways in the brain that usher in new ideas, clarity and a deep understanding of why we are suffering in the first place. Practice paves the way for a more joy filled life.


Meditators are not exempt from the ups and downs of life, but taking the time to explore your inner world will most certainly make you less reactive and move positive. Then, instead of reaching for a vice, it may become easier to choose instead to close your eyes and turn within.


There can be no light without darkness. We must learn to see moments of discomfort as doorways to beautiful growth, not insurmountable walls. Just as a caterpillar moves inward, facing darkness and suffering to emerge as a butterfly, we humans are capable of turning inward to find what has been there all along; the Divine Soul.

In the words of the beloved Goswami Kriyananda, “meditate, meditate, meditate.  Meditate daily and you will come to discover two truths: who you are and what you are becoming.”


Thomas teaches meditation every Tuesday at 5:00pm. He's also leading a FREE/Dontation Meditation Workshop on Saturday, March 18th at 2:00pm.

2/20/2017   Tags:  Direct Link

Beginner Meditation Series Overview

By Susan Short



By now you have probably heard a lot about meditation.   You may have read about the benefits, the different types of meditation, and possibly the “right” way to do it.  You may be too intimidated to try it or perhaps you’ve tried and been so frustrated by your racing thoughts, that you’ve given up.


If you’d like to learn how to meditate in a warm and accepting environment, this series is for you.  I believe I present mindfulness meditation in a simple, direct, and easy to understand way.  The practice of meditation is just that – a practice.  They do not call it mindfulness perfection.  We all have times when we sit and our mind is racing.  As long as we are human, we will have thoughts.  The key is being aware of the thoughts, and then coming back to the awareness of your breath.  Again and again.


In this series you will first be guided to find the best posture for your unique body.  Finding the right support in order to maintain a straight spine is the first step.  This does not mean full lotus pose.  It might mean reclining.  It could be sitting in a chair.  The exact position is not as important as supporting a straight and open spine.


Next, we will dive deeply into your breath.  Where can you feel the breath moving in your body?  What we will focus on is strengthening your diaphragmatic breathing.  This deep belly breath can be one of the most nourishing exercises you can do for your nervous system.  Diaphragmatic breathing can calm the mind quickly when practiced regularly.

The third area we will examine is the energy of your mind.  What is the weather of your mind in this moment?  What are the velocity and intensity of your thoughts?  Can you observe this without judgment?   Your thoughts come and go.  Getting into the laboratory of your mind will help strengthen your mindfulness on and off the cushion.


All the while I will be helping you establish your own personal practice one step at a time.  You already have this ability within you – to breathe diaphragmatically and to be aware of the activity of your mind – and it is free.  In developing your daily meditation practice, you are giving yourself the most precious and priceless gift: the gift of being alive and present for your life.

I hope to see you at the series.


4-Part Beginner Meditation Series

Sundays,February 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th



You can register for the series under "workshops."



1/25/2017   Tags:  meditation beginner Direct Link

Embracing Discomfort

By Thomas Tiernan


Most of us reading this are blessed enough to be living in a great amount of comfort.  We wake up in cozy beds in climate controlled homes. We have climate controlled transportation, which brings us from one comfortable environment to the other.  To top it all off, we have the ability to order products and food without ever having to venture out and impinge on our sense of well-being.

As a society, we have gone to great lengths to make sure we have access to something comfortable at all times. With the advent of technology, it would also seem that our overall quality of life is enhanced, but has technology really helped us? The downside to making sure that things feel agreeable and easy is that we either forget or never learn how to deal with discomfort. Try leaving your phone at home sometime when you leave for work. It would likely make you feel so unsettled that it would feel better and more sensible to drive back home to retrieve the phone. I’ve experienced this myself!. Our minds associate certain objects and emotions with comfort so when discomfort arises, the mind revolts until comfort is restored. We have not trained ourselves to remain centered, to embrace the discomfort and to learn from the moment. This is one of the reasons so many struggle to meditate.

When we sit down for a meditation session, we must then deal with all of the discomfort of our mind and body in the same moment. Turning within strips us of all the distractions we have created to help us remain in our respective comfort zones. I know it doesn’t seem like a great sales pitch for meditation, but bear with me. In the beginning stages, most of our time sitting in meditation is spent arguing with our ego. The mind says it is bored, that this activity is a waste of time. The mind is so convincing that it tells stories to lure the meditator away from his or her seat of stillness to other, seemingly, less boring ways to problem solve.

Then something beautiful happens. One day the mental arguing ceases and the space between thoughts emerges. Within this space, no matter how miniscule it may seem in the beginning, lies peace, equanimity, bliss, quietude and what we have been looking for all along, comfort. Over time, you’ll come to find that the type of comfort that comes from meditation is one that will never fade.

It’s important to remember that meditation, the practice of finding the quiet and peace within, is a process that will take time. Meditating requires patience. If we are gentle with ourselves, we can slowly open the door to the endless beauty of Life and create a space within that we can return to time and time again.



Thomas Tiernan teaches meditation in the Kriya tradition each Tuesday at 5:00pm at Total Body Yoga

1/17/2017   Tags:  meditation; peace Direct Link

Winter Renews and Restores



By Stephanie Rehor


As winter arrives and the year comes to an end, we have received a beautiful invitation from nature to come back home to ourselves. Each season offers a gift. The gift of winter, if we choose to accept it, is to turn inward and reconnect to our center. The shorter days of winter offer us time to go within, to create space to see what we are holding onto that doesn’t serve our best interests. What is ready to go? What are we called to detach from and what expectations do we need to drop? What is redundant and what is the old story? These are important questions to ask and all the answers lie within us. Winter is about the journey back to the darkness, the place to reevaluate and restore. Nature is giving us permission to put it down, to rest, and to reconnect. This shows us not only what it is that we need to let go of but also the ways in which we let go. Can we stop for a moment and find the places that allow this to happen? For me, I let go when I do yoga. I let go when I dance, I let go when I laugh, I let go when I am surrounded by love, and I let go when I feel safe. Most of all, I let go when I become present in my own body. Winter is an opportunity to come back home. This is a chance to connect to the nature inside of us. We are woven into nature so there is actually no division but we tend to lose sight of this amidst the busyness of life. When we reconnect, we soften our edges and allow. Letting go is not a forceful act but a beautiful surrendering. For this surrendering to happen we must move into our bodies and develop compassion from the inside out. As this happens, we connect with our hearts a little more. Yogic teachings point to the heart center as our center of being. When we open our hearts we nourish the body with love. The body deserves this, not only because it inhabits the soul, but because it has taken on everything and has housed all of our struggles and all of our wounding. Compassion, which comes straight from the heart center, heals these wounds. So even though we may be receiving wonderful, material presents this time of year, we need to remember the earth is also bestowing many gifts including restoration, introspection, and connection. When we are connected we let go with love and healing pours in. This frees up a lot of heaviness so we can go into the new year with a little more space to create fulfilling lives and align with our truth. Retreating to our inner world essentially moves us towards our highest purpose.

12/21/2016   Tags:  winter, solstice, heart Direct Link

The Yoga of Politics

by Stephanie Rehor


Being a yogi and political activist are two things that do not always jive. Before yoga, I had an affinity towards protests and to this day the thought of loud chaotic bantering and free flowing radical expression still excites me.  Since I’ve turned to yoga, I am still an activist but I look at things in a different light. This light is more in touch with reality and how change will actually manifest. I take this inspiration from great yoga teachers, such as Seane Corn, founder of the yoga activist group Off the Mat into the World. In one interview she talks about a moment of self-realization when after a protest she saw a picture of herself and fellow activists standing in a line with their mouths wide open and eyes shut. In this moment it dawned on her that these protests were only serving as an outlet to express anger. She recognized she was not asking the big question – what is to be done? This is often what I think of when dealing with the recent political climate. It is not new information that this country is riddled with anxiety. Especially after the debates I felt our collective energy was completely drained. This election has left most of us worrying about the future and what is going to be done about the many issues that we are currently facing. As a yogi, it is natural to want to retreat into the yoga bubble. We have access to a place where everything feels so serene. However, a part of the practice is to face what may be uncomfortable or even scary. While the releasing quality of yoga often results in a state where it feels like the weight of the world is lifted off, we are always all carrying the weight of the greater collective – whether we like it or not. The yoga of politics is about dropping the idea that we are separate. When one person suffers, we all suffer. That is why it is so important for everyone to get involved. This means voting, talking to people, serving the community, helping each other, doing what it takes to heal ourselves and the heal world. The change starts with us and there is no one better for the job than the people of the conscious community. Together, we can plant the seeds for a better tomorrow and create the type of world we want our children’s children to live in.


11/7/2016   Tags:  yoga, politics, vote, charity, karma Direct Link

TBY Teacher Feature: Audrey Craddock

TBY Featured Teacher:
Audrey Craddock
A Passion for Practice

Interviewed by Julia Jonson

Describe your journey into yoga and how it’s impacted your daily life.

In my early 20's I bought a yoga DVD and started practicing in the privacy of my living room. I wanted to become more flexible and stronger and had heard great things about yoga, so I gave it a shot. I wasn't consistent though, and eventually stopped.  Many years later I began to suffer from sciatica and was encouraged by a chiropractor to take up yoga again.  I actually took my very first class at Total Body Yoga and was just blown away by how good I felt. I walked out of class feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off of my shoulders.  Looking back I realize I'd gotten to a point in life where anxiety was the norm, my body was in constant discomfort, and my mind wasn't in a happy space.  I immediately knew yoga would forever be a part of my life.  My aches and pains began to disappear, my anxiety started to subside. I just felt like a happier version of myself.  Over the years I've ebbed and flowed from a more vigorous practice to more gentle, therapeutic movements. I currently try to practice daily and in the last year have become much more committed to a meditation practice. It keeps me sane, happy and grateful for even the smallest things in life.


You’ve said one of your passions is offering yoga to athletes. What it’s like to teach runners, triathletes and Ironman Athletes?


I love it! It absolutely fills me to the brim to offer something so peaceful and healing to these amazing people who are so dedicated to their sport and who put so much time and effort into their training.  They are in motion so often, so giving them that hour or so of space and time to slow down, to connect with themselves and their breath, and to help their bodies recover feels very impactful.  It has also made me realize how much athletes and yogis have in common …. The focus, discipline, and body awareness.  Plus, there is a meditative quality to long runs, bike rides, swims, and walks. I hope that as I learn more through my 500 hour training, I'm able to offer even more to athletes in the area.


You’re an athlete yourself. What role does your yoga practice play in this part of your life?


It plays a huge roll. I use the physical practice to keep myself stretched out and to help keep all of my stabilizing muscles strong.  When I don't find time to practice daily, even if it's only 15 minutes, I'm a tight, uncomfortable mess. I really credit yoga as the reason I've been injury free thus far. I also meditate daily and find that it helps with my training as well.  It allows me to stay focused without being too insanely attached to the outcome of things.


How exciting that you’ve chosen to earn your 500 hour yoga certification! I know the program you’ve chosen is truly one-of-a-kind. Please elaborate.  


I have to thank Brooke Cline, who also teaches at TBY, for encouraging me to apply for the Yoga Medicine 500 hour teacher training program with Tiffany Cruikshank. I've so far completed one 60-hour module that focused on Chinese Medicine and Myofascial Release. The program is unique in that it allows you to pick and choose which modules you'd like to take, so you're able to focus or specialize in different areas. I plan to take the orthopedic modules (hip, shoulder, spine, etc) along with a yin and meditation module and possibly even a module that works on cadavers. It's very anatomy based, so I'm learning so much about our fascinating bodies. I can't wait to continue to grow my teaching so I'm able to offer more to my students.


When I practiced with you recently, I felt like we did some really deep work with tennis balls that truly left me feeling really at ease, balanced and even well rested. Tell me about the myofascial release work that are often part of the framework of your classes.


Self myofascial release (SMR) is awesome! It's the same concept as foam rolling but I typically use tennis or lacrosse balls. I find you're able to get into smaller, more isolated areas of the body with these smaller objects. You essentially use your bodyweight to work through the different layers of fascia to help hydrate the tissues, break up adhesions, reduce friction, and improve range of motion.  It's a great way to work into areas of discomfort or tightness because of an injury, scar tissue, bad posture ….  the list goes on. It's a perfect compliment to yoga so I've been including it more in my classes. Each week I try to give students different ideas as to how they can use myofascial release to address their tightness so that they are able to do it on their own.


Yoga used to be this obscure and mysterious practice and now it’s everywhere. Why do you think yoga continues to grow in popularity?  


I think it's simple: people realize how much better they feel when they practice yoga. I feel like our society really thrives on keeping us super busy and we're finally starting to realize that maybe that such busyness isn't good for us. Taking the time to slow down, to unplug from technology, to appreciate our breath and to connect with our internal body are all things that yoga encourages. Being present can make you feel more alive.


Any favorite thing, guilty pleasure or little-known fact about you that you’d be willing to share with the TBY community?


Ha! Well, I do have a weakness for fun shoes, hip-hop music and pickles. Not in any particular order. I've also become known for wearing crazy, fun or wild yoga pants.  The more outrageous the pattern the better!  They make me feel strong and invincible and put a smile on my face.

Audrey's Teaching Schedule:
Sunday 11:00am Basics
Sunday 12:30pm Gentle Basics
10/30/2016   Tags:  yoga, running, myofascial release Direct Link

TBY Teacher Feature: Michelle Fiore

TBY Teacher Feature
Michelle Fiore: The Path to Joy


Interviewed by Julia Jonson

Michelle Fiore’s love of music combined with her journey into yoga has led to a very interesting path in life. She’s a musician who plays the bass, the guitar, drums, gongs, you name it. Michelle is a recording artist, teacher of Tantra and a Kundalini Yoga teacher at Total Body Yoga. She explains Kundalini energy as the powerful creative energy that dwells in all of us. Kundalini yoga is a technology for awakening this energy. When awakened, it can help us to live in our fullest creative potential, supporting us in all of our hopes and dreams. Practicing Kundalini yoga is very healthy for the body because it works all the internal systems. Practitioners typically report leaving class feeling refreshed, renewed and revitalized. I had the joy of sitting down with Michelle and hearing about her life path.

J: I loved talking with you recently about your Midwestern roots and your musical background. Paint a picture of your journey to your yogic present through your musical past.

M: I found yoga just when I needed it. It saved me. I was young, healthy, had a great marriage, financial security, a successful business and all the material items I was told would “make me happy.” I was far from happy and this is when my soul search began and when I discovered yoga would lead the way.

As I went deeper into my own practice and into certification programs to become a teacher, my life began to change. Others around me began to notice an inner joy.

All of this led me back to my musical roots. I began incorporating my music into some of my classes, which elevated my own practice immensely. I saw it affecting practitioners too.

Yoga combined with music have empowered me to maintain things in life that both fulfill and fuel me. Music and yoga help to bring purpose to my life.

J: Andrew and I were humming along to the lovely sounds of you, and fellow Kundalini yoga teacher Carol Crawford, rehearsing recently. Tell us about being a recording artist with your band Preet.

M: I wasn’t even looking to start a yoga band, but life’s synchronicity's led me to become part of “Preet.” My yogic name is Puranpreet, fellow member Carol is Sahejpreet and band member Kitty is Sangatpreet, hence the name. The word “preet” in Kundalini yoga is one form of unconditional love. How fitting!

Our signature sound is a unique blend of acoustic guitar music that is decorated with celestial harmonies. The message of our music is all about going within (oneself) so that we can create more love in all aspects life.

We have performed at Kundalini Yoga Summer Solstice Celebration in New Mexico, which is the World’s largest annual Kundalini Yoga gathering. More recently, we appeared at the Midwest Women’s Yoga Retreat held in Wisconsin. We have regular events in various studios throughout Chicagoland and our CD “Celestial Essence” will be out later this year.

There are few greater joys in my life than sharing this music in combination with yoga.

J: There’s a huge theme of “sound” in your life ….

M: Sound is such a gift! I started playing the guitar when I was eight years old. Music always stayed with me. I completed college at NIU with a Masters in Music Performance. Every single time I perform I feel comforted, soothed and healed.

Whether I’m playing with an orchestra, harmonizing with friends around a firepit, singing on a Saturday night, or performing in a “Preet” event, music offers the magic of joy and connection for me.

In fact, the vibration within sound is so transformational that I have come to know vibration as one of the languages of yoga. It is so powerful.

J: You have so much education and experience teaching yoga. I was excited to hear that you were invited to start the process of teaching teachers. Please elaborate.  

M: It has been a dream of mine to become a Kundalini Yoga Teacher Trainer, which will be my 5th yoga certification. It’s a dream that’s coming true as I’ve been invited to be a junior trainer at Spirit Rising Yoga (the main Kundalini Yoga training center in Chicago). I’ll be working closely with Shiva Singh Khalsa and Shabad Kaur Khalsa, who are my trainers. Both of them studied with the master Kundalini Yoga teacher Yogi Bhajan.

As the Latin proverb goes, “by learning you will teach, by teaching you will learn,” I know this will take my knowledge of the ancient teachings of Kundalini Yoga to a whole new level.  While it will take me many years to complete my training, I’m committed and feel a great sense of purpose. I’m blessed to be fulfilling my destiny while helping others to find their own passions.

J: How would you describe your teaching style?   

M: I consider myself to be a dynamic teacher. In a typical class, I will offer ways where the practitioner can expand their awareness around Kundalini Energy so they have the potential to have an experience in their very first class. That is balanced out with quiet moments so the practitioner can really “tune in” and listen to what is occurring for them. It is so much about simply raising awareness. When the student learns the capacity to work with intention, and then sets their focus on that intention, awareness is raised so much that it  can expand!

J: In your opinion, why do you think yoga, in its many forms, has exploded in the Western world?  

M: We live in a time where people are seeking. We want something more than our parents had. We want fulfillment on a deeper level. Yoga offers this. That feeling of peace, calm and clarity keeps us coming back to the mat. This inevitably seeps into daily life, and suddenly the toolbox is filled with tools to keep us uplifted.

J: Tantra is a subject that is very often misunderstood. I know you’ve gone through extensive training for this and your husband and you both teach the subject matter together. Why tantra, and how did you get involved?

M: Yes, I am a Certified Level 3 Tantra teacher, a process that took more than 3 years. My husband John and I have been together since 1990. In terms of our intimate connection, we got to a place where old patterns and habits were creating blocks to expanding our connection. Studying and practicing Tantra helps us to see and to break through those obstacles or blockages. The result has been better communication, more compassion and deepened sensitivity. And while Tantra is not all about sex, it has deeply affected our sex life too. When our intimate life is connected, flowing and prosperous, all else in life tends to flow more smoothly as well. Who doesn’t want more of THAT?? J

J: Tell us something we’d be hard-pressed to know about you, like a favorite pastime. 

M: I love to watch football. Most people are stunned when they hear I'm an NFL fanatic. I’m 5’2” tall with a small frame, but I sure do know how to root for my team. When I was a kid I played football with the boys all the time. I can still throw a helluva TD pass too! J

Michelle's Teaching Schedule:

Sunday 8:00am Kundalini Yoga
Tuesday 6:30pm Kundalini Yoga
Saturday 4:30am Kundalini Yoga Sadhana

*Saturday, October 1st, Gong & Music Event: Good Vibrations 
9/29/2016   Tags:  kundalini yoga music kirtan Direct Link