interviewed by Julia C. Jonson
How and when did you first practice yoga?
It was around 2002 in Madison, Wisconsin, in my hometown where I began taking a Thursday evening gentle class at a local yoga cooperative. I was looking for stress relief from being an elementary school teacher and I found that I was a gentler teacher to my students each Friday and felt better physically than I had in years. I kept attending that yoga class each week and it took me over two years before braving an intermediate class. I will never forget how challenging downward facing dog was for me, as I had zero upper body strength! I began to slowly realize that the more I gave to yoga, the more it gave back to me. I gradually added more and more yoga to my life eventually taking a teacher training in 2007.
How has your own practice affected your day-to-day life?
My practice has become my safe place to just be with my body and myself in a compassionate way. When I take the time to connect with my breath, body and spirit, I am so much more pleasant to be around! Yoga for me is not just the time on my mat but also throughout the day, when I take the time to be fully present and to witness instead of controlling life. For me yoga is a practice of trying to show up as my very best self on any given day.
You’ve done a lot of learning with renowned teachers. This must have inspired your teaching!
I simply enjoy learning about all things yoga. Almost every week, I try to commit to learn from an experienced teacher, in person or online, so that I can stay fresh as a teacher. I never want to become stale or offer the same thing week after week. Staying inspired is important to me since I think students can feel when an instructor is excited and passionate about what they are teaching. I have been lucky enough to study more in depth with many top Anusara teachers; John Friend, Noah Maze, Desiree Rumbaugh, and Jordan and Martin Kirk.
In addition to being a teacher and leading a yoga teacher training you’re very busy with your family life. Give us a view of a day-in-the-life with “householder Mara.”
My day is probably like many part time working parents. Morning begins with getting kids off to school, walking our puppy, and then usually teaching or taking a public yoga class. The afternoons are spent running errands, studying yoga, preparing classes, homework, running kids around and making dinner. As a stepmom, there are times we don’t have the kids, when I have more time to catch my breath, reconnect with friends and my husband, read and replenish. If I’m lucky, I will sneak down to my yoga room a few times a week, where just being there helps me to center and reconnect.
Daily practice is powerful, it’s a great idea to have a home yoga routine, but can you speak about the power of community when it comes to practicing as a group?
For me, true, authentic learning and growth comes when I meet up against my resistances, whether they are mental or physical. At home I often don’t challenge myself enough to get to that edge that allows me to release and evolve. It is much easier for me to focus on my practice when the distractions of home are taken away and someone is leading you down this path to self-discovery. The classes at TBY fill me with the energy of the all the great people who have traveled though the studio over the years and I enjoy learning from all of our instructors.
I love your classes and I always feel more integrated after being guided by you. Many others agree! What do you think you have to offer as a teacher that makes you unique? (ahem … I know it’s hard to pat yourself on the back, but it’s a good practice right?!)
Hum, that is a hard one. I truly believe each person has a unique gift to offer and that the people that are meant to come to your classes will. I don’t expect to resonate with each person and I understand when students learn from various teachers at different times in their lives. People always say I have a calming voice, so perhaps people feel soothed when they come to my class. I always focus on alignment, both in the outer form but also with inner energies and breath. I try to be nurturing and accepting of all students, giving modifications, so students will hopefully leave feeling positive about themselves. My main goal is that each person feels better after class, physically and mentally, than they did before class.
Tell us something we’d be hard-pressed to know about you, like a favorite pastime or a guilty pleasure, or both!
Well I was a bit of a wild child as a young woman. Becoming an elementary school teacher pulled me out of many unhealthy behaviors. The practice of yoga made me realize that my main goal is to wake up fully to my own life and to consciously engage with it. Right now my guilty pleasures are rather tame….dark chocolate, ice cream, a vodka tonic and HGTV!
9:15am Level 1
11:00am Level 1