My Yoga Story

when you follow your heart...

  

I came to yoga through a background of modern dance and over 20 years of experience as a group exercise instructor. I had been an ACE Certified Instructor and workshop presenter, providing educational workshops for instructors maintaining their continuing-ed credits. My main focus was training instructors in anatomy and kinesiology, creative sequencing, and cueing techniques. I went to lots of workshops and lots of international aerobics conferences.

Follow your heart

A pivotal moment for me was in the summer of 1998 in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was attending a large international aerobics convention (IDEA) there, and I discovered Tai Chi, in a workshop with Mara Carrico. I was hooked into the meditative feeling immediately, though I didn't know at the time that's what it was. It was the same feeling I had when I danced, yet I was barely moving.

Other types of mind-body disciplines began to appear in the group exercise circuit and I began sampling these different types of classes, including NIA, chi yoga, and mixes and blends of pilates/yoga/Feldenkrais techniques, etc. I knew there was something powerful that I was tapping into, though I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was.

Soon I began incorporating some yoga poses during the cool-down portions of my group exercise classes. I wanted to replicate and share with my students the feelings that I had experienced. Eventually people wanted a whole class of the cool-down moves and since I only had a few moves, I relied on books - lots of them - and videos - lots of them - for suggestions. I was sampling different types and styles of yoga, though I didn't know it at the time, pulling together things that resonated with me.

At some point, someone had given me a somewhat dated Lilias Folan video. I had remembered seeing her on PBS in the 70's, thinking, "Whoa, what's that? Man, she has long hair!" In the video she guided us through a meditation, though she didn't call it that. She spoke about being grounded with the Earth and relaxing the senses, feeling what you're doing, tuning in and honoring where you are. None of the other videos I had seen were doing this, particularly in this tangible, realistic, non-mystical way. Something in me clicked, like a light switch flicking on, and I was forever changed. I was so starved and hungry for more of this, whatever it was.

Mudra

One day, in Spring of 2000, while looking for yet another yoga book I happened upon Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness, by Erich Schiffmann. Standing in the bookstore, I opened the book to the page where he's describing ado mukha svanasana (downward facing dog pose). I was immediately taken by his writing style, his way of describing the action and energy in the pose, which completely resonated with me as a dancer. This was unlike anything I had ever read or anything I had ever seen. To say this book rocked my world is a huge understatement.

The next day in class, my students all wondered what in the world happened to me because I was teaching in a completely different way. Of course I gave them the title of the book and I think they all went out and bought it. I wanted so much to meet Erich, to tell him how his book quite literally changed my life... but I lived in Texas and he in Los Angeles. How could that ever be possible? Get real.

Well, I soon discovered that through The Divine, anything is possible. A whole series of bizarre coincidences led me to actually meet Erich in person at the Southwest Yoga Conference in November of that year in Austin. What an amazing and unforgettable weekend that was. After that experience, I traveled to Santa Barbara, CA the following April to attend his 10-day teacher training intensive, which also changed my life in a very profound way.

Erich and me at Feathered Pipe Ranch, 2013

That experience led me to the beginnings of an apprenticeship with Erich in the summer of 2001 and the beginnings of my formal studies with him. He invited me to assist him at his workshop in the spring of 2002, at Monteagle, Tennessee. Later that fall I worked as his teaching assistant for the Southwest Yoga Conference in Palm Springs, CA - the very same conference where we had met in Austin. Since then, I've been honored to assist Erich all over the country and even in Canada with countless weekend workshops, nine teacher trainings, and 14 week-long retreats at The Feathered Pipe Ranch in Helena, Montana.

I now continue the Freedom Yoga work with my own classes, workshops, teacher trainings, and retreats. And, I'm writing my own book on Freedom Yoga, which is nearing completion. Erich has been my one and only teacher, and is now a close friend and colleague. My tattered book of his still bears the faded signature from November 2000. What an incredible, amazing adventure life is. It's a journey that's always new, always fresh. And I still feel like I'm just now getting started with yoga.

Peace and Namaste,
Carie