At Manduka, we were founded on the simple concept of creating a foundation to support those (teachers, studios, community guides) who Inspire the Practice. The yoga teachers and studios inspire more they will ever know. They become people and places of familiarity, comfort, community, and joy. They help create strength in the chaos. They push us when needed and grant space when it's best. They facilitate our own 'moments' on and off the mat.
Quite simply, they are our inspiration.
With that, we've launched an “Inspire the Practice” campaign. We are celebrating teachers and studios from New York City, to Santa Barbara, CA, to Reno, NV by telling their stories. As they have gotten to know us, we now ask about them. Who are they? Why are they doing this work? What is their mission? What makes them laugh? What music do they like? What do they like to do when they are not leading our communities? What inspires THEM?
Manduka is grateful for the thousands of teachers and studios who make it part of their life's work to create a sanctuary for us to move our bodies, free our minds, and find peace. Even if for a moment, we honor you and say thank YOU for Inspiring the Practice
Inspiration is what unites us all to make ourselves and this world a better place.
Let's take off on this journey together to celebrate those that #InspirethePractice.
Why We're Inspired
You know that teacher who has a special place in your heart, who's deeply impacted your life by the way they've guided you through your practice?
If you know, you know.
For us, that's Anne — a teacher to us at Manduka for many years.
Her story is the next in an ongoing series featuring those who Inspire the Practice.
It's one close to home, one close to our hearts.
Yoga. When the mind and the body are released from tension, you experience the ultimate freedom. Enlightenment.
If you have taken my class you may have heard me say, “Our breath is our life force.” To breathe is to give life to your body and mind. Breath is a lens that binds the mind and the body together. Our breath releases tension. Movement in the body releases tension. Yoga is a way for us to navigate through life to experience a tension-free life; this is ultimate freedom. We will all experience some sort of tension in our life, some more than others. Remember to move and breathe. This is the message I live by.
The Beginning Of My Practice
Yoga has been a part of my life since my early twenties. I first found yoga in an art class during my college years. Most people tend to start with a physical yoga class, but I started with meditation and breathing. I was intrigued, and over the next few years I started the physical asana practice. I had always loved being physical; I grew up competing in gymnastics and then diving. I water skied in the summers and downhill skied in the winters. Yoga felt exciting to me — it was a way to be physical, but it also took me so much deeper into myself. I delved deeper into my yoga practice and eventually decided to take my path as a teacher in my late twenties.
I have filled my cup over the years with over a thousand hours of inspiring trainings and upwards of thirty thousand classes taught. I learned to teach through repetition. When starting out I naturally followed the path most teachers take. First you imitate, then you integrate, and finally you innovate. I am a true believer that yoga doesn’t need to be reinvented. Stick to what works. But I love the creativity that comes with putting a sequence together and creating a playlist to match it.
I am a teacher, but will always be a student. I love learning from the ways my students show up to practice and how they breathe and move their bodies. The insights into their personal lives — there are so many layers in the teaching of yoga. I became very interested in teaching people who had lost complete control of their lives. For years, I worked within the mental health and sober living community, and I was so inspired watching thousands of students completely turn their lives around through yoga. My students ultimately have inspired me to take better care of myself, and practicing in a way that is safe for your body has also always been important to me. Teaching people to move safely in their body is imperative to the way I teach.
Time To See Clearly
My life had been going in an upward trajectory, but things were about to spiral. In late 2021, I fell ill; I was about to embark on the greatest lesson in life. After endless tests it was discovered I was sick with endocarditis, a bacterial infection that affects your heart. The news was devastating. On March 31st, 2022, I underwent open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve.
The experience was unimaginable. I couldn’t help thinking, this is not my story, this is not how it was supposed to be. I am healthy, why me? All the questions you can imagine came flooding in, no dam or break-wall to stop what was happening. My hours in the hospital were filled with quiet. It was a time to contemplate, as I found it hard to connect with anybody but myself. This was hard for me since I was always connecting with others through teaching, but now it was time to look more closely inward. It was really a time to meditate, back to the beginning of my journey. I had the support of my loved ones around me, which I am forever grateful for. But without all the countless hours of my yoga training and studies, practices and teachings, I may not have made it through.
I experienced a ton of anxiety, something that was newer to me, but I also experienced more clarity than I ever had before. It is true when they say you don’t really know what you have until you are facing your end. When you face death right in the eye, you can understand what it means to be alive. You can see clearly what matters and what does not. You understand how to navigate through the craziness of this busy world. Everything is clear. It may be even a glimpse into enlightenment. When the curtain has fallen, who do YOU turn to? This is where I gazed back within myself.
The moment of clarity itself can be fleeting. But the message is still alive within me. It's not just an automatic switch when you face your maker, you have to rework the puzzle of life. It's hard work, not the flip of a switch. But the mindset is there. I have been given a second chance to do things a little differently, that feel more authentic to who I want to be and how I want to feel. To come back to being a teacher and inspire others to make a shift for the better. To reconnect with nature and things I love. To let my heart and mind live in the clouds and my hands stay steady in the dirt. To be a better mother, wife and friend. To cut out the bullshit, and live a more meaningful existence. It takes time and mending and lots of patience. I am putting the pieces back together. Getting back to my physical body through eating healthy, exercise, movement and yoga. Finding a steady meditation practice. Spending time outside in nature. Retraining the mind and heart in order to live at a higher level of being. The practice is in every minute of the day, every move that I make to live my best life.
Yoga has blessed me with the ability to remain calm yet strong during this period in my life of complete uncertainty. I have used the many teachings of my yoga community, teachers and trainings to push through this wild card I was dealt. I was forced to release the uncertainty in my body and mind and trust things would be okay. And most importantly, I have remembered the power of breath, and how it gives us life. I feel so blessed that I am able to rewrite my story, and I am just getting started.
One of my favorite things about yoga is that there is no end; you always have more to learn and there is always more to teach. Right now, I am focusing my energy on making everyday count. I am learning to forgive myself when I don’t feel like I have done my best. It's hard work. I am taking care of myself first, and not letting MY time slip away and be wasted. I am enjoying time with the people I love and care about. I am stoking my creativity by making art and creating yoga that people all around the world can enjoy and find their own ultimate freedom through. I am connecting in person and online through meditation and movement. Join me on YouTube.