I grew up in the warm embrace of the east coast of Florida. Nestled near the ocean and hugged by two rivers, my little town of Merritt Island was an idyllic place to be a kid. There was always somewhere to play, run, swim, surf or daydream.
Like many little girls, my mom started me in ballet around age five. I quickly grew tired of it and insisted on quitting. Even at a young age I knew what I wanted! I swapped dance for gymnastics and competed all around the state until age 11. But like ballet, I began to grow tired of gymnastics and had seen my next movement calling: the stage.
After attending a musical production at a fantastic community theatre in our area called the Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse I decided that I would sing and dance on stage. I did just that for the very first time at an audition, was accepted and quickly started performing in musicals and never looked back.
I spent roughly every free moment of the next six years on that stage: dancing, singing and acting. I performed my first leading lady role as Kim in a production of Bye Bye Birdie, and took it to the next level when I was cast as Chava one of the daughters in a production of Fiddler on the Roof, which ran for 31 sold out performances. Some of my other favorite roles were Bonnie Jean McClaren in Bridgadoon and Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain. Both those roles challenged my dancing abilities with Jean requiring an elegant, almost balletic solo, and Kathy, a demanding tap dancing number.
During that time I took my first yoga class at a small, humble studio a few blocks from the theatre. It was a simple Hatha Yoga class but it challenged everything I knew about movement. I remember thinking, as the instructor was telling us to inhale our arms up and exhale our arms down, “I’ll breathe whenever I darn well please!” I was definitely resistant to this new discipline, but nonetheless continued to take classes. I’d also always been fascinated by Eastern culture, art and spirituality and found the quiet stillness and connection to a broader tradition quite alluring.
Although I loved the stage, I knew I didn’t want to peruse it professionally. After graduating high school with honors, I moved to New York City to attend NYU and FIT to study journalism and Communications. Lots of friends and colleagues were surprised that I didn’t study theatre in college, but I knew it wasn’t the right path for me.
New York City’s drastic change of pace was exciting and exhilarating. I began to take Vinyasa Flow classes and developed a devoted practice. Something about yoga felt right in my body for the first time. While I always managed to dance on stage, I never felt truly comfortable or identified as a dancer. But yoga made sense.
Although I loved the creative yoga classes I took, I was still drawn to eastern spiritualty and wanted to learn yoga in a traditional way, the way it was taught in India. I had taken some Ashtanga yoga classes and decided to explore this style more deeply. I boldly enrolled in a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training in Florida during one of my summer breaks. The training was held at a shala (yoga school) in Orlando. I was the youngest one there, and was thrown right into the rigorous Primary Series (which I had practiced quite a bit leading up to the training). We learned Sanskrit asana names and chants, physical adjustments, meditation, anatomy, and most exciting, we learned to teach Mysore Style (the traditional method in which yoga is taught in India. Students learn slowly, one posture at a time, individually with a teacher, gradually building up a personalized self-practice). I graduated at the end of that summer knowing I’d found the movement practice for my body and my soul.
After college, armed with a degree in Advertising and Communications, most people expected me to apply for jobs in journalism or fashion advertising. But instead I answered a craigslist ad for a yoga teacher at a bustling Pilates studio near Gramercy Park. Sal Anthony’s Movement Salon in some ways reminded me of my beloved historic theatre back home: quirky and artsy. I was thrown into a world of movers, dancers, Pilates instructors, trainers and yoga teachers. I started teaching yoga classes but soon began learning to teach the Pilates method. After a few months of training, studying anatomy, observing and assisting I had completed a certification and took on my first clients and classes.
A few years later I was still practicing traditional Mysore-Style Ashtanga Yoga and decided to make the journey to India to study at the source. This was an exciting decision and seemed to be the culmination of my devotion to a traditional yoga practice, one rooted in tradition, lineage and spirituality. After my returning from my first trip to Mysore, I began to assist and eventually teach a daily Mysore-Style program.
Meeting my Indian teacher Sharath at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute took my devotion to the next level. I have continued to study yoga in Mysore, India every year, making a total of four trips and spending almost six months there. Late last year, my dear teacher blessed me with a Level 2 Authorization to teach, an honor earned only with time, practice and dedication.
Today I practice and study Ashtanga Yoga at Land Yoga, a lovely shala in Harlem. I share this yoga with a wide range of students from athletes to people with injuries to senior citizens and many ordinary people in between. I also maintain a schedule of Pilates classes at Sal Anthony’s Movement Salon and their new sister studio, Pilates on the Square and supplement my own daily yoga practice with occasional core-connecting Pilates workouts.
Undoubtedly the most wonderful thing my journey from the stage to the yoga mat, to the Pilates studio has brought me is my partner, Michael, who I actually met at the Movement Salon.
He’s an international stage performer, dancer, musician and an avid lover of yoga. When we’re not traveling to India together, when he’s not performing on a stage somewhere far away in the world, and when I’m not teaching a yoga or Pilates class (wearing my Tucketts!), you can probably find us in our Harlem apartment living room practicing handstands, discussing ideas about pelvic mobility, or experimenting the most effective adjustment for a twisting posture on each other!