In my mid 20’s I found myself living on a futon in San Francisco. It was one of the darkest points in my life. I was drudging through the aftermath of a horrendous heartbreak, which seemed to mercilessly insist that I also wrestle with all other unexplored struggles I had experienced up until that point.
I searched for anything to bring me clarity, understanding… but mostly I was on the hunt for HOPE. Hope that life would get better.
I read books, listened to lectures, talked with others (when I wasn’t isolating) and penned my way thorough countess journals.
Eventually I found yoga in a cold, crowded and smelly gym in the Mission District. The vibe was more “standard group exercise class” than “yoga boutique” which made it hard to differentiate the yoga from other physical endeavors I’d experienced previously.
Yet, I was immediately clear that there was something to this yoga thing. It was unique. Different. Good. It seemed to crack a door open. I couldn’t explain how, but it made me feel like it might just lead me somewhere that I was curious enough to follow.
I began to practice. I went back to the gym, but classes were limited there. Then I explored a few sleepy studios. I mostly practiced via VHS tapes provided by Yoga Journal. For years I’d plop down on my carpeted floor to repeat the same recorded practice with Rodney Yee and Patricia Walden.
I wasn’t used to giving myself time to slow down in this way. Many days it felt pointless but the desire to connect to this newfound hope kept encouraging me to show up on my mat. The breathing was doing something. It seemed so intuitive and natural and yet so foreign at the same time. This was pretty much my life for the next 4 years.
Each time I practiced I found myself feeling a wee bit better. Life began to appear in color again.
In and around this time of my life I met my husband who graciously mended my broken heart and was game to help me with the rest of my unraveled-ness. In love, I moved to Arizona (to be with him) where there was NO yoga at the time and so I continued with the tapes. We soon moved to Encinitas, California. Greg was active in the United States Marine Corps at the time and was sent to deploy to Okinawa, Japan, for 8 months.
I was alone, in a beautiful area with endless unstructured time. I had quit my job at Intel to move to him so I wasn’t working. It was time to figure some MORE stuff out. Daily I began at Swami’s beach and walked our yellow lab Mike along the shore. We’d be out for hours and hours. I’d end my day with a Bikram yoga class.
A previous San Francisco roommate had mentioned Bikram to me before. I saw a studio in Lucadia. I gave it a try. This type of yoga felt so healing to me. The room was humid and heated to over 108 degrees. I loved the sweat. I was releasing everything that no longer served me. For almost 250 days in a row, I got on my mat. I savored the people around me. I hadn’t yet recognized them as “my people” but I got something different while practicing with the salty surfers fresh off the beach. We all seemed to have something in common. We didn’t speak about it, it just was.
Greg returned from Japan and we moved to Corpus Christi, Texas. I bought space heaters and would attempt to heat our spare bedroom, desperately trying to recreate the studio setting. I purchased a cassette tape that had audio for the 26 poses of the Bikram series. I looked into being trained in this method but things didn’t line up. I could then recognize that I missed the community of the practice.
I met a friend in Texas who also liked yoga. This was a rare find in the early 2000’s, especially in Corpus Christi. She exposed me to Ashtanga yoga and to a man named David Swenson. She also mentioned a woman named Gurmukh who did Kundalini Yoga. I bought one of her books but she seemed less relatable to me at the time. Soon after these introductions I found myself in Ashville, North Carolina being trained at a small studio by David Swenson. I trained in ashtanga (that’s hard yoga!) and in pre-natal yoga at that point too because I was sure kids would be in my future, and well, why not?
I immediately began teaching yoga at local gyms. For the next many years I taught between 10-14 classes a week. Most of the classes I’d have to actually DO the yoga. One, because that’s how you taught back then (at least in Corpus Christi) and two, no one knew what to do, so demonstration was necessary. I learned a lot with every single class. Eventually I opened my own small studio. I knew I needed to share it even more. I was also burning out.
In my early 30’s and two kids later we moved back to Northern California. There wasn’t yet a major yoga studio in the area. I practiced again at home with those same old VHS tapes and then studios began popping up. I stopped teaching and practiced hungrily in the Folsom and surrounding community for the next 5 or 6 years, most often daily. I had one more baby and knew intuitively that it was my time to receive on the mat.
Then eventually, a few years later, I found myself beginning to get the itch to teach again. I was patient with it. The local studios introduced more of the flow or Vinyasa yoga. I liked that too. So, I went through Level One Vinyasa training with Baron Baptiste in Tulum, Mexico. A couple years later I was officially ready to teach again and so I went through Level Two in Catskills, New York.
The past 10 years I have attended every, and any yoga related lecture, workshop, class, retreat, festival and training I can possibly get to. I consider my teachers to be many.
Almost 8 years ago I went back for a masters degree and established a career in Marriage and Family Therapy. I currently run a private practice and specialize in couples work, and in individual and relational trauma. I understand how the body stores stuck energy, trauma and negative emotions and cognitions. I know the value of bringing the nervous system down, regulating hormones and allowing a resourced and calm state in the body so it can begin to heal naturally. I can totally geek out on this stuff! I love my job! And I love yoga.
Then, last fall via a valuable girls trip to Bhakti Fest at Joshua Tree, I was reintroduced to Kundalini Yoga. I took one Kia Miller Kundalini class and knew I had to do the training. My body felt more relaxed and reset after that single class than I had experienced in any yoga scenario previously. It was to me the EMDR or Brainspotting of yoga. My worlds matched up!
Additionally, I knew enough to know that the technology of Kundalini was addressing the deeper energetic layers of the body, the subtle body, and was utilizing the breath to bring authentic balance and restoration. I circled back to Gurmukh. She was offering a teacher training at Golden Bridge Yoga Studio in Santa Monica. I had a gut instinct that I needed to do the training asap as I didn’t trust how much longer Gurmukh would be available as a teacher.
Over the course of the past 8 months I have been honored to study Kundaini yoga. I’ve traveled down to LA on a monthly basis for an average of 5 days at a time to participate in training days from 5am to 530pm. The days begin with a morning Sadhana practice (morning ritual/practice). These early hours have come to be one of my most revered and looked forward to times of the day. There is indeed a magical energy in the space before the day starts or the sun rises. For this reason I am honored and blessed to be able to offer what I have learned in my Kundalini training to all of you at 5.45am on Friday mornings.
Weeks before our final graduation weekend from the 200hr program it was announced that Gurmukh was closing her studio, confirmation that I was exactly where I needed to be at the time.
I have learned the deep healing Kundalini offers emotionally, physically, and energetically. I am beyond excited to share it with this community and with anyone who is willing to give it a try. It is very much experiential and must be tried to understand. I invite you with my deepest sincerity to come give it a whirl!
I look forward to seeing you bright and early (yes, 5:45am) on a Friday soon!
Hannah leads Vinyasa class on Mondays 12-1pm, and Kundalini class Fridays 5:45am at Leap Yoga