by Gina Lee
I found myself on the yogic path in a non-traditional way (kind of a pattern for me)…it was through a corporate yoga program where we cleared out a conference room every week for an hour of practice. I was 24, 40 lbs. overweight, stressed out and tight in every way a person could be. My first class was a disaster (at least in my eyes at the time). I was sweating like an animal, I had no flexibility to speak of and the people around me moved with a grace and ease that I found both enviable and irritating. I also had a deeply entrenched anger issue, particularly towards myself through the form of self criticism. Something told me that if I was patient and persistent that I could achieve what the others in class had cultivated within themselves. I kept at my once a week practice for 2 years and had my second child during that time too, yoga helped keep me sane and strong through all of the ups and downs that life kept handing me in physical, emotional and mental ways.
After I went back to work after the birth of my second child I realized that I just couldn’t juggle the commute into Manhattan with all of the other demands of my life. As a woman I struggled with the transition of quitting my successful graphic design job to staying home to raise my children. I realized I needed to work outside of my home to not just be more balanced in myself but also to share what it was that I had learned. I was also hungry for a community of like-minded people who were on the same path of self awareness and healing that yoga promoted. These needs and the challenges I faced were what lead directly to my vision for Bearfoot Yoga and Wellness Center. I figured if I could change and find more peace anybody can and that if I could connect as many people as I could to this healing practice I’d be truly doing good in the world.
Bearfoot’s physical yoga practice is largely structured off of a classical Hatha yoga practice with philosophy and practical wisdom/insights that I have come across in my many years of study and practice offered at the beginning of each class. We practice with a Foundation Focus for each month which delves into a specific chakra (energy center in the body) and provides energetic and physical balancing to each area weaving physical practice and philosophy in an hour and 15 minute class. Every class concludes with a 5-10 minute deep relaxation to properly integrate all of the work you’ve done and to provide nourishment and healing to your nervous system. Principles from shamanic healing traditions are also woven in to different classes which provides even more subtle clearing out and self awareness.
It’s been an amazing 5 years (we opened for our first class in May of 2012) and the community just keeps growing stronger every year. We have a wide variety of people who practice here ranging from middle schoolers to retirees. Every walk of life finds their space here in an environment of inclusion and non-judgement. Many students have also gone on to become yoga teachers through our training program. We have also been holding our other Wellness events like Reiki circles, Shamanic Journey sessions, Native American style drumming, Meditation workshops and fundraisers for our affiliate non-profit Growing Together Community Gardens.
I received my foundation 200 hour training from the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City in 2007. Integral is a firmly established non-profit yoga school founded by Swami Satchidananda over 45 years ago and is a Hatha based system of classical yoga complete with all of the spiritual and philosophical aspects of yoga including asana (postures), chanting, pranayama (breathing practices), meditation and extended guided deep relaxation in Savasana (corpse pose) at the end of class. Always on a quest for deepening my knowledge to share with my students while refining my own practice, I have also taken trainings and immersions with many different prominent teachers through the years in a variety of styles and have completed my 500 hour level training with Dharma Mittra in New York City. Dharma Mittra is known in the yoga community as the teacher’s teacher and is also very classical in terms of a yoga lineage.
I have also completed a training in Yoga and Peruvian Shamanism with The Jaguar Path founder Ray Crist. This practice bridges the gap between the technologies of yoga and shamanism making for a powerful synergy of self-awareness and personal transformation. Personally I have found a tremendous amount of spiritual and personal growth through this training and continue to implement the tools into my life.
The other main channel for going deeper in my yoga practice and relationships has been my work with Elysabeth Williamson, founder of Principle Based Partner Yoga™. Nothing has changed how I transmit energy to my students in a deeper or more profound way. It also completely transformed my personal practice, unlocking long held patterns of rigidity and resistance in my body. Under her mentorship these past 5 years I have completed her Level 1 & 2 trainings and have assisted and co-faciliated multiple Partner Yoga workshops in California and trainings at the legendary retreat center Kripalu Center for Health. I am also now doing Principle Based Partner Yoga trainings independently both here and abroad, check out the Partner Yoga page for workshop details and future trainings.
I’m also happy to offer my unique brand of Yoga Teacher trainings which blends all of the modalities that I have studied and distilled into my Life of a Householder Yogi trainings. These trainings not only provide you with the skills to become a confident and sensitive yoga teacher but also connect you to the yogic wisdom and everyday philosophy that will enrich your life while bringing you back into balance. These trainings provide a structure of physical practice mixed with self care rituals and yogic tools that help you make real progress in your personal evolution. These trainings also connect you to the growing community of teachers that make Bearfoot Yoga so special, our teachers still practice here and are growing right alongside our students creating a positive and inclusive environment.
We are very much looking forward to creating an army of peaceful warriors where we can grow, learn and support each other on our paths to a healthier, happier and more peaceful world. We also believe that all spiritual paths lead to the same ocean of peace, we honor all walks of faith to practice as one interconnected community filled with mutual respect for ideas and personal philosophy. In the words of Swami Satchidananda, “Truth is one, paths are many.”
In the light of yoga, may we all shine on!