How did yoga become a part of your life? What led you to a devoted yoga practice?
I first came across yoga in 2000 through a yoga for pregnancy video when I was pregnant with my first child. I was especially drawn to the mental aspects of the practice, and with the use of the breath and sound as meditation. I practiced along with the video up until my daughter was born, but lost touch with yoga in the adventures of being a mom of eventually two young children.
Yoga found me again around 2005 when I was struggling with some major health issues. A very gentle yoga practice was part of my pathway back to health, as it was literally the only exercise my very ill body could tolerate at the time. I took a gentle yoga class at the Y, and when that gentle teacher left, I started practicing at home alongside a handful of videos. Somewhere along the way, my sister, Elizabeth Hulsman, became a yoga teacher. I took some of her classes and eventually started to branch out to other yoga classes as well. By 2012, I knew that I was being called to become a yoga teacher, but I was dragging my feet. I wasn't ready yet.
Finally, in the Fall of 2014, I took the plunge into yoga teacher training at Day Yoga Studio. That journey literally transformed my life. Through the process of tapping into my truth on the mat on such a regular basis, I started to face the dysfunctional realities of my life that were holding me back from truly reaching health, wellness, and happiness. Then a giant push came in the form of mantra chanting through a Bhakti Yoga workshop with Luna Kristin Ray on October 5, 2014. A connection with song and sound was reawakened within me and I knew in that moment that mantra chant was to be my life's calling. The practice of mantra chanting then gave me the gift of strength to alter my story, to act in bold ways to make changes in my life that would ready me for this path. I left an abusive 20+ year marriage and began the hard work of healing and finding myself. I remain devoted to my practice as a continual means of growth and healing, and to enable me to keep learning and growing as a yoga teacher. My life's work is to share yoga with others and hopefully help them find or maintain their own path of health, wellness, and happiness.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about yoga?
I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that yoga poses have to look a certain way and that people who practice yoga look a certain way. Our bodies and our paths are so truly individual that none of us will look the same practicing yoga. One thing I learned during teacher training was to keep the focus of my practice on my mat and to not compare myself to those around me. We all have challenges on the mat of some sort. My goal has been to find peace with where I am each day in my practice and gradually push my edges toward growth and expansion, without the outside pressure of comparison or trying to look like someone else's practice or someone else's body. There is no space for ego in yoga.
Name 3 non-negotiables in your life
Time for Introspection: I'm naturally an introvert, and although I love connecting with other people, I need quiet and connection within my own head to recharge my batteries from time to time. Some of my favorite ways to do so are swinging on my porch swing, hiking through the woods, or just about anything that involves water, such as canoeing or sitting by a peaceful lake. Singing, creating or listening to music, reading, and journaling are strong resources here as well.
Inherent Dignity of Others: It is really important to me to find the good, the light in every human being. There are no exceptions. I have found peace through forgiving those who have hurt me and/or my loved ones. Honoring the divinity in each soul creates the space for this in my life. Every life is worthy of respect, no exceptions. Namaste applies to every single being.
Family and Friends: My connection with my wonderful husband-to-be (the wedding is May 20th!), the teenagers we are raising, and our extended family and friends is the foundation of my life. Making time for them in my life is critical. We are blessed with an amazing, supportive network of family and friends. Taking the time to nourish those bonds fills my life with a sense of purpose and connection to something beyond myself. Our family and friends are truly our tribe.
What is the pose that challenges you the most and why?
My health issues make it difficult to build muscle mass and my arms are my weakest link indeed. Because of this, I would have to say that Chaturanga is my most challenging pose. Adding to the muscle weakness, my lower arm
bones connect at the elbow at an angle that makes keeping the arms in line during poses such as Chaturanga much more of a challenge (a natural bone variation that many of us have). I choose modifications and variations of this pose most often during my personal practice and continue to slowly build strength here. I have also made peace with the fact that this may never be my favorite pose because of my bone alignment.
One mantra to share with students
Om Dum Durgayei Namaha. This Sanskrit mantra is the one that changed my life forever. The energy/intention of the vibrations of this mantra resonate strength, truth, light, and protection from negativity. Chanting this mantra multiple times daily gave me the tools to change the reality that I felt trapped in and finally leave my abusive marriage. Within the energy of this mantra, I found strength to do the things I thought I could not do. The truth of my situation became impossible to deny; impossible not to act on. The fear of the negative consequences of taking the necessary steps became overpowered by the shining light of my own blooming self awareness.
Mantra chant works on a level that connects us directly to our emotional/spiritual heart center. Sound vibrations, especially when produced from within our own being, channel energy to and from this heart connection that can have monumental effects on the mind/body/spirit. In short, we can align our own energy with the energy/intention of the chant, tapping into deep connection and limitless resources. Om Dum Durgayei Namaha is a good mantra to use whenever you need the enlightenment of truth, strength for action, and/or protection from negativity.
Chris teaches 4 classes per week at the Brown Street location. Gentle Heartspace Yoga Mondays 7:00- 8:30 pm; Gentle Yoga Wednesdays 5:30-6:30 pm; Vin to Yin Yoga Fridays 6:00- 7:15 pm; and Hatha Yoga Flow Sundays 10:00- 11:30 am. You can follow her class schedule and special event offerings on Facebook at Deep Blue Ocean of Love. During the month of May she is offering two special classes: May Day Yoga Flow with the Seasons on Monday, May 1st from 7:00- 8:30 pm and Honoring the Divine Feminine: A Mother's Day Yoga Class on Sunday, May 14th from 10:00- noon.