B.A. / B.S Williams College '05
MD Mount Sinai School of Medicine '09
M.A.,.E.d elementary Hunter College '15
RYT 200 Adult Yoga Vinyasa Teacher Certification - Pure Yoga
KAY yoga teacher certifications for children, children with special needs, and mommy/me, infants, and toddlers
I live in Williamstown, Massachusetts in the beautiful Berkshires with my three children, husband, service dog, Mindi, and huge puppy, Saffie. I graduated Williams College with majors in psychology and art history. I finished medical school at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC and began a residency in psychiatry with an interest and electives based on child psychiatry. After realizing the medicine path was not for me and finalizing my licensing, I completed a Masters Degree in Elementary Education and pursued a yoga certification. During my time in NYC, I taught yoga to students in Spanish Harlem while also student teaching in local public and private elementary schools. Throughout medical school and my masters program, I did extensive research on the benefits and impacts of yoga and meditative practices in public schools, citing significant results in focus, self-confidence, and happiness in the children that took yoga and mindfulness practices.
Since moving up to Williamstown nearly 8 years ago, I have continued to pursue my interest and passion in health, wellness, mental wellbeing, education, and movement. I've been helping students of all ages learn and appreciate the practice of yoga and mindfulness and teaching them how to incorporate these tools into their lives from a young age. As a competitive athlete and varsity tennis player at Williams, I found yoga to be incredibly grounding and helpful as an athlete as well as a student. I have been practicing yoga since I was ten and through the natural ebbs and flows of life, my practice has remained constant. The asanas (postures) and pranyama (breathing) I have been able to practice has definitely changed during times, but the wholeness and calmness I feel when I practice yoga and mindfulness does not change. Though I know longer have the physical space of Smalltown Yoga, I continue to teach occasional family yoga classes if asked, yoga in elementary schools, occasional adult yoga classes, and to offer free YouTube yoga videos on my site. Whenever I practice yoga, I feel an instant energy and empowerment that I want to share with fellow yogis. I currently work at the Center for Learning in Action at Williams College. I help to create, implement, sustain, and coordinate programs in North Adams Elementary Schools as well as teach a Winter Study on Mindfulness and Wellbeing in Education, an independent study on Wellbeing Practices in Elementary Schools, and work with college students interested in developing and sustaining programs at the college related to mindfulness/yoga/wellness where students are empowered and lead their peers.
I know that from my own personal experience, when I end my practice I feel a wholeness and calmness that enables me to be more capable and focused in the real world. The benefits of yoga with children and adults are tremendous, but starting at a young age enables children during their pivotal years of development to acquire a sense of self-empowerment and confidence in addition to concentration, focus, and general kindness, that will help them to grow into empathic, strong, caring adults.
I have been a passionate yogi for 30 years, since I was 9 years old (okay - you can do the math :). I was a competitive nationally ranked tennis played and had difficulties with focus and stress management. When I first learned my salutations, I was doubtful how this was really “for me.” I stuck with it and by college, medical school, through my four pregnancies, and masters program, yoga in any shape or form from gentle/restorative, to powerful vinyasa, inversion and arm balance workshops, and most importantly ending each class with a introspective meditation away from the stressors and the reality of the external world. I have been through a lot in my life, but yoga has empowered me, given me self confidence, and is the main tool in my soothing “kit” to destress and gain perspective of the world and real issues. Children today run around constantly busy, going from school to extracurricular activities where they may play soccer, do two minutes of light stretching and then go home to sit and do homework for hours. Their stiff bodies crave wiggling, movement, flexibility. My passion for teaching children’s yoga is to enable them to challenge themselves and make themselves proud in a non-competitive forum while recognizing that every day is not the same, teaching self compassion, and removing them from their routines. If I can get a four year old to lay down through a guided meditation through a magical garden with eyes closed for even three minutes than I feel like I have done something. In this "post-pandemic" environment, where the social and emotional health and wellbeing is so threatened for nearly all of us, creating a safe space in which students, adults, parents, guardians, can create in their environment that allows for calmness, reflection, and removal from things that may be toxic around them, can be life-saving. Mental health is the pandemic of our youth right now. Empowering our youth to learn and be able to bring forth self-soothing mechanisms that calm themselves down and prevent escalation into behavioral and social/emotional crisis, is key to our movement forward as a strong community and assisting our youth to be a powerful front for our future.
My classes build on the community that we create beginning day one. Over the course of several years, I have adapted classes whether with young individuals or adults to "fit into" the restrictions brought forth because of COVID. I have consistently sought to use this as an opportunity to not think of my classes as having to be "limited and restrictive," but as having an opportunity to try different teaching methods, yoga games, activities, and platforms (such as zoom and YouTube). Through this perspective, I was able to continue to give myself and those around me a choice and freedom in their practice. As an adult I have been faced with many physical obstacles that left me in four and maintenance years of physical therapy. I struggled and continue to struggle. Once an avid athlete and in prime shape, pregnancies, bedrest, and surgeries had left me with an unrecognizable body. Yoga helped me build up my confidence. Yoga initially was a form of yoga (physical) therapy for me and given my background as a licensed physician I was able to comprehend the different muscles that were weak and needed strengthening. Yet at the end of every session, the meditation and mindfulness enabled me to be in the present, the here and now; this is what I am, this is what I did, and I’m proud. Yoga has been a constant in my life; it is a practice that can be "practiced" in many different forms and that I will always have the choice on how to modify, create, and practice what best works for me mentally and physically on any given day.
Over the past several years since, I have coped and continue to try to cope with a lot of physical, emotional, social, trauma. My last surgery was less than one month ago (the 8th pelvic/abdominal surgery I've had) and in the past year I shattered my humerus and had 5.5 hour surgery to put together my arm with stainless steel plates, rods, screws, and wires. As a yogi, this was a big blow. As a knitter and artist and dominant leftie, this was a big challenging obstacle and tested my creativity and ability to adapt to unique ways to do the things that I love to do and take care of those I love. I have been told that the scarring and changes in my body will be a constant in my life and it is a matter of acceptance and finding routines (medical, psychological, and physical) that best serve me. I don't know if my arm is done with surgeries, but I still don't regret how I shattered my arm; picking up my 3 year old on an icy bunny hill from being in the way of an out of control snowboarder.
Though I'm excellent at carving out routines and comforting myself through walks in the woods, runs, swims in freezing water, and yoga, I also am completely thrown when I get injured and the injury threatens my routine. Without being able to turn to knitting and writing and relying on siri's absurd dictations secondary to the white noise of screaming children and barking dogs in the background, I was faced with even more challenges. We all strive to be at our best, whatever that means. To some it means to be the fastest, jump the highest, swim the most laps, others it could be to ace a test, help a person. To me, my "best" is to be able to be kind to myself and to allow myself the same compassion and empathy I feel that others deserve. This is way easier to preach than to enact! In many respects without numbing myself to trauma and pain, I would never be able to have done or to take care of those I love and pursue things that I feel strongly about. However, the pathway to self-compassion and really to healing from physical and emotional trauma beings with acceptance of the most rudimentary fact of us all: I am human.
I have dove into Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Methods from Jon Kabbat-Zin, Loving-kindness meditations (Sharon Salzberg), studied trauma informed therapy, read and studied all about how The Body Keeps the Score by Van Der Kolk in order to gain more understanding about my own somatic symptoms as well as others. I continue to be interested in the effects of short term and long term stress on physical and mental wellbeing through changes in the neurochemistry of individuals and hormone levels as well as the alterations in the HPA axis that can result from chronic stress. All of this research, studying, and interest is with the goal of understanding, accepting, relating, and creating a present moment where I can be proud "to be."
Yoga for all of us can be an outlet from their thrown off chaotic routines, the pranayama and asanas flow seamlessly as adults virtually go through a mindful movement. In addition I love working with individuals who crave a challenge and provide a safe environment in which I can instruct them safely through poses that they may never have dreamed they could move into. It’s not just to challenge adults into inversions and arm balances, but the physical and medical effects from having a routine practice and inverting and backbending is huge. I want to bring yoga to children and adults and have them experience what it has done for me. How it can be a crutch in grief and loss, injuries, and struggles. Get on your mat and put on your yogi glasses to separate from the world. Every child or adult deserves a time to dedicate to their body and yoga (meaning union) helps us all to unite our mind and body into one, to think and flow as one and to relax as one.
Most of all, I have become confident in my abilities to transform practices and mindfulness exercises to fit the needs of an individual in the moment. Although mindful movement can seem absurd to some under certain conditions, it is the creative transformation of breath and flow to fit the needs of the injured, grieving, sick, or compromised body that actually allows us to retain our humanity.
As someone dedicated to mindful movement under any circumstances and non-judgmental as to what that looks like, I believe that it is imperative that mindful movement be woven into our educational systems through creative lesson planning workshops that cater to and fit the common core standards and guidelines of our state system. A goal of mine is to create workshops and lessons that are progressive in teaching methodology as they require active participation and movement, but that incorporate and teach a love for creativity, movement, innovation, experimentation, while infusing the knowledge for our students to be the transformative generation to tackle climate change, violence, racism, healthcare, and poverty.