It was 1998 when Holly began practicing yoga desperate to find relief from chronic joint pain that had taken over her life. She had done all the tests and seen all the specialists to diagnose the cause of the pain, only to be told there was no cause to be found. She found yoga while searching for alternative healing methods and decided to try it. Not having much hope and reluctant to move in pain, she began to practice basic poses, slowly and gently. She focused on sensations of pain, where she felt them, when she felt them. She noticed too, where and when she didn’t feel them and relished that, finding this movement and this place as often as she could in her practice. The pain could not be ignored as it was loud in her life, limiting her in noticeable ways. She found herself through yoga practice completely in her body, moving as it informed her through messages of sensation. Honing her focusing on sensation and moving accordingly toward or away, she slowly discovered less and less pain in practice and daily life. This ongoing theme, finding less pain by paying attention to what is and moving through it, has translated to healing many areas of her life throughout her 20 years of yoga practice.
She acknowledges that she did not really understand the process or what was happening in her practice until very recently. ” I knew that yoga practice made me feel better in my life. I used to believe that it was just a spiritual thing and I had really no words to describe it. I knew I wanted to share it with others and couldn’t wait to teach yoga so I could help others feel better in their lives too.” Finally five years ago her dream came true when she earned her yoga teacher certificate. “It was a tumultuous time in my life, one dream (my 17 year marriage) was ending and another dream (teaching yoga) was beginning, these were simultaneously happening.” She began teaching hot vinyasa yoga in local gyms soon after getting her certificate. Hot yoga resonated with her high energy and need for strength to handle what challenges she was going through. She was teaching in gyms where it was standard to demonstrate the class while teaching the class, so her practice was with her students. Halfway through her second year teaching yoga she began to dread teaching. “I would have to pump myself up on the way there and throughout teaching the class I would wonder what am I doing? I felt exhausted in every way. The Balley Fitness gyms in Rochester began closing at this time, prompting her to search for another teaching position. “I started teaching in a small gym that did not require me to demonstrate at all. I taught to the bodies that I was running through yoga class. The students loved it, they wanted the work out. I just kept feeling like something was missing. I felt like an alien in front of the class now that I wasn’t practicing with them. I realized I had been hiding from my students in practicing with them.” She began teaching at a yoga studio hoping that being in a space that only offered yoga would help her find her teaching voice again. She slowed her teaching down to address alignment and care for the body in each pose. She began to get students who had limited mobility challenges and this overwhelmed her. The studio classes were much more intimate than the gym. “Students who came to yoga classes in the studio were looking for more from me than just a good work out. They were looking for support as individuals and classes specifically geared toward meeting them where they were. I felt totally unprepared to teach people with different physical challenges safely, and unable to hold a space welcoming to everyone. I needed to learn more.”
In 2015 Holly committed to a year long 300 hour yoga teacher training. She hadn’t been teaching for months and was feeling like a failure. She was banking on this training to give her back her mojo for teaching again. The training was fabulously packed with technical information about alignment, learning styles and teacher practices. She completed the training and knew she could now teach well aligned, cued, educated sequences of yoga postures. She was alarmed to discover that this was not enough for her to want to teach again. She realized she stumbled on the personal connection theme work teaching. Never making the connection to herself there, avoiding it saying it just wasn’t her style of teaching. “I didn’t have cute, funny things going on in my life. I had big heavy, sad, survival issues that would have brought people down had I shared them. On top of that, I had only been practicing on the weekends in training. I was still in survival mode in my own practice.”
Holly took a hiatus from everything but work and family beginning in 2016. She set up a yoga studio in her attic and committed to practicing again. “I was noticing patterns in my relationships that I didn’t know how to address or change. I decided to pull away from everyone and figure out what part I was playing in my relationships, because I knew I was missing something. I credit my yoga training and practice for this awareness.” During her time teaching and in yoga training she had not been practicing alone as she had always previously. She was connected to her body, but was powering it through running away from the deeper issues she had yet to face. In addition to her yoga practice she began EMDR therapy to reprocess the traumas she had lived through.
She credits healing through therapy and her last teacher training at Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy School, for integrating her yoga practice and all she learned in her previous yoga teacher training. “Processing all of this in the PRYT yoga teacher training became an endeavor to deconstruct my own yoga practice, specify the learning and deep healing I’ve experienced and reduce what I’ve learned in training to the core essentials of ethics and safety. Discovering and blending all of these lead to finding my authentic teaching voice, which had been missing all along.”