It is with great pleasure that I introduce Tammi Kozuch as our July Student Spotlight. Tammi is one of the kindest and the most positive individuals you will ever meet. Don’t let her sweet, calm nature mislead you into thinking she is laid back and complacent. Tammi is fearless and gets things done on and off the mat. She is always up or adventure. Whether she’s on the mat, at work helping patients and staff, vegan activism or just simply playing with her new puppy, Tammi is present with what is. Her positive outlook on life and willingness to face difficult things with love and compassion make her an excellent role model for us all. Tammi can be found online at IYCWM’s LiveStream on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings.
Tell us a bit about yourself – 
I grew up on a dairy farm in Northern New York on the Canadian border.  I came to the Valley in 2003 to be with my now husband Matt.  I wanted go back to school and decided to go to nursing school after spending time with my grandmother and her hospice team.  I was accepted to the UMass second bachelor program which is an accelerated program for people who have already finished another bachelor’s degree.   I first worked in labor and delivery at Cooley Dickinson, but left after a year to move to Northern India for 2 years with my husband who went back to school to become a Tibetan translator. We were both so excited to return to India as we had both done our study abroad there while in college. We had an amazing 2 years and I got to immerse myself in that wonderful place. Once we returned in 2010 I found work at Holyoke Health Center as an HIV nurse.  Fast forward 10 years and I am now the Director of the Center for Recovery and Support at Holyoke Health Center, where I manage over 20 employees who work in HIV and substance treatment programs.
What is a little known or surprising fact about you or your work? 
I asked my husband to answer this one and he wanted you all to know that I was the St. Lawrence County Dairy Princess while in high school. I essentially wore a crown and sash and promoted the dairy industry in our county.  I had a lot of formal gowns and rode on a lot of convertibles in parades. The funny thing is that I don’t really eat dairy any more.
What led you to Iyengar yoga?
I did 2 yoga intensives while in India with teachers who studied with BKS Iyengar and really felt that the style was the best form of yoga for the issues I was having.  Shortly after my husband and I returned from India, Susan Elena opened up a studio in my neighborhood.  I was so excited to finally find my community right in my own back yard!
How long have you been practicing yoga?
I was introduced to yoga in 2000 while living in Boston.  There was a teacher that would come to my office building once a week.  I was hooked immediately!  I then explored every kind of yoga I could possibly find.  I couldn’t get enough of it!
What keeps you on the mat?
My yoga practice has been a constant in my life.  I can take it everywhere with me and I’ve grown so much with my practice.
What keeps you off the mat?
I try to do something everyday, regardless of what’s going on.  I don’t need to spend an hour, I can spend just 5 minutes and it makes a world of difference on how I’m feeling.
What poses do you love?
I love the way that back bends feel after I do them.  I am really tight in my shoulders and I tend to slouch so back bending is really good for me.
What poses do you find challenging? 
That’s a hard one as it changes every time I practice.  One day the pose will feel effortless and another day it will feel really difficult!
What do you like to do when you are not doing yoga?
I enjoy birding, traveling in our camper van, hiking, paddle boarding, and being near the ocean.
How has practicing yoga impacted your life?
Yoga has given me the confidence to make difficult decisions in my life.  It’s helped me be more aware of my true self .  It also helps me with practicing patience and non-attachment.   There are days when I can not get into handstand and then there are days when I have no problems. I could get frustrated when that happens, or I could be patient with where I am at and keep working at it.
How does yoga show up in your everyday life?
I try to practice yoga with mindfulness and integrity and that translates to my work and personal life.
How are you dealing with the COVID-19 crisis? Does your yoga practice help you in any way? 
Yoga is my refuge and I am so grateful that I have it during this difficult time as my self-care.
How does our yoga community contribute to your practice?
Having others to practice with and learn from has helped me grow.  I look up to my classmates and am so inspired by them every time we practice together!
 
Any advice for beginners?
Develop a home practice!  Doing yoga everyday will become your daily vitamin!
 
Any thoughts on how yoga can help someone navigate these challenges of the COVID-19 crisis?
Yoga is a wonderful self-care practice that helps calm our minds.  If you are too overwhelmed to do something active, practice a restorative pose for 20 minutes.  It makes a huge difference!