IYCWM Student Spotlight – February 2022

By Published On: February 3rd, 2022

Many, many moons ago, Sheri walked into one of my classes with loads of determination and curiosity. Thus, began a great yoga adventure for us both. I am grateful that she has followed me through many studio incarnations. She is what I call a “founding member” of IYCWM as her enthusiasm for this practice is what spurs me on. It is a joy to watch her practice deepen and blossom. You can catch Sheri on Tuesdays, Saturdays and occasionally Fridays. Her ability to find joyful laughter in the hard work, and dedication to the practice as well as our community is contagious and inspires us all!

Tell us a bit about yourself: I am originally from Queens NY but have lived in the Pioneer Valley for most of my adult life. For thirty plus years, I worked as a psychologist evaluating children, adolescents and young adults for psychiatric and learning disorders as well as trauma in hospitals, community mental health centers and ultimately my own practice.  Since my husband and I retired about 3 years ago, we spilt our time between Northampton and a home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I feel like I am the luckiest person to be living in two such beautiful places. I have been married for 33 years and have two adult children Sarah and David. Our golden doodle Lilly is 13.

What is a little known or surprising fact about you or your work? In my younger years, I wanted to be a professional dancer. In high school, I traveled 3 hours a day to dance 6 hours a day.  I attended the High School of Performing Arts “Fame”  My friends and I would often dance in the street outside of school, that was located on 46th street between 6th and 7th avenue or go to Broadway in a leotard, tights and pointe shoes. This was  during the mid 70’s. Not the smartest thing for a teenager to be doing but it was lots of fun.

What led you to Iyengar yoga? How did you find IYCMW? My dance teacher at the time, began to incorporate yoga poses into Modern dance choreography and I thought it was fun. She suggested I try yoga where she was teaching. At that time Susan Elena was also teaching at that studio. I took yoga classes with all different teachers, but my favorite classes were with Susan Elena. I am pretty flexible from all that dancing. I could do many poses easily, not correctly or aligned. I was flexible but not strong.   I was getting really hurt, more so then when I danced. The only class where I did not get hurt, was in Susan Elenas classes. When Susan Elena opened her own studio, I followed her. I didn’t know anything about Iyengar yoga. I only knew, I felt safe in her classes and my back didn’t hurt.

How long have you been practice yoga? I think its been about 9 years.

What keeps you on the mat and what keeps you off the mat? If I’m being honest, my anxiety about the world right now keeps me off the mat. My yoga classes keep me on the mat. I find it particularly hard to do my home practice. I prefer to be in class now. The classes take my mind off the world and I appreciate that. I can just listen and focus on my body and mind. Its my meditation and a gift right now.

What poses do you love? I love backbends. Any backbends. They make me feel joyful.

What poses do you find challenging? All arm balances. Arm balances are just hard for me but for the first time, I’m not giving up on them or myself.

What do you like to do when you are not doing yoga? I love spending time with my family. My husband and children. I miss my children. I also walk a lot in the mountains. I raise money and volunteer for mental health organizations and schools in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

How has practicing yoga impacted your life?  Yoga is very much part of my life now.  I really cant ever see myself without it. It’s become part of who I am, not just what I do and I really thank Susan Elena for teaching me that. I’m 62 years old, do handstands, head balances and I love forearm balances. I also love breathe work. Who does that at 62? I feel healthy and strong.

How does yoga show up in your every day life? I am better able to stop, think and reflect before I speak. As a dear friend of mine says, I am known to suffer from my “opinions”, particularly when it comes to children and mental health. I lose my patience. Yoga helps me to at least try to hear and see another’s perspective. It doesn’t always work but at least I can try.

How has the pandemic changed your daily life? Does your yoga practice help you in any way? The pandemic has made me more fearful of getting sick. I have asthma so a respiratory virus worries me. The pandemic has separated me from many of my friends and at times my children because its not safe for them or for me to travel. That upsets me the most. My yoga practice grounds me but the pandemic has also changed how I practice. I don’t just do a pose or asana, I think about how it feels, what actions lead to another and how this affects my mind. I am much more sensitive to my mind and body now, use my breath to help me feel a pose and I listen to the instructions Susan Elena gives me very differently. I’m more sensitive. My practice has really become meditation on all levels.

What is it like to be part of a virtual community where you don’t know other students, how has yoga classes effected your sense of community? I am so happy that I have this virtual  community because when I’m not in Northampton, or in studio, I can still practice with Susan Elena and my friends even if its virtual. I know my friends are still there practicing along with me.  I enjoy meeting new people online. Maybe someday, Ill meet them in person. I do miss being in class between my yoga buddies in the kitchen, one of which I have been practicing with for 7 or 8 years.  I miss my physical community but I am grateful that I can still have my community online where ever I am.

What do you think about the future of hybrid classes? Susan Elena has made her yoga space so technology friendly. She misses nothing. So if your online she still sees where you are putting your pinky toe. It’s insane. As long as it works for her, I think its great.

Any advice for those seeking to connect to a virtual yoga community? I think you have to stay involved and get to know Susan Elena and our community or one teacher and one community. I understand that there are now many teachers and classes available now. I think its important that a teacher knows you and knows your body and to develop community, even if its virtual. You get so much more out of it. Having our classes has helped me to get through these past two years. I would encourage anyone, to get started and stay involved. It’s a safe, caring and wonderful community to prosper in. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it .

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