I don't remember exactly what compelled me to walk into my first yoga studio sometime in February 2000 and sign up for my first Hatha class, but it is something I'll be eternally grateful for. I was hooked from the start, attending as much as I could. My tendency to share what I love with others I love lead to me bringing friend after friend down to the studio so they could experience how wonderful it made me feel. I brought so many friends with me to the studio that my teacher offered to teach a private free class to me and as many friends as I could bring one enjoyable night. I think we had a class of 12-15.
After practicing a gentle and restorative Hatha practice for 2 1/2 years, I found myself signing up for a "Yoga 2" class at the University of Montana in Missoula. The class turned out to be taught in the traditional method of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, founded by K. Pattabhi Jois in India. I LOVED IT. A dynamic class that moved with fluidity, connecting breath and movement together to form a more powerful action, and building up an energy that is a blessing to be bathed in. Starting from the basics, and providing modification and encouragement to those starting, our teacher, Katie Heath, built block after block of foundation for this powerful practice. Soon we were doing things we had previously labeled "impossible". "Practice, and all is coming", she would say. It's true. I loved the class so much I took it for another semester. And then I stay on as the Teacher's Assistant for another 5 semesters afterwards. So, yeah, I was pretty much in the college yoga class for 3 1/2 years. Great times. I learned SO MUCH from my teacher, Katie, my guru. I had been developing a great practice under her, as I was attending her class at her studio, the Yoga Fitness Center, at this time too.
After college, my desire to teach still itched without it's accompanying scratch. I would often have friends ask to get a quick yoga lesson, which would then inevitably lead to us clearing out the living room and me giving a basic run down of Sun Salutations and some Standing Asanas. Then we had more who wanted to join in, and they wouldn't fit the living room anymore. The scratch came when the space at a unique building in Missoula opened up and was free and available. The owner simply wanted to have a space to share with the community.
My weekly free Ashtanga Yoga Class started up in January 2008 and consisted of close friends who had already been through a few "living room classes" with me. It was personal, communal, and loved. So they all told their friends about this great feeling they had from this great class, and they brought a friend, who eventually brought another friend. Soon, we really were connected to the community. People I didn't know in town asked me if I was that guy with the free yoga class and when it was. Every day I was thankful to be making people's lives around me better by showing them this light. The class continued until August 2009, having never charged a single student.
During the time of my free yoga class (Dec 2008-mid Jan 2009), I had the immense honor of traveling to India to practice yoga at it's originating school in Mysore. Every day (with the exceptions of Sundays & Moon Days), we would have completed a sweaty, challenging, 2 hour Primary Series of Ashtanga Yoga before 7 am. I had the life-goal-accomplishing honor of meeting the guru of Ashtanga Yoga, K. Pattabhi Jois, and thanking him for Ashtanga Yoga, before he died 4 months later. After 2 weeks of the traditional practice, I went elsewhere to try other teachers and enjoy the rest of the country during my 6 total weeks there. The traditional form of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga continues to be my favorite style and is still challenging me while making me feel like I can accomplish anything as long as I continue to breath, stay steady, and take things one at a time.