Renee Gahan from Clemson, SC, in her own words:
My first exposure to yoga was in the early 90s. I ran away to NYC and came back broken and failed. It was then that yoga called me, but there were no yoga studios in the area. So, I practiced karate as yoga for eight years. In 2002, I began teaching yoga and very much a beginner myself. I was a dedicated ashtangi for about five years, then became a mother. After being exhausted doing just the standing series with my six week old at my feet, I realized that I could not sustain an ashtanga practice and still be the mother I need to be. So, for the past eight years my practice has been vinyasa based and an exploration of softness, insight, strength, breath, and meditation. One day I hope to do a handstand at the wall. Maybe this year. It doesn't matter, though. What matters is how I am, how I feel, and how my practice supports my evolution as a human being.
Read more about Renee at jadeowlatlas.blogspot.com/
Are you a studio owner? If yes, where? If no, where do you teach?: There have been many years where I thought that owning a studio is part of my path. At this point, though, it is not, and that is enough. I teach yoga and meditation as college courses at Clemson University. In these classes I get to open the door to what a yoga practice is and can be for people as a lifelong pursuit. I also teach yoga out of my house in small groups and privates. I am a magnet for pregnant women and really love helping them find ease in their pregnancy, prepare for birth, and for the postpartum days. Livia also introduced me to the idea of citizen yogi. So, in my very conservative community, I am trying to inspire people to explore what moves them and to know what they truly value. I do this through being an active board member of the local arts center, by speaking in front of city council to the humanity in city development issues, by using my Facebook page as a mouthpiece for issues around inclusion and equality, and by loving the land and the people where I live.
Which courses have you taken with Applied Psychology for Yogis?: Emotional Literacy for Yogis, How to Keep Your Shit Together, and Dirty Little Secrets
What attracted you to these courses?: Livia tells the truth and knows how to help people develop an emotional yoga practice, and I want to offer the same for anyone who comes to me.
What are 3 ways the course influenced you in your personal life? What about your professional life?: The courses have validated the way I experience my life and the way I relate to people. I also have tools now that I can use to deepen relationships and my understanding of things as well as resolve conflict. Knowing that it all comes back to body sensation has given me a sturdy understanding of what it means to be grounded and my trust and faith in myself is now stable. As a yoga teacher, I have been leading people to themselves for a long time. Now I have better knowledge and understanding around what I am harnessing when I teach and am better able to guide people into an embodied yoga practice.
How have you applied the course materials to your work?: I tell students that if all they learn in my course is how to attend to breath and sensation, then that is worth the price of admission. Everything else comes from that awareness. I am much wiser about the interactions that I have with students during the sessions, as a group, and also one on one because of the course material. I can recognize when people are projecting or when I am projecting. I warn people about the dangers of confluence when you place your psyche in someone else's hands. On the flip side, I recognize when people are projecting something that they need to grow into and when the confluence is a good thing. These are some ways that I have applied the material. For the most part, I am applying the material in an intuitive way and can back up what I say with the good neuroscience and psychology that Livia's courses provide. I must admit that I am still assimilating the material. I am still putting the material into my teaching practice with each session.
What benefits have you observed in your work (and students, if applicable) since incorporating these teachings?: I am more connected to the people I teach. I get student evaluations at the end of each semester, and they have improved tremendously since I began studying with Livia. I am more subtle with people when I know that they are in the process of embodying, and I have concrete information and tools that I can offer to them. When it's time to inspire someone, I am much more precise about what needs to be inspired and how to speak to that. My teaching practice has become richer and my relationships to my students too. What I have learned from Livia has been tremendous.
What advice would you give to new APFY students?: Take the information in and work with it in your own practice first. The material that she presents is meant for us to infuse into ourselves and into our teaching. Be organized about the material you receive. Get the binders and print the slides. I started casually with the material and now wish that I had taken a more organized approach.