In Emily’s Words…
I was an athlete growing up here on Bainbridge Island. I played basketball, soccer, water polo, and swam for Bainbridge Island Swim Club. I remember telling my mom and dad, when I was just eight years old, that I wanted to be an Olympian when I grew up. After being recruited to swim for a number of colleges around the country, I committed to swim for the University of California, Berkeley. Four years later, I qualified for the 2008 Olympic Team on July 4th, by placing 5th in the 100 meter freestyle. It was a dream come true to compete for the United States and represent my hometown of Bainbridge Island.
After the Olympics in Beijing I decided to retire from swimming and I spent time trying to discover what I felt truly passionate about outside of competitive athletics. As part of my cross-training in college, I was exposed to yoga and found that it really helped me find new ways to use my body, to become more flexible, stronger, and more focused.
When I returned back to Berkeley, I started working at Lululemon, a store that specialized in clothing specifically for yoga. I was surrounded by a number of different studios and was able to attend classes for free as an employee of Lululemon. It really broadened my exposure to yoga and helped me to understand more deeply what yoga was really all about.
After spending a few years in Berkeley post college, I decided to move back to Washington where I pursued a course in wellness coaching while I considered going back to school for a degree in high school counseling. Something I’ve always known about myself is my desire to help others, I saw wellness coaching as an opportunity to do something I felt passionate about.
During that time, a job opportunity with USA Swimming in Colorado Springs, CO was brought to my attention. They were looking to hire someone to manage their Athlete Relations and Friends and Family Program. The job would take me all over the world traveling with the US National Team, managing athletes for USA Swimming, and interacting with families and friends of the swimmers. I decided to take the job and put wellness coaching on hold.
After a few years in Colorado, I moved back to the west coast for a job with Swim Outlet. While it was a great job in their marketing department, I was growing more and more unhappy sitting at a desk all day. I remember there was a yoga instructor that would come in to teach yoga classes a couple times a week, and I realized that I wanted to be the one teaching classes to employees in an office, not the one taking the classes. He inspired me to think about a career teaching yoga, so I began researching yoga teacher trainings around San Jose.
At that time, I was also considering a move to Montreal, Canada for a relationship. I eventually did decide to quit my job, sell everything I owned, and make the move. Once settled, I picked up my online search for yoga studios and teacher training opportunities in Montreal, and found Naada Yoga. Their 500-hour course offered trainings with some very well-known yogis in the West, such as Ann Dyer, Richard Rosen, Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee. I was absorbed in the teacher training and loved every minute of it. I had heard how a teacher training can change you, and I didn't quite know what that meant, but once I began the training I knew that it would change my life.
It took me about two years to complete my 500-hour training and when I was done I knew I wanted to start teaching right away. Since I was living in Canada, my work options were limited, so I started teaching community classes on a volunteer basis. I was also offering yoga lessons out of my apartment to friends and neighbors.
It was right around my 30th birthday, when I started to ask myself where I wanted to grow roots. While I loved Montreal, I wanted to be closer to my family and out of the snow! After much contemplation, I decided to move back to Bainbridge.
At first, I was just teaching one class a week. Now, after being home for two years I’ve expanded to teaching eight classes a week at three different studios, including Dayaalu Center. Dayaalu is really a perfect for me and I am so happy to be teaching here regularly.
I think part of what makes my teaching style unique comes from the fact that I did my training in Montreal, Canada. Different countries present their teaching trainings differently, and I think it influences one’s teaching style. I also trained under Elizabeth Emberly who has a background in dance and Ashtanga, but also integrates Iyengar. With the many guest teachers who also came in, we didn’t learn just one style. So, when you take my class you'll find it's not just Hatha Flow, or it's not just Restorative. I mix different styles and different theories into the class, and different ways of moving.
But, I’m also consistent. I've seen the same students again and again over the last two years and I think people enjoy coming back to my classes because there is consistency. Yoga isn't just about coming to a studio and taking a yoga class; it's a lifestyle. So, when I’m able to provide students with consistency by understanding how a class is structured, the flow of the asanas, it allows them to carry that into their own life and practice at home, which is really important. Maybe you can't come to yoga class every single day of the week, but you can find your own practice and carry that through your life forever.
My philosophy, and what I was taught, is that yoga is meant to prepare the body for meditation. It seems that yoga has turned into so many different things, especially coming to western culture with our obsession with fitness and people wanting to go to a class to sweat and get a good workout. But that’s not my philosophy and that's not the style that I teach.
A lot of times I'll get students coming into class, knowing my background as an Olympic swimmer, and being kind of stunned that I went from a high level competitive athlete to someone who teaches mostly Restorative and Hatha-type classes. My only explanation is that I've always been a spiritual person. I have always been drawn to feeling that there has to be something greater out there that's bringing us together. So, I guess it's not that big of a surprise that I'm teaching movement classes that are based in a spiritual tradition.
Being a professional swimmer has also informed my teaching style. It taught me the benefits of discipline, which is so applicable to a yoga practice. To come back to the mat, time and time again, oftentimes practicing the same thing over and over, reinforces discipline in your life and creates more accountability. And, you learn that it doesn't matter if you do the same sequence a hundred times -- each time you come to the mat, it's going to be different. Whether it's through your breathing, or through a certain pose, or what you're going through in your life, something different is going to show up through your practice.
I think each teacher brings a different style regardless of age or how long they’ve been teaching, and I encourage students to try my class, even if it’s just once. Taking a class from a different teacher can bring a freshness to your yoga practice! What I hope to give my students, through movement and breath, is access to a deeper connection to themselves, to others, to community, and to feel a greater sense of well-being.