In Francie’s Words…
As an athletic person in my formative years, I enjoyed the challenge of gymnastics, running and triathlons. Although I had taken Yoga classes off and on, my passion for it really emerged as I got older and sought a more physically sustainable form of movement that could take me into my later life. I’ve always been a spiritual seeker as well, and I found that element of Yoga to be equally fulfilling.
My husband was in the Navy, so we moved every 18 months to three years, including living overseas. With each new location, I was able to learn about other cultures, and I could essentially reinvent myself each time. The combination of moving often and living in foreign countries really shaped me into a very open-minded person, as it did for my whole family.
While we were living in Japan, I began to teach English as a second language and realized that communicating with people in a learning environment was very exciting for me. Then, when we moved back to the States, I started teaching children in after school programs, which affirmed my passion for teaching.
Eventually, we settled in a college town in Kansas. I was in my fifties, and at a real crossroads. I was still grappling with some inner fears when it came to my vocational life, but also ready to hone my gifts and be of greater service in the world. Now, you might not think that Kansas would be the most likely place to make deep changes but being immersed in a diverse university community was stimulating on many levels…and that’s where everything started coming together for me!
Being someone who loves to be physical and feel healthy, I signed up for a Yoga class.
The teacher was great—very nurturing and inspiring. She encouraged me to take an intensive weekend training with another phenomenal Yogi, Bhavani Maki, which I decided to do.
Bhavani comes from an Astanga background, studying directly with Pattabhi Jois. Her training sessions are Sutra based with aspects of the Iyengar method sprinkled throughout as she deconstructs a pose. She is a deeply, spiritual teacher, author of A Yogi’s Roadmap, and I was blown away by her teachings. At the end of the weekend, she asked us what we would do with what we had learned. And while I didn’t have an answer, I knew that the stuck places inside myself were beginning to open up.
I continued to learn from Bhavani, eventually completing a 200-hour training with her at her home studio in Hawaii. Aside from the physical aspect of it, the work catalyzed a very deep inner process of discovery and it just kept building from there.
In 2010, I started teaching Yoga in Lawrence, Kansas. And then, in 2015 I completed a 5-week, 300-hour training at Teton Yoga Shala in Jackson, Wyoming under the guidance of Adi Amar and Angela Tong who are also students of Bhavani.
My training has encompassed a variety of disciplines that influence my teaching today. They include Ashtanga, the Iyengar method with it’s restorative qualities, and Vinyasa flow. The teaching was steeped in the Sutras, and the Meditation and Pranayama training have been the foundation of my practice. Their diverse approach was the perfect match for me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived among people from different cultures, but for whatever reasons, bringing in a mix of different traditions suits my teaching style.
Looking back, Yoga really began as a physical journey. I went to classes because it made me feel really good! It was an extension of my athleticism. I could be physically challenged, but it was also gentler, which felt good since I was older.
But over time my practice morphed and it became more than just a physical act. It opened up the spiritual side of myself and I found that the body, mind, spirit connection became the driving force in my Yoga practice, pushing me to evolve.
In May of 2017 we moved to Bainbridge Island. Soon after we settled in I started taking classes in different local studios. When I got to Dayaalu it was like—wow! It felt like a healing bubble, and I knew right away that I wanted to feed and be fed by the energy here. Dayaalu is totally different than any other studio. I love the caring feeling, and the diversity of the people who come in to take classes. I love the mission of “compassion in action.”
Also, the offerings at Dayaalu are very complete, holistic and therapeutic, and very aligned with my approach to teaching. Philosophically, I feel that one path doesn't have all the answers, and to reach people, it’s so helpful to have access to a variety of movement and healing modalities, as well as opportunities to further one’s spiritual development.
My goal as a teacher is to reach as many people as possible through movement, and for the last several years through “stillness” as well. The more I have incorporated Yin and restorative into my personal practice, the more I add it to my teaching style.
Along with teaching a range of Yoga styles, I also love to provide an “experience” which I do by creating a theme for each class. So, when you come in, you’re not just taking Yoga, you’re also getting a poem by Mary Oliver or wisdom from B.K.S. Iyengar (who inspires me greatly), or the influence of a dancer’s way of moving. It’s the creative process of presenting a class that reflects what I’m most passionate about on my Yogic journey. It’s the energy transfer of teacher to student, receiving and giving which is so dynamic and transformative.
I’ve learned that every class is going to be different, even if some of the poses are the same. So, while I may have a vision of how things might go, something new might present itself—like a student with something challenging going on—and I’ll have to pivot to address the need. Or, when I teach Yoga Tones with Abraham, the openness of the live music is like a doorway. We don’t practice together ahead of time, so it’s a relationship that is honing my ability to respond with even greater awareness to every moment.
I truly believe that this kind of attunement to one’s body, to life, is so vital. And, movement is important for everyone, especially as we age. We have to keep expanding, I think. If you're doing something different daily with your body, certainly your mind's going to open up as well. It's subtle. It’s deep work, but it happens, we evolve.
I love working with students of all ages, but I have a special affinity for working with the older person who is just getting into Yoga for the first time. I guess because I can relate, but also because I am so moved by their progress.
I remember I had a 75-year old student who kept coming back, and would tell me how much more balance, flexibility, strength and confidence she had. And I'm thinking, wow, no matter how old you are, it’s never too late. And to be able to shed old stuff that you've carried around for years and just do something different at an older age, well, that inspires me every day.