February 2, 2012

This is what Bliss Looks Like — An Interview with Anusara Yoga Teacher Stacey Rosenberg {Article in English & Spanish}.

(Para leerlo en Español, haga clic aquí.)

Joseph Campbell famously said “Follow Your Bliss…” This is something for which we all strive, but how do we know when we’ve found it? What does it look like when one is following their bliss? To answer this question, attend any class with Certified Anusara Yoga Teacher Stacey Rosenberg, and you will see for yourself.

Photo by Jennifer Graham.

I am very fortunate to have discovered Stacey Rosenberg as a teacher. In 2009 I found myself moving to San Francisco, where I knew very few people and virtually nobody in the yoga community. Any yogi who moves to a new city knows how difficult and emotional this search can be; you are leaving behind your favorite teachers and you wonder if you will ever find a teacher with whom you resonate as well. Fortunately for me, a new friend from my very first yoga retreat referred me to Stacey. Within a few months of attending Stacey’s classes, it would become my home away from home.

To watch Stacey Rosenberg teaching a yoga class is to witness someone who is deeply connected to and channeling her true, divine essence; it is to witness someone who is living and breathing her life’s purpose. But beyond that, Stacey is a lover of life, and from the perspective of the Tantric teachings that we hold so dear in the Anusara community, she is someone who appreciates and embraces life in all of its facets; she is someone who will always seek out the light in the darkness. Stacey is someone who brings to her students not only playfulness and delight, but also a deep well of wisdom, enriching their lives in the process. Stacey is a beautiful spirit who lives and teaches truly from the heart.

To match her beautiful spirit, is a beautiful story of how she came to be the talented and soulful yoga teacher that she is today. I am honored to have the opportunity to interview Stacey, my dear teacher:

Jeannie: What first brought you to yoga and how/when did you know that this was your destiny path?

Stacey: I took my first yoga class because I was seeking a way of life that looked different from what I was seeing everywhere around me. I saw an ad for a free yoga class and I decided to give it a try. Though I was not really sure what yoga was, it had a strong resonance in my heart. After the class I remember feeling great for a few days and I knew I wanted to go back for more! Immediately I began a regular, dedicated practice and it was not long before I recognized yoga as my life path. At that time I didn’t know that it meant I would become a teacher, but looking back I am able to see that I was in the flow of Grace, and so my path naturally unfolded before me.

Jeannie: I understand you were an elementary school teacher prior to being a yoga teacher. How did you make the jump from the prior to the latter? How did your skills learned as a school teacher help you in teaching yoga?

Stacey: The transition from school teacher to yoga teacher happened quite naturally. I had already been called to teach by my friends and co-workers, and was teaching yoga to the kids in my inner-city classroom. When word got out at the school that Ms. Stacey was teaching yoga, many of the kids wanted to come into my classroom at lunch time to learn yoga rather than go out to the playground. Though I think it is in my nature to be a teacher, actually getting a teaching credential and teaching in the classroom for four years helped me to cultivate many of the skills it takes to be an effective teacher, such as breaking things down in a way that others can understand. It also gave me the practice and confidence to speak in front of a group.

Jeannie: How many years have you been practicing yoga and would you say it has changed your life and you as a person?

Stacey: Yes, absolutely, yoga has radically transformed my life! I began practicing in 1995-96 and the awareness it has cultivated in me has allowed me to see my path unfold before me, to trust the process, and to step into living a fulfilled and vibrant life. My transitions from the fashion business, to teaching elementary school, to teaching yoga were all unbelievably smooth and I am grateful that all of these transitions have allowed me to align with my true life’s purpose. In addition yoga has helped me to become more comfortable in my skin, to feel more at ease in my life, and it has empowered me beyond belief!

Photo by Faernworks.

Jeannie: How did you discover Anusara yoga and what about it made you choose this as your primary path?

Stacey: Truthfully, prior to finding Anusara I explored many styles, teachers, and lineages. Some I studied more in depth and others I just tried a few times. I started teaching early in my journey because as I said before I felt that I was being called to do so. My teaching reflected what I had learned from these various styles — truthfully I never wanted to be put in a box! When Anusara found me, I felt at home. Prior to that time, I would take some teachings and leave others but I found myself resonating fully with everything about Anusara. I remember being drawn to Anusara’s affirmation of intrinsic goodness. That approach, and the Tantric philosophy that informs Anusara was everything I already believed but for which I myself was unable to find the words. The Universal Principles of Alignment absolutely worked and immediately began to relieve pain in my body; I was finally getting stronger and finding more freedom in my postures. And the community was amazing- I was meeting some of the highest quality people I had ever met. Naturally, as so much of the practice resonated so deeply within me, I wanted to make this my primary path and offer it to others.

Jeannie: Who have been your most influential teachers and why?

Stacey: My own body and life path have been my closest teachers. Though at times my journey has been arduous, I always knew it was providing me with the tools I needed to help myself and others. And it seems that the perfect guide would always come along right when I needed it. I am so grateful for the many teachers I have met along the way who have generously shared themselves and have taught me so much.

John Friend has shown me how to see the good in myself and in life and he has reminded me of my worthiness. I am eternally grateful for the powerful lens he has given us through which to see the body. The Universal Principles of Alignment are a great gift that continue to help me to bring my body back to wholeness and allow me to share this amazing method of yoga with others.

Desiree Rumbaugh has inspired and empowered me to heal myself and to be honest with myself, even when it hurt. She is an unwavering example of courage and she embodies both strength and softness simultaneously. Desiree has shown me to look at things from different perspectives and has taught me how to laugh at myself and at life.

Douglas Brooks has spoken directly to my heart and has shown me a beautiful lens from which to view the world and a paradigm by which I strive to live my life.

Earlier in my journey I spent 2-3 years studying Iyengar Yoga and encountered many of the great Iyengar teachers we are so fortunate to have in the Bay Area. What I learned from those teachers is invaluable and has informed so much of my teaching. I am forever grateful for this foundation.

My students have also been my greatest teachers: I have learned so much from them! I remember when I was first learning Anusara and experimenting with the language and the Universal Principles of Alignment in my teaching- I was delighted that it was working! My students’ poses were lighting up in ways I had not seen before, and I knew there was something to it. On a daily basis, my students continue to inspire me to dig deeper and to find creative ways to offer the practice and to serve them more fully.

Jeannie: What are your favorite aspects of being a yoga teacher?

Stacey: My favorite aspect of teaching yoga is connecting with the students and sharing my passion with them. It’s a wonderful experience to have a captive audience that is interested in what I have to offer, not just about the physical practice but also about taking the yoga off the mat and living a conscious lifestyle. I love the therapeutics aspect of Anusara Yoga and particularly enjoy helping people with injuries to find relief from pain and more freedom in the body and in their lives. The most rewarding part is definitely witnessing people live the yoga in their everyday lives and become more vibrant as a result.

Jeannie: You have led many retreats and taught many workshops and immersions abroad. What have been the most powerful lessons from your experiences teaching abroad?

Stacey: Teaching retreats and workshops abroad is a powerful practice in staying open and being able to go with the flow. From travel challenges to people’s personal challenges, it is a lot for which to hold space. But it is also a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. To facilitate this, one must stay supportive and non-judgmental while taking it all as it comes and not being pulled from one’s center. Some of the most powerful lessons came from my two times teaching the Anusara Immersion in China with a translator. Learning to connect with people who don’t speak the same language was a heart-opening experience and a great lesson of the fact that the heart knows no boundaries. Teaching yoga retreats has also been profoundly fulfilling because of the community that is created when quality time is spent together, the depth we can go into the practices during that time, and to watch people experience shifts and breakthroughs. The greatest reward is witnessing the participants take the lessons from their mats back into their everyday lives upon returning home.

Jeannie: I know you have come together with three other senior Anusara Yoga Devis from the Bay Area yoga community to offer a series of “Eye of the Tiger” practices. I’m not sure many people know what that is. Can you tell us a bit about the history of those and how they developed into a regular offering?

Stacey: In 1997, after Desiree Rumbaugh had known John Friend for 3-4 years, he offered her a sequence of poses to deeply strengthen her practice. This series of poses was called the Eye of the Tiger sequence and it was one that John and his yoga buddies would practice regularly. They would compete with one another to see who could hold Urdhva Danurasana or Handstand the longest and they would often do up to 108 repetitions of Sun Salutations, Urdhva Danurasana, and more.

Desiree, determined to strengthen her practice and her spirit, did the five (or more) hour practice a few times, but in 1998 she shortened it and began offering three-hour practices twice weekly at her studio. For 10 years Desiree and her community practiced forward bends, hip openers, and inversions once a week and arm balances and backbends once a week. Desiree was the first person to share this practice with the Anusara community. Today it is practiced all over the world with slight variations to fit into people’s schedules.

The purpose of the Eye of the Tiger practice is to build strength and discipline in the body which in turn brings greater freedom and well being. While strengthening our bodies we strengthen the connection of our heart strings and create more cohesiveness in our communities and on the planet.

In 2007 and 2008 I led the Eye of the Tiger monthly at Yoga Tree Hayes. It is truly one of my favorite things to do, to get my friends together and practice in a deep way. I am thrilled to be offering it monthly this year with other certified teachers: Abby Tucker, Darcy Lyon, and Samantha Shakti. I hope to expand the offering to twice a month next year, with more teachers leading it and in even more areas around the Bay. Perhaps someday we will have weekly practices — that would be amazing!

Photo by Faernworks.

Jeannie: When you look back on your path and all that has developed over the years, when you think back on your younger years, would you ever have imagined you would have ended up where you are?

Stacey: That is a great question! I am not sure if any of us could really imagine how things would turn out, that is the beauty of life: it is a mystery. I don’t think it is a big surprise that I am a teacher and that I live in California. Beyond that I am happy I have paid attention to the signs and that my life has unfolded as it has. I look forward to seeing what is yet to come!

Jeannie: We are in a time of great transition on the planet and with the mysteries of 2012 upon us, what are your thoughts about what is in store for the world?

Stacey: We are definitely in a time of great transition on this planet. I don’t believe that the world or human life will end, but I do believe that the structures that we live within will change. I have been following what the indigenous people have taught and I truly believe we have a great opportunity now to embrace our spiritual nature and use our inherent wisdom to become even more human. Everything we do right now has tremendous power and we must be careful: the choices we make, both individually and collectively, will determine the outcome. If enough people awaken and live in a way that aligns with nature, then together we can come into balance and create a world where people live vibrantly.

I will leave you with the wise words of the Hopi Elders:
“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

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