Kat's Teacher Feature Pic

Meet Yoga District Senior Teacher, Heather. You’ll find a great emphasis on intention setting, breathing and meditation, as well as deep hands-on adjustments in her classes. As a graduate of Yoga District’s 200 Hour Teacher Training, Sri Dharma Mittra’s 500 Hour Life of Yogi Training, and the Jivamukti Yoga School’s 300 Hour Teacher Training, Heather’s unique experience and perspective offer a fusion of ancient philosophy with modern day asana traditions. Heather teaches morning, midday, and evening classes daily at various Yoga District studios. Read on to know more about Heather’s yoga journey with renowned yoga masters of our time.

I had been teaching yoga for two and a half years when it hit me, why it is we practice yoga. I was standing in a palace on top of a mountain in Rajasthan, India looking at at set of miniature paintings when the museum guide said something that changed my entire understanding of yoga. Our guide said that these skilled craftsmen, the painters of these incredibly detailed miniature paintings, spent hours each day for years upon years doing yoga and meditating so they could cultivate the steadiness of body and mind to produce such finely made art.

To give you an idea, these paintings are known as miniatures not for their size but for their impeccably minute attention to detail, it’s said that artists created these complex scenes using brushes made from one hair of a squirrel’s tail, giving them the dexterity to finely illustrate every hair on a subject’s head as well as the wrinkles in their garments with great conviction. The amount of steadiness required in hand alone as well as mental focus was astonishing. It was at that point that I made the connection. We are practicing yoga not just to “do yoga,” but so we can do the rest of our lives better with greater focus, clarity, and steadiness so that we can be the best at our trade, skill, or craft. I realized then that we practice yoga so we know how to be a better partner, friend, co-worker, and neighbor–a better human for the benefit of humanity.

So how did I end up on a mountaintop in Rajasthan, you ask? It all started about 3 years ago when I moved to DC from New Orleans. I started working at Yoga District answering the emergency phone line, managing studio spaces, and later serving as Executive Director of Yoga Activist, Yoga District’s non-profit that works to make yoga accessible to diverse communities and trauma survivors. Shortly after joining the Yoga District administration team I took Yoga District’s 200 hour Intensive Teacher Training and chose to devote the foreseeable future to exploring this fascinating and profoundly transformational sacred science called Yoga.

Fall of 2013, I was inspired by DC’s beloved Dharma Yoga teachers in the area to place myself at the feet of The Guru, known as the Rock of Yoga, Sri Dharma Mittra. At that time I completed the 500 hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training and further deepened my practice of yoga and commitment to Ahimsa. His seriousness and silliness struck me, the juxtaposition of the seriousness of a true guru with the humor of a small child reminded me of the meaning of yoga, which in sanskrit means ‘to yolk’ or ‘union’ of opposite or contrary ideas. Holding seemingly contradictory concepts in the same space–such as light/dark, day/night, sun/moon, and of course serious/silly–as a reminder that even the opposites are expressions of the same unity and that all is one. Being in the presence of such a great master I felt my compassion towards self and others grow. As Sri Dharma always says, we must extend compassion beyond the self, beyond friends, family and pets, to all beings everywhere, lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. It was a time of great progress for me on my path and my exposure to Sri Dharma was foundational in my approach towards both teaching and practicing yoga.

Again, how did I end up on that mountain in Rajasthan? I got wind one day that there would be an intensive month long Jivamukti Yoga 300 Hour Teacher Training hosted for the first time in India. I didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity to study with such incredible teachers David Life and Sharon Gannon. Embarking on what would become a life changing journey, I made my way to the other side of the world to spend a month of my life in an ISKCON Ashram run by Radhanath Swami eating the most delicious vegan food, petting the happiest cows you’ve ever seen, and studying with David and Sharon under the guidance of Jules Febres and Lady Ruth. My greatest lessons learned during my time at the Ashram were on Bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion to all beings everywhere. Being in a space where devotees truly see the part of God contained inside of you was amazing in itself. When devotees or monks would serve you lunch or change the lightbulb in your room they would do so with the utmost amount of humility and gratitude, grateful to be of service to the portion of god contained inside of you. There was a lot of bowing, a lot of “namaste’s,” and a lot of blissed out smiles every day.

There we spent all day practicing yoga and studying sanskrit and scripture, further deepening my knowledge of yoga and the tremendous foundation Sri Dharma had given me in my understanding of the sacred science. Jivamukti yoga classes are classical in nature and focus on weaving spiritual teachings in with vinyasa, chanting, meditation, and relaxation set to inspiring and eclectic music. Jivamukti is a practice based on these five tenets featured in every class: Ahimsa (non-harming), Bhakti (yoga of love and devotion), Nada (yoga of sound, or music), Dhyana (meditation), and Shastra (study of scripture), and each aspect was deeply interwoven into the training.

On my return back to DC, being able to teach and offer the yoga of my teachers in both the Jivamukti and the Dharma practices is a true joy and pleasure for me and I love how both lineages compliment each other so sweetly. In any given class with me, you will find a deep emphasis on intention setting, breathing and meditating in each pose, as well as hands-on adjustments to go deeper into postures. There’s also an emphasis on chanting, and spiritual discourse sourced from yogic texts and various teachers in the hopes of bringing our hearts and minds in closer contact with each other.

I love how diverse the DC yoga community is, and how safe a space it is for us to explore our respective practices. It’s so great to see the amazing work DC yogis are doing for the community. Whether it’s sharing yoga in outreach settings such as schools and shelters, organizing for city-wide yoga festivals, bringing in our favorite teacher to practice with us, or leading a wide array of workshops, the DC yoga community is rich in wisdom and dedication to the teachings. I’m grateful to be here doing my part to create a safe environment for students to explore their bodies and minds. When we feel safe and comfortable in our practice, the postures and meditations start to reveal their secrets to us, telling us things that cannot wholly be shared, or taught, but need to be experienced and felt in order to understand.

All over the world we come to yoga because we are interested in living and being better to ourselves and living in a way that’s more true to our life’s purpose. When we tune in with our breath and the movements of the body, the external stressors of our lives fall away giving us the opportunity to reconnect with a higher Self. Many seek to touch upon that essential, unchanging nature each class to remind ourselves of our deeper purpose and intentions for being here together in this life. Together we can support each other on our journeys, after all, we are simply here to help each other out. As Baba Ram Das says, “we are all just walking each other home.”

See you on the mat.



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