Over the years Kelly Sunrose and I have bonded over motherhood, and all things yoga. It was a pleasure to be a guest on her podcast Samadhi Rush. Enjoy our candid conversation over tea in her living room. Thanks, Kelly!
New studio Love Hive Yoga really has my heart. Check out this sweet little interview transcript below on their blog, and definitely come visit Love Hive if you're in town! Thanks Audra+Jessica!
What is your relationship to yoga practice right now?
My practice is fluid and follows natural rhythms— it can be meditation and pranayama, 20 minutes rolling around on therapy balls, or really long standing poses. I try things in my body, use lots of props, hang from moldings, door jams, and monkey bars. The discipline of being truly present always takes priority, which keeps my practice fresh and relevant to my life. Mostly yoga is a vital daily self-care ritual that helps me offer my best to the world.
How do you go about preparing for a class?
I start with a large perspective, drawing inspiration from Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, anatomy, primal movement, nature, my students, and my personal practice. I write, doodle, chant the Gayatri Mantra, move, breathe, eat, and drink kombucha. Then I feel prepared to hold space and support my students in their practice.
How did you arrive here?
I grew up in Vermont raised by two visual artists. We practiced Surat Shabd Yoga, and from a very young age I was meditating. I studied movement in many forms: gymnastics, contemporary dance, contact improvisation, Tai Chi. In 1994 after a brief stint touring EU as a singer, I moved to San Francisco and became very involved with both performing arts and the punk scene. Yoga asana was my strategy for self-regulation, performance anxiety, and injury prevention. When I moved to Portland in 2001, I knew I would become a teacher to share these tools. I trained for four years with my mentor until he said, “Go teach.” With humble ambitions it would be another two years before I actually felt ready, during which time I managed an independent radio station and was a DJ. In 2008 I worked as a recruiter for my alma mater, and there I created a yoga program. That experience lead to my first certification, teaching yoga with various outreach programs, and training with marvelous teachers. In 2015 I completed a two year yoga therapy training program, and since have spoken and taught at mental health conferences to clinicians about the neuroscience of yoga, yoga as complementary treatment, and trauma informed yoga. I love the intersection of western medicine and yoga where doctors prescribe mindfulness, and yoga teachers bill for insurance. Modern yoga is at a critical time in its history and it feels very exciting to be part of it!
What's the rest of your life like?
Sixteen years living in Portland, roots are super important to me. I am lucky to have a toddler and great husband who keep me grounded. The discipline of creativity is woven through every aspect of my life. I design web and print graphics for independent businesses, occasionally you’ll find me onstage performing in experimental dance, theater or film productions. I am also an insightful tarot card storyteller and interpret the cards as often as possible.
It was lovely to be featured in Mantra Magazine! I was asked how yoga affects my parenting, and here was my response.
Yoga makes me a better parent by connecting me to my body’s intelligence. With a strong mindfulness practice, I do not rush to react; instead I breathe. Yoga makes me more present and flexible with the demands of parenthood. The physical benefits of asana give me the endurance and strength to look after my energetic toddler all day.
In celebration of 2015 I wrote the essay below about resolutions through the lens of love and family for Family Guiding Magazine. Enjoy!
Nurture Yourself to Create Change
Love is always unconditional in the sense that it is not stymied or stifled by any of the conditions of existence. Neither changes, endings, altered plans, unfairness, suffering, disloyalty, or lack of love can stop us from loving. Our yes to such a stunning grace is what our ego always wants to say, since it means the end of being afraid and the beginning of being free. David Richo, The Five Things We Cannot Change...and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them
1. The act of solving a problem, question, etc.
6. The resulting state.
In preparation to writing this, and prior to any goal setting, I discussed the article with my husband. He suggested that the definition of resolution is misused. That the definition of solution is what people might really have in mind when setting New Year goals. My husband is the one who sees direct correlations to ways in which history has been defined and where we are now. He is the one who always can be counted on to make the obvious point. I am the one who finds fact in fiction, caresses metaphor into reality, says things people don’t say because they are afraid of looking foolish.
With resolution on mind I, of course, had many layered ideas of weaving punk rock and yoga into an anecdotal fable from my life, but when I cracked open dictionary.com I realized my husband had a great point. If what we mean when we write our new year resolutions is to solve a problem or answer a question, then that might be part of the reason why so many times we fail. We want to find a solution, and then see a result.
So when goal setting for the year, I would like to reach for solutions, solutions so good and resolutions so satisfying, that everyone in my family will be on board.
I want our family to be resilient, to be able to bounce back without denial, or shame; to feel and express our feelings, and to support each other unconditionally; to reside in love.
Practice love. That is my solution, the skill, and the goal.
Unmistakable, simple, portable. Best of all, it does not require anything more than being present.
A commitment to love for our family, and perhaps many others’, might mean that activities become secondary to love. As a result we might choose lighter work schedules in favor of more time together; we may watch less television and instead take more walks; we might get rid of material clutter in order to enjoy more ease and simplicity. Then slowly, love will fill up all of our time, and love will be all we see, until the energy we devote to love becomes joy. I am excited!
In preparation for the new year, I have already begun to practice and so far I have noticed we sleep better as a family, we cook more expressively, we eat more thoughtfully, my son lights up with sheer enjoyment when we are all together. Our love brings each member of the family into balance.
In my practice as a yoga teacher, I see students become attracted to the goal of health or fitness, rather than developing the skills to create change. It can become a tiring cycle to set goals, to follow through for awhile and even see progress, only to abandon new health routines. Skill building takes education and time before it becomes habitual. New routines eventually crowd out old ones, but not without the habit of love. We can only make great change through unconditional love.
Transition toward change, like the transition from one yoga pose to the next, can feel clumsy at times, and that initial discomfort is a test of resolve. Willingness to be uncomfortable enough to see what the next breath holds will inevitably lead to a more peaceful state. Love, like breath, can sometimes be stifled due to social conditioning, habit, and the natural experience of being human. Breathing into unsteadiness becomes an act of self-love in yoga, in life.
When I remind students to feel themselves breathing, and to make that awareness a priority, then I watch them beautifully embody a pose. When I remember to love unconditionally, everything else seems to align.
Give and receive love. See and communicate love. Breathe deeply. With steady resolve and practice, I hope that vacuuming becomes joyful and light hearted.
Fawn Williams is a Yoga Therapist, Mom, Graphic Designer and Vermont native, who moved to Portland in 2001 to finish her BFA. In pre-parenthood, Fawn toured Europe as a singer, ran a radio station, and lived in punk rock skate shop. Motherhood is by far her most rewarding, demanding, and creative pursuit. yogawithfawn.com