Healing Charlotte Podcast: Susan Hughes, Finding Your Yoga Home

Today’s discussion is with Susan Hughes, a 500-hour teacher focused on Therapeutic Yoga. The two provide information on different types of Yoga, hands-on assisting, finding a teacher, and other topics to help you find your Yoga home. Susan’s advice when starting your journey is to try different studios and notice how the space makes you feel.

“You get a feeling right away I feel like when you go someplace that feels like home to you. You meet teachers who feel like they have the same interests as you, you feel comfortable in that location physically and with the people that are there.”

Levels of Exertion for Styles

Power – This is a strengths based class, that includes even more flow than a vinyasa and students will usually end up very sweaty at the end of class as this is one of the more athletic styles.

Vinyasa(Flow) – Will move faster and links one breath per movement. It’s more athletic but not necessarily more advanced. The teacher will offer modifications and variations(helps make the pose more accessible for your body), and the flow is sequenced around “sun salutations.” Classes typically start with breath and centering, on to a warmup, moving into the flow where the heart rate increases, next to the cool down, and them some stretching at the end.

Basics or Beginner – Typically for beginners or anyone wanted to break down each shape for their body. The purpose is for people to learn and be able to get into poses safely. The class pace is usually really slow and may include workshopping poses or a theme. The student will learn about engagement and modifications/variations. This class is not necessarily gentle.

Gentle – This class will not have a flow state and is more athletic. Will usually explore the 6 movements of the spine(forward and back bends, twisting, lateral stretches), many poses will be from the floor with less overall exertion, and will move slowly in between shapes.

Yin(Deep Stretch is similar and different) – All poses will be on the ground and will use many props(blankets, blocks, bolsters) to hold poses for 3-5 minutes where the student will get into a meditative state. The props are to hold the body up so that it can get into a state of not totally relaxed but not totally pushing/activating. Works to help put the fascia back into place.

Restorative – Will use even more props(blankets, blocks, bolsters, eye covers, chairs) to hold the body up in a position of comfort and relaxation. In this class, there are no demands or exertion and will include a few poses. Poses are typically held anywhere from 5-7 minutes up to 20 minutes or more. The student will be able to get into a deeper state of relaxation and meditative. The classes may be warm, dark, still, and quiet.

Therapeutic – Typically done one-on-one with a highly trained teacher who will complete a whole-human reading including the injury or ailment the student entered with and will explore sleep, social support, past traumas, a spiritual practice, etc. The teacher will put all the pieces together to help the student heal.

Trauma-Sensitive – The purpose of this class is to create an environment that is as safe as possible for someone who has experienced trauma to heal. Not necessarily the only place to heal from them but an important one. The classes may not include any hands-on assisting, will offer options for poses and ways to make the poses as accessible as possible. Helps to create more interoception(noticing sensations in the body) so that the student can take good care of themself. Teachers trained in this can also help the student reframe relationships they will practice boundary setting, autonomy, and being seen in a space.

Susan and Katie discuss some other aspects of Yoga including:

Sanksrit – This is the language of Yoga. Each poses has a Sanskrit name. Some teachers will use this in class and most likely will use the English translation as well.

Safety – You can hurt yourself in Yoga and especially with repetitive motion if not done mindfully. Everyone’s bone structures are different and it’s important for a teacher to be highly trained to understand this.

Hands-On Assisting – May happen in Yoga class. The purpose of these generally speaking are for safety reasons as well as help the student deepen their experience. It’s good to know that they are not usually to correct you in a pose. Touch can be healing but sometimes it doesn’t feel safe to students. This is why it’s important to know if the teacher provides hands-on assisting and if they ask permission each time. It gives the student autonomy and choice.

Most Yoga teachers are 200-hour certified which means they have graduated from a Registered Yoga School through Yoga Alliance and have the basic knowledge of teaching Yoga. Some teachers go through an additional 300-hour program to become 500-hour certified which means they have completed more specialized training and have taken a deeper dive with understanding Yoga. During her 300-hour program, Susan recognized her passion was to help give students their power back in a yoga class.

“Giving the power back to the student is teaching them that trauma-sensitive way in an effort to let the student know that it doesn’t matter what I say, it doesn’t matter if I want your foot here and you put it here. If you are getting the experience out of the posture, you’re doing Yoga. If you’re with your breath and you are moving, you are doing Yoga.”

Katie and Susan agree that when choosing a Yoga Instructor, students look for a teacher who is at least 200-hour certified. A 500-hour certification or specialization in that style is even better. Make sure your teacher has been practicing awhile and notice how you feel in the space with that person.

Susan and Katie met at Noda Yoga when they were going through Bella Vita Yoga Teacher Training. Susan loves that she has always been recognized and acknowledged by name at Noda Yoga. The physical space is comforting to her and she appreciates Jillian’s dedication to accessible yoga. Accessible means that the space offers Yoga that everyone can participate in, the use of props, and attend to the socio-economic status of all students. Both agree that the variety of styles offered is amazing. Katie thinks the experience the teachers have is unmatched in the city.

Lastly, do you have to be flexible to do Yoga? Absolutely not! It can increase flexibility and that may not even be the intention of starting a Yoga practice.

“I think that the accessibility like representing the broad spectrum of types of people that there are in the world via our teachers and making the studio a welcoming place to every type of person is part of what makes it home for me.”

You can join Susan for a class through the Noda Yoga website or book a private session through her Instagram page.

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Kristine Kaoverii Weber, Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism

On today’s episode, we meet with Kristine Kaoverii Weber, who created the program “Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism” with Kiesha Battles. Kristine is an internationally recognized Yoga Therapist and Yoga Teacher trainer who has presented internationally and founder of the Subtle Yoga, the first training for behavioral health professionals in the country. Kristine has trained thousands of people around the world since 2003. Her journey with Yoga began in middle school when she joined the “Yoga Club” that one of her teacher’s provided. She remembers the transformational experience she had. Yoga continued to be a constant in her life when she moved to Washington, D.C to San Francisco, and on to Japan to teach English. From there, she was drawn to explore Yoga even more and decided to tour India for 2 years. After her experiences in Ashrams and with her teachers, she knew she had to share what she learned to those struggling with mental health upon returning to the States. Subtle Yoga was born in 2006 and in 2009, she began presenting at the Mountain Area Health Education Center in Asheville. Kristine is married to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker/Licensed Clinical Addiction Specialist so many of their conversations have centered around the intersection of Yoga and Mental Health. Back then, Yoga wasn’t as trauma-informed as it is today and she found a niche in training Mental Health professional Yoga to bring to their clients. In 2012, she started her first 200-hour training that was also supported by a major continuing education provider. She continued to find how powerful it was to put Yoga training in the hands of professionals who were already trauma-informed and had strong ethics. It has been her mission to bring more professionalism to Yoga. She began offering courses online 2 years ago and her reach continues to broaden.

Kristine’s Subtle Yoga is accessible, person-centered, low-risk, and low-cost as an intervention. It can be applied in a therapy space, Yoga studio, gym, etc. One of her teacher’s, Gary Kraftsow(Viniyoga), has influenced her development of Subtle Yoga. There are lots of repeated poses and moving with the breath. Kristine thinks about sequencing poses in regards to the nervous system.

“I think about my sequencing in terms of where do we want to take the nervous system; do we want to go in the direction of energy and nourishment, do we need to stimulate the system a little bit, do we need to go in the direction of letting go and lightening or helping folx to feel more relaxed.”

Fast forward to 2016, Kristine was asked to speak at an Integrative Health Conference in Charlotte, NC right after Keith Lamont Scott was murdered. She found that no one was talking about the protests and what was happening right outside the conference. She decided to speak to social, economic, and environmental determinants of health that account for the majority of health outcomes.

“I’ve felt very passionate about social justice for a long time and I see it as intimately connected to the Yoga process.”

Earlier in 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, Kristine reached out to Kiesha Battles, a former student of hers, and asked if she would be willing to collaborate on a course regarding racism as viewed from the lens of the Yamas and Niyamas, the yoga ethical principles.

“Where they really shine is when you operationalize them and you think about them in terms of a particular problem, in this case racism, and then really how do I use these ethics to take right action in the world?”

In her career, Kristine has been influenced by Gary Kraftsow, the founder of Viniyoga, Susan Andrews, a Yoga teacher in Brazil, Gabor Mate’s book “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts,” Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” Barbara Frederickson’s book, “Love 2.0,” and her husband Brett Sculthorp. In Charlotte, Kristine is inspired by Kiesha Battles, a Yoga Instructor, Samantha Leonard of Davidson Yoga Therapy, Sherry Lyerly Tarner, of Pure Wellness and Healing, all of the owners of Yoga Studios navigating COVID-19, and Dr. Lisette Holland, a Physical Therapist.

Kristine wants to help others heal because she has received so much from Yoga and for her, there is no other choice but to give it back. Her advice to those seeking healing is to find a good therapist and trust yourself. Find more about her program, “Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism.”

Available for download on Apple, Spotify, Google, TuneIn, and Stitcher.

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Kiesha Battles, Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism

In this episode, we have the pleasure of talking with Kiesha Battles of I Am Yoga and co-creator of the “Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism” program with Kristine Kaoverii Weber of Subtle Yoga.

“It’s the conversation that we hope that people are open to having because with this Yoga, you know it’s more than doing, it’s taking action and what we are trying to do is take that action of just sharing more of the tools and the practices that can benefit us in this world. We both have this understanding that there are many paths to Yoga, and not all of them focus on the ethical principles. So what we want to do is share with people that they are there.”

Her Yoga journey began when she found a flyer in the hallway of her graduate program in Asian Studies. She started out studying the Iyengar method and after moving to Charlotte, began practicing more Vinyasa and Power Yoga. She’s completed two 200-hour Yoga Teacher programs, the first being with Kristine and the second with her mentor Maya Breuer. She’s also completed a 300-hour program with Maya and is currently in another with Embodied Philosophy. Presently, she is the Yoga Director at Charlotte Family Yoga and founder of I Am Yoga where she leads Yoga Teacher Training programs and provides Accessible Yoga.

Kiesha is a full time Yoga teacher with over 20 years of experience. Before COVID, she was teaching 20 classes a week to over 300 students. During COVID, she found herself with more time on her hands by not driving from class to class. This intersection paired with the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement provided the opportunity to co-create with Kristine. Kiesha’s study of Yoga Philosophy began when developing her research paper for Kristine’s 200-hour Training Program on “Why Don’t African Americans Do Yoga.” This research led her to Maya Breuer, her “Grandmother of Yoga.” She attended her Yoga Retreat for Women of Color and began private studies with her afterwards on Living Yoga. She studied intimately with Maya for years going deeper and deeper with the Yamas and Niyamas(Ethical Principles of Yoga). She then began practicing with Kelley Palmer in Charlotte who was integrating the Yoga principles more directly. This partnership with Kristine reminds Kiesha of Yin and Yang. Not only by the styles they teach, Kristine teaching more of an active style and Kiesha teaching Yin, but by who they are as women. Each present the Yamas or Niyamas as it relates to racism, humanities, and ethics, paired with a physical practice. All proceeds go towards scholarship foundations for BIPOC organizations; Black Yoga Teacher Alliance and I Am Yoga. After 1 month of offering the program, they have been able to contribute $3k to each organization. She believes this program gives the participant a path to change and understand racism through the lens of the ethical principles of Yoga.

“What are your values? What are the values that you hold true that you would stand your ground for, that you would fight for, that you would be willing to die for. For some people in our path, it could be God, it could be Spirit. For some people it’s love and for some people it’s country. But what are you holding true as a value outside of who you vote for?”

Maya Breuer has been influential in Kiesha’s work and from her she found T.K.V Desikachar’s book “The Heart of Yoga” which has done the same for her. Candace Jennings, her partner in I Am Yoga was influential in developing her 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training. Kiesha enjoys working with everybody as she believes working with everybody provides her an opportunity to learn. She wants to Heal Charlotte because she is a loyalist. She moved to the Carolinas during her adolescent years and is now so embedded in the community here, she wants Charlotte to be well.

In Charlotte, she’s inspired by Candace Jennings, her business partner and bodyworker, her Mom as she has found healing in the extra time spent with her after surgery, interactions with her friends during COVID, and Key Baldwin, her Reiki Master. Dr. Tony Peters is another bodyworker in Charlotte who Kiesha appreciates.

“If you are looking for healing, ask for it, there are so many resources out there and there’s no one right way of healing.”

Learn more about “Yoga Ethics for Transforming Racism.”

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Lisa Moore, Ayurveda Consultant

This episode, we meet Lisa Moore of Harmony Health Yoga and Ayurveda. She’s been a therapeutic yoga teacher for 15 years, facilitates many workshops, seminars, retreats, does energy work as a Shamanic practitioner, as well as an Ayurveda Consultant. She describes Ayurveda as the sister science to yoga and the oldest medical system in the world, and was banished in India when the British invaded. It combines energy medicine, diet and lifestyle changes, and the interplay of the mind for wellness. In Ayurveda, everyone has a constitution which is a system of doshas that are categories people fall into based on their elemental makeup assigned at conception. It focuses on digestion and high functioning tissues and organs. In Ayurveda, the goal is for people to live in sattva which is a pleasing and neutral state. Each dosha is made up of 2 elements; ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Vata is made up of ether and air and these people move a lot in space, are creative, and intelligent. Pitta is made up of fire and water and this is the energy of transformation and these people are natural born leaders. Kapha is made up of water and earth and is the energy of structure as these people tend to be compassionate, loyal, and stable.

Lisa’s work begins with an assessment where she will look at digestion, stress, unprocessed trauma, sleep and meal times, exercise, and quality of relationships. A physical analysis will be done on the tongue, fingernail, hair, skin, among other things. She’s going to look into someone’s energy patterns as well such as prana and apana. After the constitution is determined and imbalance is discovered, understanding the root problem including possibly eating the wrong foods or eating at the wrong time as well as developing a plan for supporting their constitution is developed. Digestion is a major focus of the beginning work of Ayurveda. Lisa mentions that getting digestion under control for each person is paramount. From here, she will create a maintenance plan taking into account the season and help each person understand when to eat, the types of food to eat, hydration, exercise, sleep time, the right type of yoga, meditation, and breathwork to support their constitution. After everything is in balance, Lisa will prescribe herbs based on what organs and doshas were out of balance.

“It’s a process that unfolds because you want it to be a lifestyle. I don’t want it to be novel that someone is going to try and then say ‘oh it didn’t work, so I’m going to move on to something else.”

Lisa became inspired to get into this work after the health issues that she encountered about 10 years ago. She believed she had a stellar diet and had all types of intense symptoms. Her doctors ran invasive tests and determined that nothing was wrong. She knew something was not right and was introduced to Ayurveda. She realized she was eating the wrong foods for her dosha and within months felt grounded for the first time in her life. From there she spent many years training and obtaining her certification. Lisa enjoys working with people who are curious, motivated, and want to truly understand the root causes. She is motivated by people who want to break out of patterns, understand the role of nature in their health, and are ready to inspect relationships they have in their life.

Lisa moved to Charlotte in 2001 from Arizona and was interested in finding a local Naturopath. At the time, there was only 2, so she called up one. He became a mentor to her with energy work. She’s also be influenced by Steve Nelson who was an Astrologer and Shaman as well as Dr. Vasant Lad, who is the head of the Ayurveda Institute in New Mexico. “The Doctor from India” is a documentary about him and his work.

“I would like to heal Charlotte in terms of people getting expansive, people being more compassionate, people being more open to other cultures and systems of beliefs, and let those things interplay with one another, and a deeper connection to yourself at the core level.”

As the former editor of Natural Awakenings magazine for 10 years, Lisa is inspired in the Charlotte community by so many healers it’s hard to name just one. She finds herself most inspired by nature. Connect with Lisa through her website or by calling her at 704-277-3887.

Healing Charlotte Podcast: Alissa Getz Waller, GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® Methods Master Trainer

On this episode, we meet Alissa Getz Waller, owner of Charlotte Movement Arts Studio and the only Master Trainer of GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® movement methods in Charlotte. She is a student of founder Juliu Horvath, who was a dancer and involved with yoga when he developed the method. These movements were born out of classic ballet, yoga, principles of physical therapy, swimming, and martial arts. Alissa says it’s best to watch a video to truly understand before starting the method. GYROKINESIS® are movements made up of floor work, seated, and are the building blocks of the equipment work. These movements can be practiced at home or done in group settings. GYROTONIC® is performed on equipment and helps direct and support the movement much like being in water. The movements can be expanded and one can go deeper in GYROTONIC®

Alissa describes GYROTONIC® as a movement system on equipment where weight can be added and allows the joints to move circularly and is not jarring. The weight support is smooth through the motion. It’s similar to pilates as it emphasizes the core, it’s therapeutic, and there are equipment and non-equipment approaches. It’s different than pilates as GYROTONIC® uses Eastern principles, approaches the body deeper than muscles(bones and joints), uses imagery to awaken the energy systems in the body, uses circular vs. linear movements, and works from the deepest part of the body and out. Teenagers to seniors can utilize the method.

GYROTONIC® has remained true to it’s core principles of circular versus linear movement, movement that starts on the deepest part of the body and then from there comes out. There’s a focus on join articulation which is why it’s so healing for any type of joint dysfunction or joint injury.”

Alissa started training in classical ballet at the age of 4. When she was a teenager, she started having aches and pain from her intense dance schedule. Alissa’s mom got her involved with a Pilates trainer and in college, she took Pilates training. During her time in New York, a friend of Alissa’s introduced her to GYROTONIC®. She became so excited about the method and fascinated with the way the body could move, she signed up for teacher training with Juliu Horvath. From there, she opened up a studio outside of Chicago in 2002. Eventually she sold the studio and moved to Charlotte where she opened her boutique studio in Myers Park. Outside of training at her studio, Alissa is also a faculty member of the Charlotte Ballet Academy where she enjoys working with mid-adolescent dancers as well as pre-professional dancers.

“It {physical empathy} feels to me like putting myself in their nervous system and then my nervous system can help guide them in a new way.”

Alissa loves working with clients who are open-minded about how they approach their body and relationship to exercise and movement. Her parents, who were both teachers, has influenced her work as well as a ballet instructor, Rosemary Floyd, growing up who told her that the “goal should be quality.” All of Alissa’s movement instructors gave her gifts of understanding how to relate to people and how to empathize with bodies(emotional and physical). Juliu Horvath and his brother Paul Horvath, who focused more on the therapeutic and rehabilitation side of GYROTONIC® have been influential in her work. Alissa loves Charlotte as she sees this as a place still in development where she can be a guide for people in their own healing and to show them the way to heal themselves. She attended a training in Charlotte with Phillip Beach who is from New Zealand and works with the muscles and meridians to research why we experience what we do when we move the body. Her advice for starting a practice of GYROTONIC® or GYROKINESIS® is to watch a few videos and commit to 2-3 sessions to give it a fair chance. Visit GYROTONIC® and GYROKINESIS® website here.