Barbie has eight years experience teaching yoga. She promotes joy and presence in her classes by making them challenging but achievable; entertaining but uncomplicated; and accessible (not too much Sanskrit!) without losing touch with tradition. Her academic background in Kinesiology and Cognitive Science is complemented by the spiritual nature of her yoga teacher trainings, making her uniquely qualified to host yoga classes that promote harmony of the body, mind, and spirit.
When I began highschool, I was about 15 lbs overweight, and felt uncomfortable in my body. If someone throws a ball at me, my instinct is to duck rather than to catch, so most of what we did gym class turned me off. But, the summer I turned fifteen, something clicked, and I began rollerblading, cycling, or running nearly every day. Over that year, I lost over 20 lbs, getting down to a healthy weight.
In my highschool, there were eating disorder awareness campaigns with the slogan, “Being skinnier won’t make you happier,” and I think that’s true; one thing I learned as a fitness instructor is that nearly all women “just want to lose five or ten pounds,” no matter how beautiful or thin they are. That said, I think that being healthier and fitter can make you happier. Achieving a better body composition (less fat and more muscle) made me feel more energetic, confident, and comfortable in my body. A few years earlier, I had been diagnosed with epilepsy, leaving me feeling disabled, but improving my strength, endurance, and flexibility made me feel able. Even if I couldn’t change the epilepsy, it empowered me by lifting some of my other physical limitations.
Over the next few years, I continued exploring fitness and had some of my first experiences with yoga. I did a fitness workshop with Sherri McMillan once, and she quipped, “You have to remember that other people aren’t like us. We have some kind of genetic defect that makes us enjoy fitness!” That characterizes me to a tee. The joy I felt doing fitness made me want to share it with other people and learn as much about it as I could. I started teaching aquafit when I was 18 and group fitness at 19. I also began studying kinesiology in university.
A couple years into university, my highschool sweetheart ended our four-year relationship, and I turned to fitness to help me cope. However, unlike the nagging insecurities that fitness had attenuated when I was a teenager, even the most intense exercise did not seem to dull my sense of loss. During this period I found out that yoga was very different from other types of fitness. Fitness is often riddled with attempts to distract you from discomfort. Pumping music, entertaining routines, and TVs mounted in the cardio area are all ways to distract you. In yoga classes, on the other hand, the focus is usually more on mindfulness; instead of trying to forget about discomfort, you notice it and accept it with a welcoming sense of compassion and non-judgement. This mindset was healing for me. Don’t get me wrong, fitness isn’t inherently non-mindful, it just tends to be presented that way. Also, very little brings me as much joy as a highly-choreographed step class with great music, so there’s definitely a place for distraction.
I did a lot of soul-searching that year, trying to sort out my personal values and beliefs. I kept doing yoga, I went to church, I travelled, I read a few books on Buddhism, I read a bunch of stuff about moral philosophy, and I started taking cognitive science classes in school. By the end of the year, I had a whole lot of disparate ideas and philosophies floating around in my head, with no obvious way to unite them. Then, in December 2007, I did my yoga teacher training at Prana Yoga College in Vancouver. The teacher, Shakti Mhi, specialized in yoga and zen. As she spoke about philosophy, I found that the concepts she mentioned were the ones that had been floating around in my head, but Shakti was able to weave them into a one cohesive system. I felt like I had found what I was looking for.
After my yoga teacher training, I went on to teach yoga in studio-, gym-, university-, and outdoor-settings. My background made me able to effectively share yoga with people with many different mindsets: I know what it’s like to do yoga as fitness, as therapy, as meditation, and as philosophy.
Shortly before I did my yoga teacher training, I started dating a guy from San Francisco, and by the time I finished university, we’d been enjoying a long-distance relationship for three years. We knew we wanted to be together. As we made arrangements for me to immigrate to San Francisco, my mind started spinning out of control with “what if’s” and “how can we be sure that’s.” One of the things I love about Richard is, even though he’s not that into yoga, he has a yoga mindset. He responded to my flurry of concerns with, “You can’t be sure about anything in life. If you feel sure about something, you’re deceiving yourself. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Making these particular changes in your life is no riskier than doing anything else.” Well, I wouldn’t be much of a yogi if I argued with that. We got married and I moved to San Francisco in 2011.
Since moving to San Francisco, I have had the opportunity to study with some amazing teachers. In 2012, I completed my advanced yoga teacher training (RYT500) at Yoga Tree, mainly with Les Leventhal (who taught me the art of fast, fun, flowing vinyasa infused with down-to-earth philosophy), Jane Austin (who taught me about how to support and empower pregnant mamas), and Dina Amsterdam (who taught me about the beauty and healing-potential of complete release). You can now find me teaching at several different studios in San Francisco: Yoga Flow, Yoga Mayu, Bend Yoga, Mission Cliffs, and The Park Gym. Come try out a class, and make sure to come introduce yourself afterwards!
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