September’s Yogi of the Month is Melissa Berry Appleton. I have practiced along side Melissa and have been a student in her classes; the thing that always stands out to me is Melissa’s energy and passion for yoga. For the real deal yoga not for the tricks and hype but the get on your mat and get real kind of practice. Melissa stands in her center and is a strong lady in our community extending her energy far beyond the studio walls.
1 What does yoga mean to you?
To become more connected/intimate with all aspects of life (both the light and the dark) through the full spectrum practice, examination and contemplation of the 8 Limbs of Yoga. Each practice is like a pathway of remembering.
2 When did you start yoga and how did that come to be?
I began Yoga in my second year of University. I signed up for 10 sessions, and it was all I could do to complete eight. It was an extreme struggle for me – particularly lying in Savasana with my palms open. I had very little boundaries in my life at that time. I was living wild and carelessly (carelessly is of most grave concern). I am not sure why I signed up, or why I even signed up again two years later!
3 Where and with whom did you study with?
I have traveled lots and studied with many, all for whom I am deeply grateful. I completed my first teacher training with Michael Stone. His teaching left a deep impression and his teaching currently continues to fuel my curiously to this very day. Karen Sprute Francovich is my teacher tucked away in Idaho. She is incredibly wise, humble and embodies the deepest practice of anyone I know. Paul Muller-Ortega is my meditation teacher. He is sublime with words and generous with his vast knowledge and teachings.
You know, I rode the Anusara train for a good while. So glad I did, because I met some incredible people and learned a great deal. I studied Ashtanga from Michael Stone. Restorative with Judith Hanson Lasater.
4. What keeps me coming back to the mat?
Really, it’s the answer to ‘What does it mean to be a Yogini’?
5. What does Yoga bring to your life?
I am in service of the full-spectrum practice. I am compelled. The seed was planted really deep a long time ago.
With faith, I believe that if I remain in full service of the practice through-out my life-time, I will come to the end of my life – the transition point, and look back to say “the practice really did serve all people I came in contact with. I was present, connected, intimate, able to love whole-heartedly, and be ethical to best of my human ability, I cared about matters deeply, and my actions reflected this care”.
6. How has my practice Evolved.
I now know that while Asana is most incredible, it is not enough. Meditation has become such a sweet part of my practice. I also know that I must always have a teacher who is available for regular study, someone who really knows me and holds me accountable. I cheat/trick myself in practice sometimes 😉
Oh, and I love to chant. My children love to chant.
7 How might you and/or your life be different if you hadn’t found Yoga?
I think my body would be expressing a great deal more discomfort at the age of 40, and I would truly know my body and heart a lot less.
I would have less tools/practice to help me be the kind of parent and partner I really want to be.
I would be following the masses much more than I currently am today. My decision making process would be much more difficult. Over-thinking would be running the show!
The veil would be much thicker.
8 What is your “can’t do without” favorite pose?
I love Trikonasana and any pose that demonstrates a humble bow.
9 Tell us about an asana you struggle with!!
I love advanced poses; arm balances, inversions and backbends.
Currently, I am watching my ability to actually be in these poses while still holding the attention to full inhalation and exhalation. If I am not breathing fully, I think I am just probably grasping at an end result or working on gymnastics. I have backed off a little as of late. I am actually practicing a lot of standing poses and shoulder openers. Examining places I might be cheating!
10 You inspire so many, who inspires you?
The artist, the musician, the scientist, the sculptor, the poet, the athlete, nature, humans who really respect nature, and anyone who can hold the very darkest hours of their life and see the light. People who step out of their comfort zone into the ‘I don’t know’. This is rare. My children – all children. They are so wise.
11 What tips can you offer beginning students for a safe practice?
Go slow, steady and regular to classes. Small classes. Find a teacher with whom you resonate. Make sure your teacher has a teacher that they study with in person. Be cautious of teachers demonstrating intensified charisma and grasping for students. Find a teacher that has time for you. Examine how you feel after class. A student should feel held in the deepest care. Kelowna has some amazing teachers with years upon years of experience.
12 How about guidance for beginning teachers?
Enjoy being a student for many, many years before you teach.
Make sure you have a teacher that really knows you and study with them regularly.
Watch your students. Of coarse you will watch their bodies in the poses, but also watch their face and the way their breath moves in and out of their body. Observance will help you find out how you can serve them as a teacher. A teacher is in service.
13 What few steps do you think a yogi can take today to tremendously improve their practice?
* It’s easier to study with books than with live teachers, because live teachers don’t give you what you want.
* The job of a good teacher is to disappoint you so that the practice becomes yours; so that you internalize it. (Rather than memorize the ritual or key idea.)
Have a teacher that you work with for regular practice. Practice more than Asana. Practice more than three times per week. Study meditation with a teacher. Meditation is not to be studied alone. Go on extended retreat with your teacher once or twice a year for deeper practice. Always ask yourself the question “is my practice serving a greater good?”
Always be skeptical, examine, ask tons of questions.
14 Where are you teaching now and how can we find out more about you?
I am currently teaching Wednesday evenings at Mission Yoga Studio (my favorite place to practice and teach). I also teach privately quite a bit. Also Global Fitness (they have an incredible yoga program and very dedicated teachers and students).
Mission Yoga is hosting 6 dinners at Inn From The Cold Shelter this winter season. We look forward to preparing food and sharing conversation with the guests of the Inn. Inn From The Cold is near and dear to my heart.
I recently hosted Michael Stone here in Kelowna and look forward to his return in the future. Mission Yoga will also be hosting Christine Price Clark this October and Desiree Rumbaugh in April 2014.
Aside from traditional yoga practice I also host friday Yoga Flow to Live Sounds at Mission Yoga. A gathering of Musician and Yogi for an evening of creative practice. All –Levels and such good fun!
Sherie Cormier and I will be taking a group to Nicaragua this April for a Yoga and Social Action Adventure. See www.missionyogastudio.com if you think you might like to come!Olivia Walsh has been playing her cello and Gil Kafka will be playing his guitar on September 27th. Outstanding local Musicians and a true gift to Mission Yoga Studio.
Melissa is a dedicated yogi of many years, mother of three, wife, classical flutist/music enthusiast, and free spirited traveler. She loves plants, poetry, fresh food, hiking, biking and swimming in the lake.
She began her yoga teacher training in Toronto with Michael Stone (Ashtanga), Michael Siddal (Anusara) and Judith Hanson Lasater (restorative).
A previous Anusara Yoga student and teacher, she is currently a student of the Shaiva Tradition, Neelakantha Meditation and is studying with Karen Sprute Francovich (Idaho) and Paul Muller-Ortega (California).
Melissa follows a yoga practice that encourages a soft opening to grace, refined principles of alignment and human intrinsic goodness. “I have faith that regular yoga practice ultimately has the potential to illuminate the greatest creative experience of a human life – at any age.
Melissa is inspired by the vast and intense athletic community in Kelowna and believes in the benefit of yoga for ultimate athletic performance and overall wellness. She is also inspired by the Artist and the cultivation of a yoga practice to ride a direct current/pathway to freedom and creativity.
Melissa enjoys and is most intrigued (likes to spend time studying with) by the teachings of Karen Sprute Francovich, Michael Stone, Paul Muller Ortega, Desiree Rumbaugh, Douglas Brooks, Matthew Remski, and Ross Rayburn. My favorite asana classes in Kelowna are taught by Pauline Livingston and Naresh. Bill Eager is very wise and keeps me on track.
Curiosity, intimacy and action are of most interest to me these days.
“And because it is all my fractures that brought my greatest light, I love these words by Leonard Cohen.”
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.