My Yoga Background
I was introduced to spiritual practice as a child by my grandmother, Muriel Alstrom. Born in 1904, she taught both Sunday school and meditation, both informed by her own very particular worldview. She was passionate about positive thinking, and lived her commitment to see divine intelligence radiating through every being and every thing on earth. The simple practice I learned from her, of looking into every face and seeing the sacred, carried me through a rocky adolescence and young adulthood with my sense of wonder intact, and for that I am immensely grateful.
On the subject of asana, I have learned from many greats, among them Desiree Rumbaugh, Christina Sell, Noah Maze, and more recently, Doug Keller and Leslie Kaminoff. Perhaps my greatest teacher, certainly my most exacting, has been my work in yoga therapeutics. The opportunity to work closely with individuals of all levels of fitness has required that I sharpen and fine tune my understanding of movement and the body, and so has refined my skills on every level.
The ways we are broken so profoundly inform the ways we are magnificent.
My most influential yoga teacher is Dr Douglas Brooks, who doesn’t do any asana at all, at least not in the way we think of it. He certainly takes a position on things, one of the subtler meanings of the word. Please avail yourself of his wisdom and insight in his wonderful blog.
My Other Background
I was raised by music makers, and I must have liked it because I married one. My aunt taught me to paint in oils when I was seven years old, and I was never without pigment or charcoal or graphite under my fingernails.
My first job was scrubbing hair brushes, sweeping up hair cuttings, and on a good day, taking curlers out of newly quaffed silver locks at Mane Tamers Hair Salon in Fairfax, California. I was twelve, and it was awesome. After that I scored my first restaurant job answering the phone for takeout orders at Primo’s Pizzeria, which funneled me into waiting tables, and eventually, my long and illustrious first career as a bar tender.
While I worked throughout what would have been my college years, I gave myself a semblance of a liberal arts education by asking lots of smart people what they were reading and following suit – a practice I continue to engage in and highly recommend. I also drank deepy of community college offerings, studying subjects ranging from English and literature to drawing and painting to Russian Language (a passion I followed to a summer term at Moscow University), to statistics (I was a math geek in grade school and took college statistics for fun), to African dance.
My 18 years behind the bar nurtured my fascination with the human spirit, my respect for the ways that greatness can coexist with human suffering, and my deep love for the many forms humanity takes. I drew about a gazillion sketches and portraits like these during those years,
which I realize now were teaching me to see in a deeply nuanced way, a way that is as fundamental to my approach to yoga, and to teaching yoga, as it is to drawing pictures of things. My formal education culminated in a few precious semesters at the San Francisco Art Institute, where I felt more vulnerable and exposed than at any other time in my life, and where I did the work to cultivate the most powerful and most exquisite parts of myself. This work continues now through my yoga practice and my creative life.
I live in Portland, Oregon with my wildly charismatic, remarkably gifted, and maddeningly individuated husband, Chris Kaup, and our dog, Feather River.
“YOU are an inspiration… You always seem to speak with absolute relevance about where I am [we are] at – mentally and emotionally – which makes me see the collective unconscious more palpably, and trust that the process is a community phenomenon rather than me just floating in the ether. Alone. Wow. That is so comforting! And of course, thank you for the direction on how to hold my body so that I can fill it with the most breath – so that I can be most alive – so that I can BE the most me! I am just now beginning to understand how standing in my truth with strength in my legs allows my heart to seek ultimate freedom. And love. You remind me of all this. Thank you. I look forward to your next class. With gratitude and love ~ AH”