I am the 13th lineal descendant of Pocahontas. That’s a mouthful! It’s taken me most of my life to grow into both the royalty and the responsibility of that title. I mention it here because it’s a key part of my ancestry, my root chakra, and that indigenous heritage has been part of creating me.
And I created MYOGA. A deep respect for roots is evident in the foundation practices, MYOGA Basics. A reverence for the spirallic nature of existence is seen in the MYOGA Seasons. And when we learn to move from firm foundations and yet dynamically roll through changes, we are gifted with greater freedom to unfold, as in MYOGA Flows.
I was born in my ancestral homeland, along the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia. I was raised in the northeast—Pennsylvania and New Jersey--and went to Cornell University in upstate New York. New York City was the last place I lived in the US before heading to India in 1999, where I lived for 2 years. I like to think I am a mix of Northern directness, balanced by Southern gentility. In my teaching I see this interplay in being a combination between a Nana and a Dominatrix. There’s the side of me that holds the whip--that requires students to play at their edge and not back down when the intensity builds, but to actually welcome the opportunity. And then there’s the Nana--the side of me that loves them before, through and beyond the intensity, that swaddles them in unconditional support. It’s a balance of ahimsa–non-violence or love–with tapas–the fire to stay in the fire.
MYOGA practice evolved from a life-long exposure to alternative forms of health and lifestyle. While still a young girl, age 7, my mother trained as a massage therapist at Kripalu Center and I played at yoga, meditation and conscious movement (DansKinetics). At the time, my family were practicing Nichiren Buddhists as well, so chanting and devotion were a daily part of my life.
I love the poetry of movement and from a young age have danced, cross-country skied, ridden horses, studied martial arts, even dabbled in marksmanship with riflery, clay-pigeon shooting & archery. On the competitive scale I was a runner & also did some rowing, volleyball & basketball. Throughout these activities, my connection to breath and stretching, as discovered early on in yoga, aided me. During highschool, a relative introduced me to Kundalini Yoga. After university, I began to create an increasingly regular practice of Kundalini yoga on my own.
The decision to become a teacher came out of the realization that this was something completely aligned with my personal values that I could travel with; something I could share with people anywhere in the world. I returned to Kripalu Center to complete a 200-hour teacher certification in 2002 and have been teaching ever since. My teaching style that continues to develop through time—MYOGA—emphasises awareness, compassion and the movement of energy. MYOGA is playful yet precise, and is simple yet works on subtle levels.
In 2003 I completed a certification in Pregnancy Yoga, in 2004 I trained in Positional Release Therapy which I incorporate into my one-on-one yoga sessions and in 2009 I was certified in the Radiant Child yoga teacher training. I have also been a member of the Kripalu Yoga Teacher’s Association and the New Zealand branch of the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA). I am a current member of the Yoga Alliance as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT, meaning I have taught 1000+ hours—currently more like 7,000 hours!).
2008 saw a further evolution of my teaching as I took on a commercial studio lease in Wellington, New Zealand & also became a teacher of teachers. I developed MAP, MYOGA Apprentice Programme, a 200 hour teacher training that was registered with Yoga Alliance. Ten women have graduated from the two 9-month rounds of MAP that have been held since then. For a couple years I enjoyed the challenge of teaching 5-7 minutes of yoga on the New Zealand Good Morning Show. In 2012 I stepped into a long-held dream of teaching women in the drug treatment unit of our local prison.
At the close of 2014 I finally joined the Aquarian Age and did the hard work of translating the on-going dialogue that I see yoga teaching to be, into online practices that are now accessible to a wider audience. This shift has not only enabled my students to continue their myoga practice wherever they are in the world, it's also made it possible for me to teach in person across the globe! In 2015, after 14 years of continuous teaching, I took a "spiritual sabbatical" to question deeply what has become of the Yoga Industry, & what my place in this Industry might be. As part of my inquiry, I did preliminary training in the Bonnie Bainbridge tradition Body-Mind Centering. Additionally, after 6 years of desiring to train with Ana Forrest, that dream finally came true & I completed a 70 hour Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training in early 2016.
In former lives, I’ve been a photographer, writer, designer, actor & a milliner. In 2014 I brought nearly all of these careers together in my solo show PocaHAUNTus, Shapeshifting History into Herstory which can be viewed online here. My blog earthwidetribe emerged from this colossal work. For more about my artistic self, check out my website. Or if you really want to get to know me, practice with me. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, I put only my talent into my works but I put my genius into my living. I live myoga.
At least, that’s what some of my students tell me:
“Melissa lives and breathes the way she teaches. In utmost integrity you are safely guided to learn asanas, pranayama, chanting and relaxation techniques. In Melissa’s MYOGA classes you have the opportunity to truly re-discover yourself in a holistic way! Allow Melissa’s love and passion for life to take you over–be ready and open to change…”
J.Otto, Remedial Massage Therapist, www.beingone.co.nz