Dear alleyCat Yoga–Reviewing a Journey of Love
My story with alleyCat Yoga begins before it had a name. I was living in California for a year (2001-2002) doing my internship in psychology when my Buddhist teacher, Ginny Morgan, called me from Columbia and said that she had a couple of yogis living in her basement—namely, Ken McRae and Kathleen Knipp. They had just come into town, based on advice from a location astrologer, to see if they might like living in Columbia.
Yoga Comes to Columbia
Ginny suggested I talk to Ken and so I said, “put him on the phone.” I had never met him, but I told him, “Stay put because I’m coming back and we need some good yoga in Columbia.” I came back. He stayed. And after teaching yoga in various locations, including McKee Gym at the University, a church downtown, the basement of a birthing center, and a living room, alleyCat was born in the back of the Tiger Hotel. Ken’s 4:30 p.m. Friday class was my favorite and is the longest-standing yoga class in Columbia.
Ken and Kathleen had lived at Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts when they met and brought the spirit of Kripalu to our small community. I learned that yoga is not about the pose, but the connection with the divine spirit/peace/presence within that is available through the combination of poses, breath, attention, and more. This was not pretending to be yoga. This was yoga!
Smitten with Kripalu Yoga
Having caught the Kripalu bug, I joined my dear friend, Lynn Fair, and went for a month in 2003 to do my 200-hour teacher training at the Kripalu Center, after which we started doing a little teaching at McKee gym. We had a lot of people coming to that huge gym and the growing interest in this teaching was palpable.
To this day, the Kripalu yoga classes on video that I developed for use in the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Missouri are used by programs and individuals worldwide. It’s fun and heartwarming when someone reaches out from around the world and says how much this yoga has touched their life, healed their body, and soothed their heart.
Ken was my spiritual yoga teacher for many years. While I have found my own style of teaching, Ken’s influence can be felt when you come to one of my classes. I can hear his words to this day: There are three things to remember when doing yoga—breathe, pay attention to your body sensations, and do your version of the pose.” I particularly enjoyed philosophical discussions about the yoga of Kashmir Shaivism that Ken introduced me to.
Shaivism says that “Consciousness is the core of everything. Everything—whether it is a person, a sport, an organization, a stone—the essence of everything is divine. The core of every conversation and every relationship is divine.” My relationship with alleyCat Yoga, the teachers, the owners, and the students have been divine: this much I know.
Besides going to regular classes, I followed Ken to Costa Rica for his annual Pura Vida Spa retreats and did some workshops for him. I might not have known it at the time, but he was preparing me for all that I’m doing now. As he began pulling back from teaching, I had the great honor of stepping into his shoes (or onto his mat, if you would)—both in the Friday 4:30 class which is very special to me, his annual Pura Vida Retreats, and his 21- day sunrise yoga summer class that he started many years ago.
When Susan took over alleyCat, my friendship with her began to take shape. We have been great collaborators and friends. She is an amazing person and yogi who has given extraordinary direction to this sacred space for many years and particularly during the especially challenging time of the pandemic. Her dedication and passion for the dharma of yoga is evident.
The Students of alleyCat
I have always loved being a student of yoga. To be a student of yoga is a special role. The energy and attention that a student brings to a class play an important part in the experience. As a teacher, connecting with the students where they’re at and how they are on any particular day is part of the dance. I learn from my interaction with you as much as anything. I thank you for being on my dance card for so many years. With regard to alleyCat, without you, nothing was possible. With you, all things were created and our spirits were joined. I have made life-long friends that I will always cherish.
All Things End
I have had many months to contemplate the passing of alleyCat, being privy to the many challenges that Susan has faced—physically, emotionally, and financially. This has given me the time to process and facilitated my ability to let go with grace and love. My greatest wish is that Susan finds the time to heal and grow into her next adventure and that it blesses her life in unimaginable. ways.
My dearest wishes to everyone who has passed through the doors of alleyCat Yoga Center. May you continue to benefit from the practices of yoga on and off the mat. May we continue to share the practice together in other ways and forms.
As you step on your mat the next time, remember alleyCat and the times we’ve shared. There are too many to mention, but the essence is love.
We have two more weeks of classes. Join me through May 19, and then a new chapter will begin.
P.S. My next blog will give you all the details for my next chapter in yoga. I’m not going anywhere and you can continue to practice with me at different places.