My life has been shaped by countless people, most richly so by my incredible family, by Toby Jayne and his family, by Paul Ketchersid and his family, by Piers and Jeannie Wedgwood, by J.R. Marghi, Robert Johnson, Maggie Dolan, and by my most beloved and impactful teacher, James Kigar. It is no exaggeration to say that I owe who I am and every good thing in my life to the aforementioned people and most especially to James. He gave freely and generously to me from his vast reservoir of experience and heart and never once asked for anything in return. I honestly do not know where I would be in my life today without him.
I was fortunate to do my 300-hour Teacher Training with James as a one-on-one mentorship over the course of 3 years. There is a saying in 12-Step Programs: “If you don’t think your sponsor is the best sponsor in the world, pick a new one.” We are encouraged to pick someone who embodies the values we aspire to. It is the same with yoga and I knew that person for me was James.
One of my favorite quotes is by Goethe. He writes, “Correction does much but encouragement does more.” One of James’s many incredible gifts is his ability to meet each of his student’s exactly where they are. He met me where I was with my short and shallow breathing, with my rigid and tension-filled muscles, and he never once talked down to me or made me feel that I was lacking anything. I actually cannot write about him like this without crying. Do you know the kind of gratitude that runs so deep and is so big that contained within it is a feeling of disbelief? That is what happens when I think about James. In an instant, the fullness in my heart is overwhelming.
Sure, James taught me about the yoga poses and different ways I could teach them, he taught me about my own body and how I could find a little more space. But what he really taught me was the art of listening. James is the most skillful communicator I have ever met. When James listens, he listens with his entire being. He taught me by his own example how much we can give to each other when we take the time to truly hear. There is a quote I love by Rachel Noami Remen: “Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within another person.” That is the sanctuary that James created for me. He gave me a chance to reclaim all of my lost and wandering parts so that I could feel whole again.
He helped me to navigate my years in early recovery by gently leading me back to my own center. He taught me that integrity is our most cherished discipline and he gave me tools so that I could hold onto it through the twists and turns of life. Before I met James, I was a breakfast waitress at a local diner. He gave me a profession. That is a big deal for someone who had never graduated from college. Everything felt new and scary to me at that time. It didn’t feel safe even to be inside of my own skin. James was endlessly patient with me. He listened while I talked and talked and talked. And when I was finally finished, he would gently ask: “Would you like some feedback?” He never tried to fix anything for me. He never sermonized. He never talked down to me from a hilltop. He never once created any kind of dependency. He sought instead to serve as a bridge over which I might cross to freedom. Perhaps that sounds corny. But I am speaking literally. He gave me a chance to be the woman I was meant to be.
James has shaped and inspired me as a teacher more than anyone else and I deflect the compliments I receive from the men and women who attend my classes largely because they belong to him. I don’t speak about him publicly very often because he is one of the most humble human beings I have ever met and I never want to make him feel uncomfortable. I also wish to respect his privacy. I don’t see him as often now but he is never far from my thoughts.
It is a gift to find a teacher who is willing to hold onto your kite strings so that you can ride the wind and soar and I will never stop being grateful for James’s indelible and abiding influence in my life. I love you James.