Erica’s first yoga memory is her mom teaching her poses from the book “Be a Frog, A Bird, or a Tree” by Rachel Carr. But her real yoga journey began in her mid-twenties, living in Boston, exhausted from a high-stress job and seeking refuge in a weekly yoga class at her gym. What she found was so much more, and she began to explore all that a yoga practice can offer. Her exploration led her to the jungle of Costa Rica, to study with her beloved teachers Don and Amba Stapleton at the Nosara Yoga Institute. Their teachings inspire her practice to this day: a deep reverence for the inquiry of the self, never forgetting to stay curious and flex your “muscle of awareness”, and trust the teacher within your own being.
From the jungles of Costa Rica back to Boston, she began studying the body in more depth, including how to support expecting mamas. Love took her westward, where she grew her own family and taught for years at Yoga Tree, a San Francisco yoga tradition. There, she continued her studies with Jane Austin and Harvey Deutch, deep wells of knowledge in prenatal yoga and yoga therapeutics, respectively.
A yoga student for 20 years and a teacher for over 15 years, Erica’s classes are uplifting and playful, yet rooted in functional movement and the great inquiry of the self. She continues to draw inspiration from her loved ones, students, and life experiences.
In Her Words
Yoga has eased my journey through so many life stages: athletics, two pregnancies, work stresses, injuries, emotional rollercoasters, etc. That’s part of what I love about this practice, that it can shapeshift and become exactly what you need in a particular moment. Whatever is happening in your life, it is all welcome. You are welcome, just as you are.
My wish for your yoga practice is that it enables you to come home to yourself, to practice trust and surety of yourself again and again, to stoke that inner vibrancy, to find alignment in all ways. And may that be a springboard for you to take that strength and lightness in body and being off the mat into your life. Together, we can discover how yoga can meet you at this moment in your personal journey, and help you walk forward with more clarity and ease.
I grew up in middle-class suburban New Jersey. My dad worked in business and my mom was more spiritual. My first yoga memory was of her teaching us from the book “Be a Frog, A Bird, or a Tree” by Rachel Carr. We had woods in our backyard and I was often found hiking back there in search of wild rabbits and turtles to adopt. It was the start of a lifelong love with nature in all its rhythms.
I did well in school and sports, and aimed to work in business. I majored in math and got a job in Boston at the start of the internet boom. It was exciting but intense: I worked long hours, traveled and even lived abroad. After almost a decade of this high-paced, high-stress life, I started to unravel a bit. Life felt like constant stimulus; I had lost connection to my internal rhythms and to the rhythms of nature that I held dear. I was anxious and unhappy, and took a few months off work.
Enter Yoga Stage Left
During that time, I took a gentle yoga class with Barrett, a teacher at my local gym. The invitation to be in my body, to slow down and notice, it was like medicine for my soul. I got curious and took a retreat with Don and Amba Stapleton, Barrett’s teachers. At that retreat, I felt like I came home to myself, and it became clear that I wanted to help people through yoga.
Don and Amba’s yoga institute was in the jungle of Nosara, Costa Rica (back before yoga in Costa Rica was a thing), so I quit my job and booked a spot in their month-long teacher training.
Nosara was a special place. Each day, we awoke to the howls of monkeys and walked the jungle path to morning practice. The studio (the “rancho”) was open air, and huge blue morpho butterflies would fly through, and sometimes a gecko would wander onto my mat. After practice, we would eat fresh fruit and take a dunk in the beautiful ocean. It was a sensory explosion in the best kind of way. We spent our afternoons and evenings back at the rancho breaking down yoga poses, learning philosophy, therapeutics, anatomy, breathwork, etc, and absorbing as many golden nuggets of information as we could. The days were long but they were magical, and that month changed my life.
Don and Amba’s program was centered around yoga being an inquiry of the self, that the true teacher lies within, not with some external guru. The Joseph Campbell quote “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” was emphasized…that we are really there to discover our own yoga. And as teachers, our role was more as a facilitator of each student’s personal journey into their own yoga, their own self-inquiry. It was such a breath-of-fresh-air shift from the “look outside oneself for answers” mentality we are so often fed from society, and greatly influenced my yoga teaching philosophy and my life.
Early Teaching Years
Back in Boston, I worked to get my bearings as a new teacher. Studios wanted experience, there were tricky audition processes, and my confidence was shaken on quite a few occasions. My gut told me that I needed lots of practice teaching and more hours studying the body. I was also curious about how other disciplines viewed the body, not just from a yoga perspective. I felt passionate about acquiring lots of “tools in my toolbelt” for helping people. I read books about anatomy of the body and spirit voraciously. I studied fitness for golf with top trainers at Titleist, I earned a personal training for athletes certification…more tools in the toolbelt, different approaches for similar problems.
I began teaching regular classes and private sessions. One of my clients got pregnant, and I wanted to support her. I became certified in prenatal yoga and fell in love with supporting women through the pregnancy journey: such an awe-inspiring comprehensive transformation of body, mind and spirit.
While all of this was happening, I continued to go back and forth to Costa Rica, studying more at the institute, assisting their teacher training, and eventually helping to launch and program-manage a multi-week anatomy training.
A Journey Westward
I was finally feeling settled in my career in Boston when I fell in love with someone who lived on the West Coast. 🙂 I was ready for an adventure, so I left it all behind and headed to San Francisco. Within 2 years I was engaged, married and had a baby on the way.
The yoga scene in San Francisco was intimidating (and for good reason!) Many studios had well-known teachers that graced the cover of Yoga Journal, etc. I let myself be a student for a while. I became certified in acupressure, learning how Chinese medicine and acupressure points could support the body. In time, I made a home at Yoga Tree, an SF yoga tradition. There, I studied everything perinatal with Jane Austin, and all things yoga therapeutics with Harvey Deutch. They were both instrumental to my growth, with so much knowledge and passion to share. Many more tools were added to my toolbelt.
I taught prenatal, mom&baby, and yoga therapeutics each week at Yoga Tree, helping to guide students through their own transformations on the mat and in life. It felt like a high moment in my career. But juggling family life was proving tricky, and after 7 years in SF, we made the decision to move back East. The trust of self that I had been practicing for years on my mat helped me find clarity in that moment, and enabled me to have more surety as I stepped forward into a new chapter of my journey. We road-tripped across the country in our small car with two little kids in tow; time for another adventure!
We are now settled in Concord, just outside of Boston. When the pandemic hit, I felt in survival mode but also called to teach again. Online classes were an unexpected blessing, the ability for the community to be present despite the distance and restrictions between us. The amazing part about yoga in your home is that many barriers are eliminated – distance, a need for childcare, not enough or the wrong time, financial obstacles, etc…what an unexpected gift.
Namaste yogis, I hope to see you on the mat soon – in person or virtually! I can’t wait to see what we discover together.