200-Hour Shakti Naam
Yin Yoga Certification
SUP Yoga Certification
Reiki Levels 1-4
Yoga With Shawna + San Diego Yoga Festival, Founder
San Diego, CA
Introduction: Tell us about yourself, your story, where you are from, practice, etc.
I am the founder and creator of one So-Cal's largest yoga festivals (San Diego Yoga Festival) and the owner of one of the only donation-based yoga and meditation studios in the country. I also started the first community Reiki Clinic offering $25 Reiki sessions. I have created and lead 9 yoga and reiki certification programs and have written the book Yoga For Teens which is published in two languages.
My life is built around serving others and helping the world in any way I can.
How long have you been practicing yoga?
My soul knows I have practice yoga for lifetimes. But in this lifetime, I've practice yoga a little bit less than 1/3 of my life. My first introduction to yoga was meditating with monks. I was in my early twenties and had no idea what a gem I stumbled across. Of course I hated it. It was "too hard" and I had no idea how the people around me could be so peaceful. My legs hurt and what they tlaked about went over my head. Yet, I kept going. That beginner mind is who I teach for every day: the everyday person just looking to find some gosh darn peace of mind: the person who is completely confused or intimidated by the practice....because that is how I started: way over my head. And I am so grateful I kept going and feeling uncomfortable and growing as a person to really understand what this medicine truly is.
How did you get started?
A lot of us find yoga when we are desperate. That was me. I was medicated for depression and aniexty after having an intense mental breakdown. Simply put, the pills get me out of bed, but my soul yearned for something more. I needed to heal...I needed to do something. I googled yoga and a place popped up down the street from me and then the journey began....
What type of yoga do you teach? (Please Explain)
I am a Vata-Pitta (if you don't know what that yoga reference is it pretty much means I am into everything and got a fire inside of me to explore it all). So I teach all different styles of yoga throughout the week: restorative hatha, yin, vinyasa, gong meditations, plant medicine mediations, breathwork: I've created my own class I call Yoga For Your Aura: it is a mix of the various styles of yoga I have been trained in connecting energy medicine and really focusing on stretching the energy body (the aura): the unseen part of the body that tends to dictate many of the decisions we make in life. I love teaching yoga because it provides permission to be creative and teach to what heals others.
What do you prefer/enjoy about this particular form of yoga?
Each form and each lineage is just so sacred and each have its power leading to the same end goal: peace.
I love hearing people's reactions to the different styles. They will say things like "I thought that class where we were chanting the whole time was my favorite, but this one, where I just lay in child's pose for 8 minutes...that's my favorite." I feel like yoga is like organic diary free ice cream: it's got so many different flavors and this allows the masses to each experience, experiment and enjoy on what serves them. And I am so happy to be the "ice cream" server. :)
Do you feel anyone can enjoy and gain from yoga?
Yes, the studio that I owe is completely donation based. In fact, it is the one of the only studio's in the country that operate in this way. Love pays my bills. I do this because I believe EVERYONE can gain healing from yoga. If you take the excuse of "it's too expensive" out of the equation then people really have to look at what is holding them back. My studio really shows how the yoga does not discriminate to anyone and can help us all (that is why it's been around for thousands and thousands of years, translated in every language, practiced in all countries, and experienced by many lifetimes): a typically class at my studio has the 85 year old woman, next to the 60 year old man, next to the 10 year old kid, next to the 21 year old, next to the 45 year old....
What has yoga done for you as person?
It has awakened my soul. It has taught me the meaning of purpose. It has introduced me to my body: the temple where my soul lives. I used to joke that for a good twenty-something years I walked around in a body that I didn't even realize I had: I never paid attention to my arm, unless it was hurt. Now I hold deep reverence for my arms, legs, body...mind...soul...everything. The yoga has also given me an outlet to express myself. I feel, truly, only when I am doing yoga or teaching yoga am I 100% without an restrictions me. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like me. I am so grateful for this beauty.
Do you feel yoga is more mental or physical?
It depends on the day, on the person, on the experience. The yoga is going to effect each person in the exact way that they need. If your having a physical issue it will go in and heal there. If you are feeling heady, it will address that process. Yoga works with the ENTIRE being and so it is even much more than physical and mental. It works on the emotions and the energy body and the spiritual body. It is believed we have hundreds and hundreds of layers---so we really don't have one body: we have many. The yoga will go in and heal the body that needs the healing and the best part about this is you don't even have to try: the yoga will do the magic for you. Start stretching and see what transforms. That's why people who go to yoga for mental reasons (like myself) fall in love with their body (a physical reason) or people who find yoga for physical reasons (like to have a nice butt) start crying on the mat (releasing an emotional blockage) or praying to God (finding spirituality).
Do you believe it is an alternative form of healing and medicine?
100 percent. I call yoga medicine. I believe each of the asanas (postures) are a "pill bottle" in my medicine cabinet. You can take this pose if you have a headache, you can pop this pose if you belly hurts...this pose for a heartache.....
Do you associate yoga with Hinduism? If yes, in what ways?
There are beautiful ties with Hinduism and yoga: my favorite part about the connection is the symbolism of the poses and the epic tales assoicated with it: for example split pose is dedicated to the Hindu God Hanuman who is half monkey and half human (his father being the Wind) and has epic tales of saving people and taking LEAPS of faith for love and peace. That is why you do the split: to mimic this God's leap of faith. The pose is said to instill you with fierce, fearless energy (and is part of the reason why the pose is so difficult to get into). The Yoga is not religious. It does not tell you to believe in Hinduism. It does advise you to hold reverence for life and get outside of your own head and believe in something. But because Yoga came from a religious country the ties are there and these deeply symbolic lessons of spirituality bring something super potent to the practice in my opinion.
Is yoga a way of life or a way to exercise or meditate?
It is different for all people and I honor that. For me, it is a practice that is integrated in every second of my life. It is my life. I stretch for life.I stretch and breath so that when life gets heavy I can handle it. It is preventive medicine for those that are healthy and deeply healing for those that are suffering. Meditation is one half of the 8 limb path of yoga. It is so much more than stretch pants and downward dogs. But in the same, it can be stretch pants and downward dogs: whatever serves each person, the yoga will provide whatever each needs.
What is your dharma, your life mission?
My dharma is to live through example unconditional love. Every action of my life is to be focused on loving all without condition. I belief I am alive to learn to be love in its purest sense. I often fail but only in these failures I know can I continue to expand and understand truly what this means.
How important is living a healthy lifestyle (clean eating/eating healthy for example) important to the yogi lifestyle?
The poses will change you even if you don't want to change. I used to be a go-to-yoga-then-go-to-happy-hour-directly-after-because-i-did-something-good-for-me-today type of person. Then I started doing more yoga. I was the biggest meat eater: a Jersey girl from a big Italian family. I pretty much grew up with meatballs on my high-chair. One day out of no where I decided I didn't want to eat meat. I was shocked. I also used to love to be a party girl. It was just fun to me. Then that stopped too. It was never my intention to make these healthy changes: I was just riding the wave of my life, being me. But before I knew it I was a green-drink drinking, in bed by 9, 28 year old. So I feel the yoga will heal you the way its meant to at the path and speed you are meant to take. And it will teach you to do it without trying to be something that you are not yet. It is beautiful.
Any natural ingredients and/or vitamins that you recommend? And why?
So many people have so much inflammation. I am huge fan of: zinc, turmeric, b-12: I take them daily and it helps to release break through these build ups.
As for brain medicine, fish oil. Even though I don't eat meat/fish, I see a real difference in my brain with this. My dog even takes fish oil. For the women, Evening Prime Rose (for hormones). It is deeply healing. The emotional waters within will thank you :)
Black Cumin oil is said to cure all. This is a daily for me. It keeps the immune system high and if King Tut used it (which he did), I feel it is good enough for me :) Magnesium is another: it brings calm and a part of my daily routine. Gosh, there are so many. Sesame oil rubbed on the skin and the head: it is deeply grounding....pure celery juice every day to detox and cleanse....tulsi (hold basil) to ease stress....plants are our medicine and Mother Nature is just providing all her medicine for us. I truly believe the earth provides all we need.
How important is hydrating/drinking water to the yoga lifestyle/your practice?
I firmly believe that we, as a society, don't drink enough water and don't breath enough, so if we did these two simple things: drank more water and took deeper breaths, our lives would be totally transformed. It is a pretty cheap prescription and I suggest all to try.
When and where do you currently teach?
I teach 5-6 days a week: various classes and teacher trainings (reiki, yoga, breath-work, sound...)
Here is where you can find the details:
I offer a lot of weekend intensives. It would be an honor to spend time with you on the mat or reiki table!
Where can our readers find you? (Instagram, Website, etc)
Anything else you want to share?
Meditate. Try your best. Be humbled that you'll probably spend most of your time thinking or trying to quiet that brain of yours down. But even thinking slower is meaningful to our health.
Meditation is a way to truly meet yourself. I believe it is our internal google: all the answers we need can be found within and meditation is the way to access it. I have had some of the most meaningful meditations of my life: it is what showed me to create San Diego Yoga Festival whichc in its 4 year has over 5,000 people!!). So meditate and ask yourself all you need to see. You are your best teacher and guide.