It Takes a Village (and Forrest...and massage)

I am sure you have have heard the phrase: it takes a village.

I have been thinking recently that it really did take a village to make this yogi - and still does, today.  I am profoundly grateful for each and every person that has shaped, pushed, and helped open my heart and my body through this crazy process of finding myself on my mat.

Meet Sandy Till. She is a part of my village in San Francisco.

Sandra Till, photo by Larry Bruketta

I first met Sandy at Moksha Life Center, where she teaches a regular Forrest class right in the heart of the financial district (and one block from my office - heaven). Sandy teaches one of the few Forrest classes in San Francisco, as much of the Forrest community is situated in the East Bay.

I like to say that Sandy teaches "traditional" Forrest, keeping all of the structure of Ana's classes, focusing on breath and sequencing that make the most of the Forrest style. She has the hallmark frankness and boldness of many Forrest teachers. And when I first went to her class, it felt like a BBY class, just smaller. It was a needed comfort during my transition to San Francisco.

I love Sandy because she connects on such a personal level with her students, even when meeting new faces. She remembers all the little details about your practice. Where you are strong, what needs work, what hurts. She is incredibly honest. With Sandy, what you see is what you get. There is no pretense. I love that.

Elbow to Knee Assist,  Photo by Larry Bruketta

Sandy has additional superpowers, though, as she is also the best massage therapist on the planet. I assure you that this is not an exaggeration.

Massage has long been one of my little yogic secrets. Every three weeks - almost without fail. It is part of what keeps my body healthy despite an intense fitness regimen. When I committed myself to changing my life two years ago, I also committed to massage as a part of that healthy lifestyle. It makes a huge difference - particularly if the person working on you is very skilled.

Massage, by its very nature, is an intimate thing. It is one of the few places in life that I find myself feeling truly vulnerable. It is a "here I am" experience. For that reason, I really need to trust my bodyworker and have a comfort level with them if I am ever going to relax. This takes time and patience. You have to be comfortable enough in the setting to say that hurts or I am really over that to get results. 

With Sandy, it is easy. She can translate what happens on the mat onto what happens on her massage table. She mixes my physical goals with my yoga goals. She gets my story. She knows when to push and when to back off. It is the best kind of relationship for me because I feel supported and acknowledged. And as a bonus, I feel like I am - slowly - fixing hip pain that has bothered me since I ran my first marathon in 2007.

On a personal level, I also love that Sandy is using her yoga teaching to reach under-served populations in the Bay area. Sandy is bringing Forrest Yoga into the lives of boys in the justice system in San Francisco, and she spends one day each week working with these boys. These are kids that no one wants to deal with - and she is giving them an outlet to deal with their stress and fear. How better to break the cycle of violence and hopelessness than to try and teach a personal, disciplined practice? Ana Forrest talks a lot about "mending the hoop of the people" as a part of her mission as a teacher and healer. Sandy is doing her own mending as a part of this teaching.

In a city that is 7x7 miles wide, Sandy and I live exactly 7 miles apart. We could not live farther away and still be in the same city, and from the outside, it might seem like our lives could not be more different. We have very different stories, but one of the most amazing things about yoga is that it brings people together that might never have met otherwise.

Our practice blurs a lot of lines in order to make things clear.

I am grateful it does.


Want to know more about Sandy's yoga and massage practice, and her work with Yoga for Youth? Visit her here.

In addition to offering Forrest at Moksha on Fridays, Sandy is also offering an ongoing back-care class in the Mission on Tuesday nights. Details on her website.