Meet a Teacher: Diane Dunn

Posted by on Sep 5, 2018 in carson city yoga studio, meet a teacher | 2 comments

Diane DunnMeet Diane Dunn, Carson City Yoga’s featured teacher for the month of September.

Diane joined Carson City Yoga when it opened in January of 2018, and she is a great addition to our family with her expertise in the area of Yoga for Arthritis, her lovely sense of humor, and her willingness to be part of this great community here.

Diane teaches an 8 week Yoga for Arthritis program that teaches people how to create and begin a home yoga practice to manage the pain and stiffness of arthritis. You might also see her around in other classes as a substitute teacher, or even taking a class. We sat down together recently to talk about yoga and her upcoming class series.

CCY: By way of introduction, tell us something about your background – how did you come to teach, who were your major influences, just in brief?

Diane: Well, I like to say that I took yoga for 35 years, but I only really paid attention for the past 2, when I had to have a knee replacement. Then I had to pay attention to the alignment issues and how yoga could help. Angela Sullivan was my first and strongest mentor around that. But my first teacher training was Yoga for the Special Child, with Kathy Randolph in Reno, so that I could work with her in populations with special needs.

I began teaching in that setting, and I felt that I needed more information. I met Amy Joytir one day when she was subbing for Angela, and I thought I really like that woman – I like how she teaches, I like how she talks, I like what she has to say. Then when I heard the two of them (Angela and Amy) would be offering a teacher training together, that was it. I knew that was the training for me, so I signed up for that, and I completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training certification program with them through Vira Bhava Yoga.

At that point also, I began to discover Dr Stephanie Moonaz, who teaches specifically Yoga for Arthritis. I saw her first on the internet, and again, I heard her voice, and I said that is exactly who I want to work with, and that is the information that I need. So I went to Boston, and did my first training with Dr Moonaz specializing in Yoga for Arthritis.

When I came back, I was still teaching Yoga for the Special Child, plus Yoga for Arthritis, and also hatha yoga classes with adaptations for people who had arthritis or other similar pains and stiffness.

I was lucky enough to sub for a lot of different groups when I first started teaching, and again I found my nitch. When I taught in the retirement homes with older people, I knew right away this is my group. These are the people I want to work with. They have knee replacements, I have knee replacement, we all have arthritis, I understand their situations, it is a group I need to and want to work with. So that’s what I began to concentrate on. I have already led one Yoga for Arthritis workshop series, and I will be offering 2 more this Fall.

CCY: Sounds like your path has led you right to where you need to be! If you were to define the ideal person to come to that workshop, who would benefit most?

Diane: The people who benefit most…. well, I think all people could benefit, let me start with that. I tend to have different spectrums of people. People like myself who are older athletes, and are beginning to have pain in their joints, and they want to know how they can prevent more degenerative disease from happening, so through the alignment, how to move better in their body. There is also a group of people, especially people with chronic arthritis, who have stopped moving due to pain. So this program is created to help them learn how to work, how to get past the pain in the joints so they can get the benefits of the poses. And I think those are the people who benefit the most, because it gives them a way to keep moving. It gives them the information to keep moving.

Also, the Yoga for Arthritis series is a total program. In the west so much of yoga became just about the asana, the physical body. The Yoga for Arthritis program brings back the meditation, and the spiritual side, as well as the physical side, for a complete marriage. And also just how to breathe, and how to live with arthritis. So its a complete package that helps people with chronic diseases. Dealing and living with pain – you need the meditation, you need the ways to calm your body, and calm your mind, and to bring that connection back.

CCY: Would you say that what somebody learns in the workshop is useful in other classes, or more to take their practice home, or some combination of that?

Diane: I would say a combination, but the 8 week program is specifically designed to help a student create a home practice. Because if you are doing yoga in order to manage the pain of arthritis, or to keep moving, it needs to be a daily practice. And for myself included, many of us don’t know how to create a daily practice. What elements to put together, and the why of the pose?  I teach the why a lot, so that you know that when you are doing such and such a pose, that although maybe it doesn’t look like the book pose, you can get into it in a way that you can get all the benefits, within the limits of your body. You need to find out what you can do, more than what you can’t do.

CCY: Do you find that most people feel comfortable with their home practice by the end of the 8 weeks?

Diane: I would say most people are beginning to create their home practice by the end of the 8 weeks. It would be good if they continue to go to yoga classes, because we always need outside eyes. Plus there is the community aspect that is really important. And also, one of the great things the program does is that we talk about the kinds of yoga practices there are, so that you can choose which classes are best for you to take. Some yoga is appropriate for people with arthritis, and some yoga is not appropriate for people with arthritis.

CCY: So the style of yoga you are teaching for arthritis is a slower paced yoga, that is more mindful…?

Diane: Yes, slower paced… and this is important: One of the things I wanted to bring in to that program is the felt sense in the body – to be able to recognize and understand your own body and how it feels, to know for yourself what is good for you. So that you can walk in to another yoga class and you know when to do a pose and when to back out of a pose.

CCY: And that is so important, I think – to teach our students how to customize yoga for them, rather than to force ourselves in to a particular picture of yoga. So switching gears a bit… what drew you to yoga in the beginning? Why yoga for you?

Diane: In the very very beginning? I was asked to answer that question recently, and you know… I can’t remember WHY I started yoga some 35 years ago. It never even occurred to me that it was something you didnt do. I mean you walk, you breathe, you swim, you take yoga. It’s just what you do!

CCY: 35 years ago, there wasnt as much access to yoga classes as there is now – were you living in an area where it was easily accessible?

Diane: Yes, it was in Reno. But I suspect I did it before that, because I can’t think why it occurred to me to do that. But then I also say, you are going to choose a different yoga practice at different times in your life based on where you are:  emotionally, physical abilities, age, all of these things will make which yoga practice you choose different. And then also your teacher – that can change. None of it is right or wrong, just different needs at different times.

CCY: Do you have a home practice now?Tree against the wall

Diane: Oh, lord, yes. I wouldnt leave home without it.

CCY: Give me a taste of your home practice. I know it can change from day to day, but what is the essence of it?

Diane: This is funny too. When I was in my teacher training, Amy said to me, there is this side of yoga, and there are the energetics, and the spiritual side and you can choose to go there, or not, and if you do, you might find it really interesting… and at first I was only all about the poses. It was all I cared about. I didn’t want to have anything to do with all the goobledy gook over there…

and so initially my intention, because I write an intention every day before I start my practice, was always physical.  And lately, it is always spiritual. So I have begun to discover that yoga has these 2 sides, they just make it such a complete practice. It makes it…. well, you become a yogi. You have to start walking the talk, and that doesn’t mean just doing the poses. It means what you eat, how you handle yourself, how you guide your life and practice. It’s all of it.

CCY: I think you just answered my next question, which is how would you define yoga? What is yoga? I think you just answered that, in that it is about the bigger picture…

Diane: Yes, and it works. For me, its a spiritual program that works; it is one that I can work. It leads and guides my life. It does things for me more than other spiritual paths I have tried. I wanted (those other paths) to work but I couldn’t find a way to make them comfortable to me. But with the yoga, and the philosophy, and reading the yamas and the niyamas for example, all of it is YES. This is the way I want to guide my life, the way I want to be, the way I want to grow.

CCY: How do you live your yoga off the mat?

Diane: Well, totally, I mean I think I’ve been saying it all along. Its all of it. Yoga is life, its not separate from life. To me thats always true every day. Its how you treat other people, its how you walk, its how you breathe, and that’s really cool. So yes, I sing in church to practice my yoga breathing, when I walk down the street, I am aware of my posture and my breath, when I am looking at the food in front of me, I think you want to make the good choices, the prana choices. What’s going to feed your body, your spirit?

And also I like to run my life right now by the yamas and the niyamas, so for example, this month is the tapas one, so I have to walk into my fears. When I find myself afraid, I practice staying with it. So then that’s what I do every day. So maybe usually this person annoys me, well, today I get to stand right in front of them and listen for a while. There’s that practice of connection.

CCY: You are clear about yoga in your life… why do you teach yoga?

Diane: I had been invited in to teach initially, with the Yoga for the Special Child, and what I realized is that if I am going to teach yoga I want to teach the things that have helped me. The things that helped me were the things that I learned from my teachers, and therapy from getting my knee replaced. So that’s the yoga that I want to pass on to people. Because that’s the thing the made me listen over the past 2 years. Before that, I was just doing yoga because it was fun and feels good. Then it became crucial. Physically crucial to whether I was going to keep moving or not.

That clarity is what I want to give, and when I see people who aren’t moving, I want to be able to give that gift… there are ways to keep moving. You don’t have to stop moving just because you can’t bench press 200 lbs anymore. There are other things you can do.

CCY: And closer to home… why do you teach at Carson City Yoga?

Diane: Because I know and respect the people here, because it is a community that I like to be part of, and because I think there is a need in the community here for people with arthritis.

CCY: Is there anything else you would like people to know about you as a teacher, or as a human?

Diane: Well, I want them to know that when they come into my class, I am teaching the person who shows up. There will not be a situation where they come in and the class is too hard for them. Or, if its not challenging, it is possible to modify the class for their personal needs.

CCY: Do you typically have people of different levels and abilities in the same class?

Diane: Yes, and the last class I taught was a perfect example of that. By the end of the series, we were going through the flow of the class, because there is a flow that develops, and some people were doing it on the mat, some people were doing it in chairs, some people were doing it against the wall, and everybody knew what they needed to do, and it just flowed. That’s it, that’s how it should be.

CCY: Final questions… just for fun. Do you have a favorite pose?

Diane: I love warrior 2. I like the concentration and the focus, I like the fact that I can do it, AND that I can get a little deeper into it each time, and I think that’s why I like it.

CCY: And the flip side? What’s your least favorite?

Diane: Tree. The Tree is my great learning one. Because I always learn something new about my alignment, and I can explore it. Like maybe a limitation is because of this, or because of that, or maybe its all of these things, and there is so much, so much to that simple pose. It continues to teach me about my body. And about my mind. Once when I was taking a class, we were asked to do our least favorite pose, and notice what happens to the mind. Well, what happens to the mind is that it immediately goes to “i hate this pose, I can’t do it, if I were a better teacher, I could do this pose better…” all this wild mind stuff! So it helps you also learn about your mind, and about meditation, how to bring it down and calming it down, and what a connection we have with our body.

Tree is an important one to persevere with too, because there are balance elements there. And I think that’s one we should always keep doing. And then there are the purely practical poses… like Malasana! The more I do malasana, the more I can weed my garden! So some poses are good for just keeping us moving from a very functional perspective.

 

CCY: Diane, thank you so much for sharing your self with us here in the interview and at the studio, and for telling us more about your Yoga for Arthritis class.

For those of you reading….  watch our schedule for a new Yoga for Arthritis class series. The series is offered 1 -2 times per year.  If you need more info on the series, and do not see it on the schedule currently, please send us a note and let us know. We will get back to you with more information. And meanwhile,  if you see Diane in a class be sure and say hello!

2 Comments

  1. Diane can you please tel us when your next Yoga for Arthris class series will begin? Thanks so much donny Loux

    • Hi Donny – I am taking the liberty of replying for Diane here. She will be offering her Yoga for Arthritis class again in the Spring. I will pass along your info, and make you are notified when the dates are confirmed. In the meantime, we are offering a Senior Yoga / Adaptive Yoga class starting January 16th. Diane will be an alternate teacher for that, and will be helping to plan the class. We would love to see you there! Here’s the info: Yoga for Seniors

      Thanks for posting your question. Let us know if you need more info! You can contact us here as well.
      Amy

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