Meet a Teacher: Dresden Truesdell

Posted by on Jan 30, 2019 in carson city yoga studio, meet a teacher | 2 comments

Dresden Truesdell

Meet Dresden Truesdell, our featured teacher for the month of February.  Dresden is our newest teacher in the studio, and is a newcomer to the world of teaching. Here, she tells us a bit about her background, and her path to yoga, and touches briefly on the relationship of yoga to her art.

CCY: Hi Dresden. Let’s start with a brief background. How did you come to yoga, and how long have you been practicing? 

Dresden: Well when I was about 14 or 15, there was a lot of turmoil going on in my personal life… my parents were splitting up, all this different stuff was happening. And you get to this age; I think 14 is a magical age, when you start to question who you are and what you believe. You start to separate yourself more from the ideals and thoughts of your parents. I was definitely interested in studying different religions. I would check out books from the library; I’ve always been a big reader. I spent a lot of my time reading different scriptures, reading different accounts from people who have had spiritual experiences, and getting more acquainted with other people’s feelings on those matters.

During that time, it was brought to my attention, maybe like a spiritual prompting, to go and try a yoga class. I was like, “Well I’ve never done yoga; I don’t really know anything about yoga.” I wasn’t raised physically active. I didn’t like to exercise. I was pretty “squishy”. I’m not afraid to say that. I was not the kid who liked gym class. I was a bookworm and I kept to myself throughout school. And I thought, well this is kind of silly, but I went to a yoga class. I’m not going to say it changed my life immediately, but I still remember that class. I remember how I felt. I remember what I wore. I remember I had a mohawk. I was not the typical person to come into a yoga class. I didn’t look like a yogi, and I was only 14 or 15 year old. I’m not going to say I started doing yoga every week, but from that time on, every time something hard came up in my life, a little voice, my intuition said, “Go try a yoga class.”

CCY: Do you remember what it was you felt at the first class?

Dresden: I felt hot because it was really warm in there. And I felt peaceful. It was a lot of work. And looking back and remembering some of the poses that we did in that class, they were hard. Today, that’s not a lot of work. At that time, legs up the wall, for me, I couldn’t even do it.  I was so scooted out from the wall; I was totally inflexible.

I’d say I am still inflexible, but I’ve learned to work around it. That’s part of yoga, modifying it for your body and for what works for you. I’m not a huge fan of props in my own personal practice; I never have been. But I do find that I use them when I need them. I find my way around my own physical limitations to get into a posture.

CCY: It’s so good for us teachers to remember what it’s like to be a beginner.

Dresden: Yes, take yourself back.

Then, when I was in college, my mom passed away.  It seemed kind of sudden to me. I had moved out of state to go to college in Southern Utah, and my dad wanted me to move back. So I ended up not even going to school there. I came back here. The week before the semester started at WNC, I signed up for classes. And one of those classes was a 9:00 a.m. yoga class, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The little voice told me: Go take that yoga class. Honestly, I remember about 5 things from that yoga class. But I don’t remember anything else from that semester.

As you can imagine, you go through these huge emotional upheavals. Grief is huge. When you lose somebody that you didn’t expect to lose and that you have unresolved issues with. And to this day, it is a struggle. That time has really stained the rest. Yoga has been a tool of transitioning from not being able to deal with these emotions, to understanding how my body is reacting, because it’s a physical reaction.

Dresden Vishnu's couch

Vishnu’s Couch

Yoga is a really great way to calm your system, to look inside and answer those questions that you ask when you face death. I think that’s really important.

I didn’t do yoga again seriously after that semester for a couple of years. Later, when I got married, I thought, “Man, I am getting really out of shape and I’m going to end up just like my mom if I don’t do something”. Because she was incredibly obese. She struggled with it her whole life. It was always on my mind, as a child, like, “what am I eating?” She would ask these questions of herself.  She was always on different diets. I honestly didn’t learn how to feed myself until I was an adult. I didn’t know you could eat a raw avocado until I was 21. And so, when I got married, I thought, “I’ve gained a lot of weight since my mom passed away.” I remember looking at myself and thinking, I really need to do something about this. But I hate exercising so much. I hate running. I have never been a physically active person. So, what I did, I started making myself do 10-20 minutes of yoga every day. At first, it was incredibly difficult. I could not believe that 10 minutes of yoga could kick my butt. It took me about a year to get past just 10 minutes each day. I guess I have to remember that when I teach someone who comes into an hour-long class, who has maybe never done yoga before. Ten minutes can really blast you.

CCY: Were you taking any classes at the time? Or was this all home practice?

Dresden: This was all home practice because I was really self-conscious about how I was looking. I had gained weight and couldn’t fit into my clothes. That’s just the consequence of dealing with the events of life. Sometimes we cope in different ways. Not to say that I cope by eating, but if you’re not paying attention and your metabolism slows down….

Anyway, by that summer, I lost a bunch of weight and I got down to this number I never thought I would get back down to. All this time we were trying to have a baby and then I got pregnant. That was really exciting.  I did some prenatal yoga at home while I was pregnant, because I was still really self conscious. I don’t remember a lot about being pregnant except that I hated it and I don’t want to do it ever again. (laughs) But I had a video and I was able to do yoga all through my pregnancy. By the time I had gotten pregnant I had increased my time doing yoga to about 40 minutes, almost every day.

So, after being pregnant, and after I had my son, this is when things got really serious (with my yoga practice). I actually had to have an emergency C-Section which was a traumatic experience for me, so again, another thing: Hey get back on your mat. Deal with this.

CCY: So, Dresden, in those early days of  your daily practice, was it mostly a physical practice for you? Or were you starting to discover other aspects of it at that time?

Dresden: Interestingly, the reason I chose yoga is because I am an incredibly spiritual and religious person. I like to go to church every Sunday. I do all kinds of different activities. I read scripture from multiple religions every day. I’m very into reading about those kinds of things. At that time, I hated exercise so much, but I knew that supposedly yoga can be a spiritual practice too. So even though at first it was more for the physical fitness, I chose it because I knew it was attached to spiritual practices. As I got more fluent in the structure of sequences and the alignment of the poses, I was able to see and feel how it was spiritual and why they taught the teachings like that. In Patanjali’s sutras, my favorite translation is by Swami Satchidananda. I love him. Everything he writes is fantastic.Dresden with Yoga Books

I just latched onto that book after I had my son. I started acquiring different texts mostly after I had him. One day, my son was about 6 months old, and I said to my husband, “I need to do yoga teacher training.” This was three years before I actually did it.  And it wasn’t necessarily the thought, I am going to be a teacher. I never thought that for a second. Teaching was never the intention.

But I became more studious about it. I got a book called, The Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga, by Srivatsa Ramaswami. And let me tell you, that book still has an influence on me. It has a lot of elements of viniyoga, but it predates that. There’s a lot of moving in and out of postures, and then holding them, using your breath with the movements.

I think my son was two when I started coming to classes. I started coming to Steve’s class every Tuesday for a whole summer. That was my night. My husband and I traded nights because we don’t have a lot of family around. And having a baby, let me tell you what, having a baby when you don’t have family around, is a challenge we didn’t prepare for. We didn’t leave our house for two years. We couldn’t do anything. My son is four now and we’re just starting to get the hang of life again.

CCY: When did you decide to take the teacher training program?

Dresden: So I came to Steve’s Tuesday class for a while, and because I took that class, I got some really good alignment cues, real life alignment cues. I took those into my practice.  Fast forward a bit, I think it was the next year, that little voice was saying: Now is the time. It was such an urgent feeling I couldn’t ignore. My husband’s looking at me like, You’re crazy, but OK, we’ll spend money we don’t have for you to do this thing. But he made it happen. Because he’s amazing. He makes everything happen. He supports me through all of this. He is not into yoga, doesn’t care about yoga at all. He understands that it’s my thing. It’s been my thing since that first summer when we were together.  

I found Kim Orenstein’s training, somehow, probably just from researching the different options. At that time, when I signed up, I wasn’t doing yoga every day as I had been the summer previously. The summer, previously, I was doing yoga every day, an hour and a half. No big deal. And then a year later, it’s like, “Oh, I went to the gym today, I don’t need to do yoga.” You forget. You get busy. I had a lot going on that summer. By December, of my training, I was doing it every day again. I made it my goal to do it every day.

Now my goal is every day except Sunday. Sometimes I do it on Sunday, anyway. Every day I do yoga. I got so much out of that training. A lot of the stuff they talked about I already knew because I’d done a lot of reading, prior. It was the social interaction. I am not exaggerating, for the last six years, I had not had any social interaction except for at church and at the grocery store. It was eye-opening; it was culture shock at first. I didn’t ever think it would be like that. I never thought I had become that person who was so insular, so I re-learned a bit of social stuff. And I learned how to adjust poses. Some of the language. We spent a lot of time on anatomy, which was great. I was really into anatomy because I’m an artist. I took a class at WNC where we got to dissect cadavers. I got a lot out of that. Her emphasis on anatomical correctness and alignment resonated with my studies of Srivatsa Ramaswami. And she introduced me to Gary Kraftsow’s Viniyoga which I thought was amazing. It all adds to my style.

CCY: So you are an artist – how does that weave in to your yoga practice? 

Dresden: I am. Yes, I guess I am.  That’s what I wanted to do since I was ten. When I was a ten-year-old child, I said to myself, “ I am going to be an artist!” I proceeded to read every biography I could get my hands on about Michelangelo. He was my favorite at the time. I love his art work. His anatomical studies influenced me to study anatomy and do portraiture and figures, which is what I love to do.Dresden with art work

I love collaging, which I think is a legitimate art form, paper and scissors, cutting out stuff. My main medium, if I am going to be doing art work, is colored pencils and oil painting glaze.  Not water soluble oil paints, but the real oil paints, and glaze. There’s a fascinating chemical reaction that happens with the glaze. It heats the pigment up and you get thin transparent layers over the colored pencil. It really makes it pop. And I book-bind. And I crochet. You ask me to crochet anything and I can do it.

I actually always think of crochet stitches when I am going through an asana sequence at home, like I am making a spiritual scarf or something. One pose hooks into another, like a chain, that allows you to get into a crown pose. I think it is extremely important to have some quiet, non-technology activity that you can be absorbed in, like needlework and painting. Something that makes you think with your hands, where you have to pay attention. That is such a great way to train the mind to quiet down, especially in a world where there is so much noise in public spaces, everywhere you go it’s loud and stressful. We don’t think about it, but it’s always loud. Just finding that quiet space to sit down for a while and let your hands take over something, that is huge.

Making something with my hands is actually one of the ways I meditate. At least for me, when I sit down to make something, to paint, I forget about everything else, eating, sleeping, it is like a trance.

Seated meditation is the same feeling, just a different expression. A good asana sequence, that is the same feeling, being connected with the true inner self, touching the fundamental parts of our spiritual nature. I can look back at something I worked on, and instantly I am back in that headspace, where it is just me and the painting. Art is living meditation for me.

CCY: What a beautiful connection between art and yoga and meditation. Thank you for sharing that.

CCY: When did you complete your teacher training?

Dresden: May 2018.

CCY: So you are a brand new teacher.

Dresden: Brand new. And even when I graduated, the thought was not that I am going to be a teacher. But the urgent voice kept telling me to do these things. And sometimes it was really hard. Like, ‘you need to get your independent contractor business license’.  That was insurmountable for me. Every time somebody has told me I can’t do something, or shouldn’t do something, I would stop. And this year, if someone told me I can’t do this, I ignored them and I listened to the voice, that guide that said, ‘Do this, you need to do this’.  There were tears over this business license and insurance. And the computer stuff because I get really overwhelmed. I’m kind of high-strung. But I did it anyway. After all that stuff was done, I was like, ‘Whoa! I did it’. I realized that my son, who says, “I can’t do it, I can’t do it…” and then he does it. Well, he’s just like me. So, it wasn’t my intention to become a teacher, but I guess that was what needed to happen.

CCY: It did need to happen, because here you are at Carson City Yoga. We are glad to have you! Can you describe your style of teaching? If somebody’s never been to your class and they want to know, should I go to Dresden’s class? What would you say to that person? In brief.

Dresden - Revolved Half Moon

Revolved Half Moon Pose

Dresden: Anybody coming to my class should know that I’m not super formal. I’ll probably crack lots of jokes. If I say something that offends you, it’s probably a joke. I like to hear my students laugh. I think I’m hilarious, so just keep that in mind. And I talk a lot about alignment. I talk a lot about technique. It’s important to me. I struggle with ability vs. technique. Looking good in the pose vs. feeling good in the pose, which are two different things.

CCY: So you teach….

Dresden: I tend to teach ‘looking good in the pose’ and then adjusting to feel good in the pose. A lot of people getting into Warrior II for the first time are not going to feel good, no matter what you do. So, I’d rather see your knee over your ankle. Or your foot pointed straight forward. You know, all these alignment cues  you can give for Warrior II, for instance. That’s just me personally. That might change as I get older. There are some days that I just can’t do stuff because I have arthritis in some of my joints.

CCY: OK, so your classes are alignment-based, while allowing room for personal adjustments.

Dresden: Yes, and I encourage props, thanks to you. You have taught me to use props. I never used props. Kim Orenstein is big on props too. When I was learning nobody in the classes really needed them; it didn’t come up a lot. But if somebody’s going to do a triangle for the first time, let’s grab a chair or a block because this is going to be really intense lateral bending at a weird angle that you’re not used to bending. You feel like you’re going to break in half maybe. I definitely encourage the use of props to extend a pose.  If somebody can’t look good in a pose, I can make them look good with a prop. That’s how I approach adjusting: do they look good? Do they feel good? And then we can go from there.

CCY:  And do you work with pranayama in your classes?

Dresden: I always instruct breathing. Breathing in and breathing out.

CCY: So briefly, for people who might be reading, Pranayama is a word for working with energy through breathing practices.

Dresden: Yes. I think that breath control is the main thing. You do yoga, so you can do Pranayama, so you can sit in meditation. Since I’ve started studying seriously, that line of logic, I’ve always come back to that. You do the physical exercise part, with your breath. You’re bringing your breath and connecting it to your body. And then you sit and do some Pranayama breathing. There’s generally not a lot of time to do that at the end of class, but I’m thinking in my Friday class, I’m going to be putting some Pranayama in there.

CCY: OK, let’s go into that.  So right now you’re teaching one weekly class. You’re teaching the Slow Flow on Thursday nights. You’re doing lots of subbing, which we really appreciate. And you’re going to be adding a class on one Friday night per month. Talk a little bit about what that class is going to look like. I know the class is still forming so you can keep your description general.

Dresden: I want it to be a next level class…..there are a lot of beginning classes at the studio. There are a lot of students who might be ready to do a bit more. I’ve noticed some people want more of a challenge. I want it to be an intermediate class. A beginner could come if they wanted to, but they would need to be pretty comfortable in their body. I’m going to offer the alignment and props, but I want to do more flows. I want to do vinyasa, which is kind of up dog, down dog, between the poses. Some might think it’s more of a physical exercise class. But we will be doing that physical exercise and then we will be lying or sitting and doing a Pranayama exercise afterward. That’s going to be huge. Normally you go to a vinyasa flow class and you leave right after. And you go about your life and you don’t do the meditation. You don’t sit and do the Pranayama after. My goal is to get really warmed-up, burn up the seeds of our spiritual obstacles through an intense posture practice. Then sit down, breathe, and then maybe if there’s time, do a little quiet inner reflection. I may even encourage people to bring journals at some point to write down any thoughts they have afterward. So, it’s going to be more intense, a deeper inner practice.

CCY: Great. We will have all the information on this class up on the website. 

CCY: So, Dresden, why do you teach yoga? You went into all of your education, not with the idea of teaching, but with the idea of deepening your own practice. Do you have a sense now, is it something that you feel compelled to do? What do you feel when you teach?

Dresden TruesdellDresden: I will say this; I love teaching. There is definitely a compulsion there, too. Like I have this set of skills, and it has benefited me personally so much, that I want to share it with people. It makes me feel good to give someone the power to tackle a new pose or a transition between postures, or to watch a person have that a-ha! moment when they become aware of what their body is doing in a pose. And I really like to speak in front of a group. So, it’s made me feel really good. Really combats anxiety and depression. Because I get all mopey and depressed. Just something I’ve always struggled with. I’m kind of a moody person. I’m not a flavor everybody is going to like.  

CCY: That’s true of everybody – some people like us, some don’t…

Dresden: That’s true of everybody. Usually it’s instantaneous. People will either like me right away or hate me right away. And I’m OK with that. I’ve come to terms with that. But I love teaching a class. At first it was a little intimidating. But I know what I’m talking about. I know this stuff. This is something I’ve spent a lot of years studying. I spend a lot of time studying, currently, and I feel like I have a lot to say, and still a lot to learn, of course. I like to talk about the things that I’m interested in. So teaching yoga has felt really natural. And I learn more about teaching every time I teach because I’m not perfect yet.

CCY: Nobody is. It takes a while. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a perfect teacher.  Here at Carson City Yoga, I think we are all still learning! 

Dresden: I’m glad to be here. I feel very blessed.

Dresden seated twist with arm bind

Ardha Matsyendrasana -Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (a seated twist with arm bind)

CCY: Dresden, what is your definition of yoga?

Dresden: A very interesting question. When I was doing my training, we were required to read about 10 books. I read them all. And in every chapter, there was some new definition of yoga. Yoga is this….yoga is that. The first one is yoga is union, it means to yoke things together. There’s this whole, ‘it’s a strand connecting everything’.  ‘Yoga’s about flexibility’. ‘Yoga’s about getting to know yourself.’ ‘It’s about sitting in meditation.’ All these different things that you’re going to read that yoga is. And it’s all of those things. But for me, yoga is a way to pray and to express myself physically and spiritually at once. It has really evolved into that.

CCY: That’s beautiful.

Dresden: A moving meditation, if you will. And then a seated meditation. I will say this about meditation, I’m not a meditation expert, but I have been meditating more than I ever have been in my life. And on the days that I can’t meditate, it doesn’t matter because I am always able to access the meditative space. If I need to, I close my eyes, which is the easiest way for me to get there. Look at the inner place; a good focus for that is to look up at the space between my eyebrows. Sometimes it doesn’t come easy, if my brow is all furrowed and I’m all stressed out or there’s noise happening and I can’t access it. If I can just take a few breaths. Breathe.  I can access that space. I can see those things I see in meditation, even if I can’t do it every day. That’s because of the asana practice.

CCY: Thank you for that. That’s beautiful.  How do you live your yoga in the world (off the mat)?

Dresden: I try to have this firm mentality in mind: “In the world, but not of the world.” I enjoy my life, I go to movies sometimes or eat a piece of cake. All things in moderation. But I try to always come back to my baseline, or keep in mind those truths I know personally, those things that fill me with conviction. I don’t think it is necessary to go off into the mountain in the clouds to have spiritual experiences. Truth is so close to us all the time, but it takes daily, consistent effort to even begin to see it. I always have that mindset of “is this adding to my spiritual progress, or is it baggage?” Not to say I am perfect at discriminating! I over-indulge sometimes, but I try to do better the next time. Every choice in life is part of our own personal test; it’s not about winning or losing or what someone else is doing. It’s about, am I doing the best I can do today? Can I remember to breathe in the moment?  

CCY: OK, fun questions: What is your favorite asana? And your least favorite asana?

Dresden - Krishna's pose

Indudalasana – Krishna’s Pose

Dresden: I can’t really choose. But I think one of my favorites is, it’s a variation of Indudalasana, with both feet on the ground. This pose is also called Krishna’s Pose, and it’s a standing, balancing side bend. I just love this pose. It’s not hard; anybody can do it. It requires a little bit of balance, and I think it’s beautiful. It looks like you’re dancing; it’s just one of my favorites.

I also love Anantasana, which is called Vishnu’s couch, and it is a pose of infinity. You’re lying on the floor, your leg is up, and you’re holding on to your big toe. I really like it. You’re Vishnu’s couch. You’re steady and strong. You’re balancing which you wouldn’t think you would be laying on your side.  It’s got a lot going on. (note: see video below for Dresden teaching Vishnu’s couch)

And then, I love twists. I love Ardha Matsyendrasana which translates as Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (a seated twist). I love binding (wrapping arms around the body) in that pose.

Dresden, astavakrasana

Astavakrasana, or 8-angle pose

My favorite list has to include an arm balance. I don’t know if I could do it today, but I love Astavakrasana, or 8-angle pose. I also love grasshopper pose. Those are two arm balances that I just adore because they’re so super challenging. I don’t do them every day, but I just love them.

CCY: Your least favorite? Or poses that are really challenging for you?

Parivrtta Trikonasana -Revolved Triangle

Dresden:  Parivrtta Trikonasana. Revolved Triangle. If it didn’t exist, I wouldn’t really miss it….I practice it everyday because I hate it so much.

CCY: I love that one. But it does take practice!

Dresden: Not my favorite. And the same goes with revolved half-moon pose. These are basically the same pose, one with your leg up and one with your leg down.

Also, I have an aversion to inversions. I like doing inversions, but I have a lot of fear in my lower back. I don’t know why; I don’t have any lower back issues. Maybe it’s because I was pregnant or had that emergency C-Section, but it’s very psychological.

CCY:  So you dislike inversions?

Dresden: It’s not a dislike. It’s more of a respectful relationship with inversions. I just take my time. I use a wall. Most of the time I try to practice headstands away from the wall as often as I feel confident in doing that. It’s hard for me to practice a pose when I can’t watch myself do it in a mirror because I practice in front of a mirror at home. That comes back to my technique vs. ability. I can do a headstand. But if I can’t see myself do it, it becomes 10 times harder.

CCY: Well, thanks for all this, Dresden. Is there anything that we did not touch on that you would like people to know about you as a teacher or as a human?

Dresden: We covered it earlier, I am pretty much a strong flavor.

CCY: I like your strong flavor.

Dresden: See, you’re one of the ones that likes it. If you don’t like me at first, give me another try. Because I’m really moody. I try to keep it in check, but some days I’m really moody and it’s not personal. Unless it is personal, in which case, I will probably tell you. But I can be really moody and if my face looks mad, I’m probably not mad.  So, give me another chance if you don’t like me. That’s what I’d say to anybody.

CCY: Thanks for taking the time to talk today, Dresden.  And to our readers – we will have all the info up on the website about Dresden’s upcoming classes.  Come on in, and try out Dresden’s flavor of yoga!

2 Comments

  1. Haiku 4 U

    Recline, Vishnu Couch.
    Timeless laying, cupping head.
    Smile, God’s relaxed One!

    * God/dess too many syllables for this form yet is the intended neuter Deity

    Life is a collâge.
    You, me, this, there, what, combined.
    Canvas painted, fun!

    Sparkly clown nose while
    Scriptures shine like sun and moon.
    Laughing breaths of light!

    • Fantastic! Thanks for this!

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