After standing at a crossroads in her yoga life, Julie Dohrman is moving forward. She began practicing in 1997 and became an Anusara teacher in 2005. Last year, when the scandal broke, Julie’s life immediately changed. But she’s taken the wisdom she learned from the chaotic experience, invented a new teacher training, and has big plans for the future. Lisa Dawn Angerame sat down with her to hear all about it.
Lisa Dawn Angerame: Tell me about your very first yoga class.
Julie Dohrman: I took it in 1997. It was a Kundalini yoga class with Lea Kraemer. I loved breathing and moving in an expressive way, and was elated to find her also teaching vinyasa yoga at Crunch gym. I met Amy Ippoliti there, who had just become certified with Anusara. I found in her classes that I was learning something about my body, bio-mechanics, energy flow, the mythology of yoga, and its history. I did my first teacher training with Amy at the newly opened Virayoga in 2002 and have been teaching yoga ever since.
LDA: Who are your main influences?
JD: My mind was opened and the fire of knowledge was stoked from studying philosophies and mythology of yoga, in particular Tantra lineages, with Douglas Brooks. He was my primary teacher for bringing to life the background and meaning of yoga. In 2007, I met Paul Muller-Ortega, another great teacher of meditation and scholar of Tantric and Kashmir Shaivite traditions. His teaching dove deep into my bloodstream and spoke to a part of me that yearned to be fed, that of the heart of practice through meditation. The influential triad of John Friend showing me the pathway to healing through the body and asana, Douglas in understanding the theory of the practices, and now Paul carving out the pathway to deeper practices themselves through meditation, has been very fortunate. I am filled with gratitude to all my teachers, past and present.
LDA: How hard was the whole John Friend scandal on you?
JD: It was a shocking escapade. It felt like a rug of stability had been pulled out suddenly, and unexpectedly. But what's grown out of it has far exceeded my own expectations, including the increased ability to use yoga and its disciplines to help me process enormous change. I see a stability I've already had existing as wisdom, patience, and perseverance. A sense of creative freedom is blossoming wildly, feeding an existing passion for yoga that's being channeled into teaching.
LDA: I know community was a big thing for Anusara. What’s happened to it?
JD: I can only speak for my own experience of community, which feels like there's a vacancy. It broke some friendships which saddens me. People were taking sides, people were hurt and people were angry (and still are) worried about their lives and careers. I see people moving on though, and unexpected new connections are being forged which feels great. Community is being rebuilt.
So in the same breath, it’s a very exciting time and I feel that what broke apart last year is a huge opportunity. It's been the proverbial blessing in disguise for perspective I've needed in becoming more self sufficient with the teachings, putting them to full use, and collaborating in new ways. This is what teachers do and my teachers have all done - instill the ability of questioning the value and meaning, purpose and use of any teachings in ones life, and learn to develop them for yourself.
LDA: You’ve created your own teacher training. What will it be like?
JD: Shaktiyoga New York teacher training is RYS-200 with Yoga Alliance. The word shakti is Sanskrit for 'flowing energy' and a name for the Goddess. Shaktiyoga is a practice opening to this flow, which is abundant and positive in nature. From my own experience, leading life from this place leads to enormous peace of mind and strength when dealing with challenges.
I aim to teach teachers how to weave this message and higher meaning of the yoga practice into the classes, into the poses themselves, and into the breath.
It needs to be experienced as a component of a spiritual practice transmitted through the body, heart and mind, not just body. Trainees need to know the bio-mechanics, anatomy, and technique of the asanas, as well as philosophical traditions behind the practice, have a meditation practice, and be committed to their own personal growth. I will also offer more freedom for trainees to explore self-expression.
LDA: It sounds very well thought out. How would you define your teaching style now?
JD: I am discovering even more ability to convey teachings in my own voice and to teach what I love. I teach with a theme because it serves students to have a focus for asana as a spiritual practice, and I still use alignment technique because the body deserves that kind of attention and refinement. I love the classroom as a playground for like-minded people to meet and find their common ground as the love of yoga. So, my classes are energized by passion and curiosity, and a desire to share this stuff. Classes are intelligent, determined and uplifting. I am moving onward, fully rooted in my own practice of using yoga for transformation, growth, and healing.