More about Melissa, MYOGA & EarthWideTribe

I am a 13th lineal descendant of Pocahontas. What does that even mean? It’s taken me most of my life to “come out” about this lineage as I sensed it was complicated. Today I am exploring the tangled skein of the US origins in a shared conversation with Lakota activist Chas Jewett.

I mention my ancestry, which is primarily Scots/English with this smallest dash of Powhatan, because I have a deep respect for roots, which is evident in the foundation practices I teach, MYOGA Basics. A reverence for the spirallic nature of existence is seen in the MYOGA Seasons. And when we learn to move from firm foundations and yet dynamically roll through changes, we are gifted with greater freedom to unfold, as in MYOGA Flows. Sometimes we benefit from Sounds or Restores. And for those who are blessed to conceive, there’s Mamas.

blending in with the locals in Mumbai, 2000

I was born in my ancestral homeland, along the Chesapeake Bay of Virginia. I was raised in the northeast—Pennsylvania and New Jersey–and went to Cornell University in upstate New York. New York City was the last place I lived in the US before heading to India in 1999, where I lived for 2 years.

I like to think I am a mix of Northern directness, balanced by Southern gentility. In my yoga teaching I see this interplay as being a combination between a Nana and a Dominatrix. There’s the side of me that holds the whip–that requires students to play at their edge and not back down when the intensity builds, but to actually welcome the opportunity. And then there’s the Nana–the side of me that loves them before, through and beyond the intensity, that swaddles them in unconditional support. It’s a balance of ahimsa–non-violence or love–with tapas–the fire to stay in the fire.

MYOGA practice evolved from a life-long exposure to alternative forms of health and lifestyle. While still a young girl, age 7, my mother trained as a massage therapist at Kripalu Center and I played at yoga, meditation and conscious movement (DansKinetics). At the time, my family were practicing Nichiren Buddhists as well, so chanting and devotion were a daily part of my life.

I love the poetry of movement and from a young age have danced, cross-country skied, ridden horses, studied martial arts, even dabbled in marksmanship with riflery, clay-pigeon shooting and archery. On the competitive scale I was a runner and also did some rowing, volleyball & basketball. Throughout these activities, my connection to breath and stretching, as discovered early on in yoga, aided me. During highschool, a relative introduced me to Kundalini Yoga. After university, I began to create an increasingly regular practice of Kundalini yoga on my own.

first round of MYOGA videos, born in Puerto Rico, 2005

The decision to become a teacher came out of the realization that this was something completely aligned with my personal values that I could travel with; something I could share with people anywhere in the world. I returned to Kripalu Center to complete a 200-hour teacher certification in 2002 and have been teaching ever since. My teaching style that continues to develop through time—MYOGA—emphasises awareness, compassion and the movement of energy. MYOGA is playful yet precise, and is simple yet works on subtle levels.

teaching MYOGA Family at International Yoga Conference, Auckland 2013

In 2003 I completed a certification in Pregnancy Yoga, in 2004 I trained in Positional Release Therapy which I incorporate into my one-on-one yoga sessions and in 2009 I was certified in the Radiant Child yoga teacher training. I have also been a member of the Kripalu Yoga Teacher’s Association and the New Zealand branch of the International Yoga Teachers Association. I am a current member of the Yoga Alliance as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT, meaning I have taught 1000+ hours—currently more like 8,000 hours across 6 countries, wow!).

beautiful students in beautiful studio Powa Centre, Wellington, 2012

2008 saw a further evolution of my teaching as I took on a commercial studio lease in Wellington, New Zealand and also became a teacher of teachers. I developed MAP, MYOGA Apprentice Programme, a 200 hour teacher training that was registered with Yoga Alliance. Ten women have graduated from the two 9-month rounds of MAP that have been held since then. For a couple years I enjoyed the challenge of teaching 5-7 minutes of yoga on the New Zealand Good Morning Show. From 2012 I had the honor of spending nearly 2 years teaching women in the drug treatment unit of our local prison.

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a beginner again, with Ana Forrest in Oakland, 2016

At the close of 2014 I finally joined the Aquarian Age and did the hard work of translating the on-going dialogue that I see yoga teaching to be, into online practices that are now accessible to a wider audience. This shift has not only enabled my students to continue their myoga practice wherever they are in the world, it’s also made it possible for me to teach in person across the globe! For more about my yogic self, check out my website.

In 2015, after 14 years of continuous teaching, I took a “spiritual sabbatical” to question deeply what has become the Yoga Industry, and what my place in this Industry might be. As part of my inquiry, I did preliminary training in the Bonnie Bainbridge tradition Body-Mind Centering. Additionally, after 6 years of desiring to train with Ana Forrest, that dream finally came true and I completed a 70 hour Forrest Yoga Advanced Teacher Training in early 2016.

publicity photo for PocaHAUNTus by David Allen, 2014

In former lives, I’ve been a photographer, writer, designer, actor & a milliner. In 2014 I brought nearly all of these careers together in my solo show PocaHAUNTus, Shapeshifting History into Herstory. This blog emerged from that colossal work & my desire to connect with my earthwidetribe. One benefit of not maintaining the commercial overheads of a yoga studio is the freedom to reconnect with folks all around this glorious globe. After many years of not being able to return to my homeland, I did & was given my first prayersong, a water song from the Northern Ojibway. Since then I have been fortunate enough to prayerwalk Lake Seneca & the whole length of the Missouri River with Ojibway elder Sharon Day. Where this road will lead only Creator can say…

To contact me, write to melissa@myoga.co.nz

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