So You Think You Can Yoga
by: Susy Vishmid
My mother tells me she still kicks herself, almost 24 years later, for dragging me to our local ballet studio here in Santa Monica, CA. Unlike most little girls who dream of sugar plum fairies and tutus, I resented my early years in ballet. As far as I can remember, I always marched to the beat of my own drum. Even during my first ballet recital at age four where I broke away from the rest of the group, took the stage to myself and improvised my own “choreography.” Ballet’s glitz and glamour fades all too quickly once you immerse yourself in its insular culture. The occult world of ballet is a world I love and hate.
I began my ballet training at age 4 at Westside Ballet School in Santa Monica, CA under the direction of Yvonne Mounsey and Rosemary Valaire where I danced various lead roles in Westside Ballet’s repertoire. After auditioning and being awarded scholarships to various professional ballet schools, I packed up my bags and moved to Seattle at age 14 for the summer to continue training at Pacific Northwest Ballet School and then one year later to the San Francisco Ballet School. By age 16, I accepted a scholarship from The Rock School (former official school of the Pennsylvania Ballet). Again, I packed my bags, waved goodbye to Ma and Pa and moved across the country to Philadelphia to be a full-time advanced-level student. I sacrificed what most would describe as the “ordinary high school experience,” not by choice, but because I didn’t know or even care to know anything other than what I was doing. I left high school and started a correspondence program during what should have been my sophomore year of high school to accommodate my training schedule. While completing my studies at the Rock School, I also worked closely with the Pennsylvania Ballet as a corps de ballet member during their 1999-2000 season. Ultimately, the immense pressure of working as a full time ballet dancer at such a young age took a severe toll on my physical and emotional health and I decided to move back to Los Angeles.
Upon my return to Los Angeles, I experienced what could only be described as a major existential crisis. I didn’t know anything else; I ate, slept, dreamt and breathed ballet. Eventually, I decided to go to college and graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California with a double degree in Communication and Philosophy. At this point in my life, I basically renounced ballet and had a “typical college experience.” If you aren’t part of the ballet world you want to be as far removed from it as possible; there is no in between. I went to Westside Ballet to take class, but very rarely. Throughout college I remained extremely active and worked out like crazy because my sense of self, my identity, was inextricably linked to movement and being physical. After college I joined corporate America because that’s “what you do” and worked in marketing for a commercial real estate company. I was financially independent, finally! Then the market crashed in 2007 and I found myself out of a job. It was during this time that I also went through a major medical crisis which led me to yoga. This was the turning point in my young life. Everything I am now and everything I am involved in now is a direct result of my realization that life is too short to not follow your passion.
My insatiable desire to practice and learn about yoga coupled with my extensive ballet background led me to complete the Yoga Works 200-Hour Teacher Training and the Yoga Works 300-Hour Professional Teacher Training Program as of 2009. I was fortunate enough to work with some of today’s most sought after instructors including Annie Carpenter, Lisa Walford, Erich Schiffman, and Heather Seiniger. Through this yogic journey, I realized physical strength, balance, and mental clarity I never knew I had. I couldn’t believe what my body was capable of. In this very beautiful and unexpected way I rediscovered and reconnected with my own potential and reclaimed my place in the professional world of ballet. This new and exciting sense of physical understanding and awareness was crucial to my success in ballet after taking a six-year hiatus. As of present, in addition to teaching yoga and ballet I continue dancing professionally since my return in 2008 having danced with several professional ballet companies including California Contemporary Ballet, City Ballet of Los Angeles, California Riverside Ballet and Coast City Ballet, American Ballet of Los Angeles and Napoles Ballet Theatre in San Francisco, CA. I also signed with a dance agent and do commercial and print dance/modeling.
I proudly launched my blog, So You Think You Can Yoga?® (www.soyouthinkyoucanyoga.com) in September 2010 which generates over 100,000 visitors each month and over 3,000 unique visitors each month. So You Think You Can Yoga?® (www.soyouthinkyoucanyoga.com) is experiencing astronomical growth. Traffic by the end of June 2011 more than doubled from the beginning of the month. So You Think You Can Yoga?® is a platform where I publish and share with my loyal readers a unique potpourri of yoga, philosophy, anatomy, movement, dance and seemingly everyday occurrences derived from my daily endeavors. So You Think You Can Yoga?® is an evolution of one yogic thought, event or experience into the next. My mission is to infuse a deep understanding of movement with upbeat energy, meticulous instruction, and profound appreciation for the philosophy and beauty behind yoga. Students tell me they leave my classes feeling empowered. I try to teach people how to move with purpose and intention. Just call me a facilitator of physical, mental and spiritual wholeness.