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by | Oct 1st
Erin, a yoga and meditation teacher. Picture taken by Dave Nyquist.

Hi loves!

Wow. Wow. WOWWW. Those are basically my only words for how excited I am to roll out today’s “Cool People, Doing Cool Stuff” episode… and as a writer, it is not often words escape me to this extent. Friends, meet Erin Gahan.  I was given Erin’s name when I was on the search for someone to collaborate with on some guided meditation videos for me to include in my Blonde Beet Nirvana Signature Program. I was hoping to find someone willing to share with my program members that meditating, even for just a few moments every day, will foster more peace into their hectic and busy lives. Erin, not only graciously accepted and filmed two beautiful videos, but she also agreed to share something much more valuable… her story.

I’m never a fan of ascribing one’s job title as what they “do” in life, because my message will always be YOU are not your job. And while it is clearly evident in Erin’s story that she has the most resplendent soul and does SO many extraordinary things, for the simple sake of making an introduction, Erin is a yoga and meditation teacher at Baltimore Yoga Village. Beyond her regular yoga classes, Erin is hosting two local seminars, here in Baltimore- a Pranayama workshop, as well as an Introduction to Meditation. Both of these can be registered for using the links posted at the bottom, and I strongly encourage y’all to go check them out. Additionally, her class times at Baltimore Yoga Village are also listed below!

Okay, I know you are itching to read Erin’s voice here, and not mine (shut up, Tina), but one thing I want to highlight is that Erin exemplifies why I created this blog series. She chose to listen to that whisper in her heart. She allowed herself the space to discover what fulfilled her most in life, and pursued it. This should not be a rare, aberrant path to follow, but in today’s world, it is. Why? Because it takes courage. A lot of courage. It requires feeling the fear, and doing it anyways. I also want thank Erin for speaking to some of her vulnerabilities, and sharing that with us. If I have learned anything over the past decade, it is that when we expose that rawness to those around us, not only do we strengthen our own healing, but we are also able to connect with others in the most profound way.

So, without further adieu… here’s Erin.

Erin, Yoga and Meditation teacher at Baltimore Yoga Village

Erin, Yoga and Meditation teacher at Baltimore Yoga Village

Tina Milnes: Tell us a little about yourself!

Erin Gahan: I spend my days as the administrative coordinator at the Joy Wellness Center at Shepherds clinic. This is a wellness center attached to two medical clinics that serve low income and uninsured people who live in the inner city of Baltimore. Patients are referred to the wellness center for donation only yoga,  massage,  acupuncture, diabetes education, nutrition, meditation and much, much more. I spend my evenings and weekends practicing and teaching yoga and meditation, chanting and singing, playing the ukulele and drums, making earrings and loving cats (and some other stuff too). I am working diligently everyday to stay present and honest.

TM: What was your first job? This is one of my favorite questions, because usually it is something absolutely UNinspiring, but funny nonethless ; )
 
EG: At the age of 15 I began my 13 year on again off again relationship with working at restaurants. I was a busser at Ledo Pizza in LaPlata, MD and then moved  on to being a “counter girl” and then waited tables at many restaurants.

TM: What began your path to become a yoga and meditation teacher?

EG: As a young person I was riddled with anxiety and bouts of depression. At the time, I was unable to understand what was happening in my body and mind and I didn’t have a lot of emotional direction from the adults in my life. Sometime around high school I learned that physical movement was an effective way of dealing with the overwhelming stress in my young life. I went to the gym a lot, often daily. It was at my little all women gym where I took my second yoga class. I was brought to a yoga class a few years before by a friend’s mom. I remember being in vrksasana (tree pose) and the challenge that was presented when the teacher instructed us to close our eyes. I don’t remember much from that second yoga class at the gym, but it must have left some kind of impression because as a freshman in college, I decided to take a yoga class as my elective.

The yoga class in college was taught by a yogi/dance teacher. I fell in love. I practiced at home; I talked about yoga with my friends and family. I studied acting in college and many of my movement and speech classes used yogic elements as teaching tools, helping me to inhabit my body. I was still going to the gym every day, but I began noticing an unhealthy habit developing: if I missed a day at the gym, I felt guilty and fat. I would beat myself up and call myself lazy. I don’t think I knew it enough to verbalize at the time, but I was yearning for the cultivation of self-love and compassion. I had a friend who was practicing Bikram yoga and for a while it was a good fit for me. Coming from the gym world, I wanted something that would challenge me physically but at the same time this yoga offered me the quiet and stillness I so desperately needed. I stopped going to the gym and used this Bikram yoga as my cardio workout. Little did I know at the time I was also planting the seeds of yogic possibility.

I practiced yoga almost every day. I was either at the Bikram studio or practicing hatha yoga at my house. After graduating from acting school, I realized I didn’t want to act anymore. I wanted to be a yoga teacher. I toyed with the idea of becoming a Bikram teacher but I wanted to branch out. Bikram yoga is a very challenging and structured form of yoga where the same postures are practiced in the same order every class. So I began expanding my horizons. I found an awesome Vinyasa  (flow) studio near my house in Philly. I began practicing there and I just loved the variety of postures I was being introduced to and I continued to be physically challenged. I especially loved the emphasis on listening to the body and the introduction to meditation and pranayama practice began opening kernels of joy and curiosity within me. I signed up for the 200 hour yoga teacher training with Dhyana Yoga in Philadelphia. My teacher was certified in Vinyasa and Kundalini yogas so my exposure to both forms opened my eyes and my heart to the wonders and gifts of a yoga practice. That was in 2007. Since then my practice and teaching has slowed down. Moving from vigorous, faster paced yoga to slower mindful practices. I have gone onto complete a 500 hour advanced yoga teaching training program at Baltimore Yoga Village this past May. What really gets me jazzed these days are the practices of pranayama (breath work) and meditation. In this fast paced, over committed world, it is these restorative, reflective, inward practices that cultivate a much needed inner sanctuary.

TM: Greatest challenge in your work? In life?

EG: The greatest challenge in my life and my work happen to be the same challenge: To remain present. No matter what is going on inside of me (emotions, sensations, thoughts, stories, etc.) or around me (stress from work, other people experiences strong emotions, loud noises, media, etc.) I want to be here with myself as I am AND I want to be here with others as they are. Letting the desire to fix, judge or change fall away.

TM: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

EG: I was told that I would be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. Through the practices of mindfulness and yoga and with the support of some very good friends, I got off of these medications. This is not to say that anti-depressants are not helpful or shouldn’t be used. I was on them for 9 years and they really helped me for a long time. They got me out of bed and gave me perspective while I learned the skills and tools to be present with my emotions. For a long time I thought there was something wrong with me. Learning  and really believing that there is nothing wrong with me- that I am just a human being experiencing intense human emotion- ahh, this it is the accomplishment I am most proud of.

TM: How do YOU unwind, after helping so many others?

EG: I love spending time in nature and making music. Taking hikes, camping, going to the beach are all ways for me to reconnect with nature and the larger picture– helps to put things into perspective. While music encourages me to delve deeply into my heart. Chanting, singing, drumming and playing the ukulele clears away the cobwebs and leaves me feeling renewed.
 

One of the most wonderful things about a yoga practice is sharing it. I would love to share my practice with you! Join me the 2nd, 4th and 5th Mondays of every month at Baltimore Yoga Village in Mt. Washington 8-9:30pm for a $6 community yoga class. I also teach a beginner yoga class from 9:45-11:15am the 2nd, 4th and 5th Saturdays of every month at Baltimore Yoga Village in Hampden.

 

On Saturday October 10th I will be offering a pranayama workshop from 1-4pm at Baltimore Yoga Village in Mt. Washington. Sign up here: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/home?studioid=5949

I will also be offering an Introduction to Meditation workshop on  Friday November 6th from 6:30-9pm at Earth Pulse Yoga in Hamilton. Sign up here: http://www.earthpulseyoga.com/events/meditation-workshop/

Thank you so much, Erin, for allowing us a glimpse inside your heart, and sharing your story! Y’all, life is short. Do something cool.

xo,
Tina
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