Jennifer Ammann has been practicing Yoga for almost thirty years.
This promises to be an especially eventful year, so I thought a post on Jennifer (one of taoStyle Sponsor, Shree Yoga Taos’ most experienced Teachers), was apropos, enabling me to start out the New Year where I ended the Old One. On a high note.
Breathing deeply might just be the most valuable skill we can cultivate at this juncture of this Time/Space continuum, while staying centered and grounded will also certainly help as we ride the roller-coaster of change 2017 is certain to bring!
Jennifer kindly answered a few questions, and the gorgeous images are by Zoe Zimmerman for Sundara Studios.
Where are you from, how long in Taos – a little backstory please?
I grew up outside of New York City, in New Jersey, but my family is originally from Switzerland–my parents moved to the U.S. a year or so before I was born, and we spent summers in Switzerland with our family when I was growing up.
I‘ve been in Taos for 19 years, having moved here from Boulder, Colorado. I studied English Literature at CU-Boulder and then later studied Ashtanga Yoga at the Yoga Workshop. I met a man who lived in Taos at the time and later he became the father of my children, and so voila, I moved here.
You and Sonya Luz are two of the longest running Yoga instructors in Taos, can you tell me a little about your practice?
I first began practicing Ashtanga Yoga when I was 21, at the Yoga Workshop in Boulder, CO. My teacher was Richard Freeman, and although I’ve been exposed to other teachers and forms, I’ve been committed to this practice since the beginning. From the moment I began studying with Richard I felt wholly comfortable with him as a teacher, and his integrity rang a deep truth for me that was really at the core of what I was looking for, without knowing I was looking for anything in particular at all from Yoga, since I didn’t know a thing. I remember thinking, “I don’t care what he’s teaching, I’ll take whatever the vehicle is to learn from him.” So really, it wasn’t about Yoga as we know it that drew me to Yoga, it was about a relationship of honesty and intelligence, Yoga being the vehicle that was used for that to happen. Which ultimately is exactly what Yoga is about–real relationship. Although I haven’t practiced with my teacher in quite a few years, I still feel kinship, like a particular kind of family, and an unmitigated trust. It has allowed me to move through all the seasons of my life, the outrageous changes, with an underlying belief in something very real and intrinsic to what it means to be. Even when I’ve felt separated from that fundamental knowing because of life challenges and grief, it has always been there when I’ve been ready to return.
The practice I do is based on a particular pranayama, breathing practice, that is the connecting piece between postures. There is a specific form that gradually builds on itself, but the way the structure of it familiarizes the mind and body with certain energetic patterns, and then encourages ongoing and delighted research of those patterns, is physically the same. So within the structure of the form, the breath links one posture to the next, and then the mind can follow, and in a way endlessly traveling through the changing nature of the sentient experience but resting ultimately into a sense of not wanting to go anywhere other than right here. So, resting into the present moment. It’s kind of like tricking the mind to slow down and just settle into the vastness of the present.
I’ve now been practicing nearly 30 years, and am having a fascinating time watching my body change, and although that means some of the postures or the intensity with which I practice them change, the essence of the practice–the body as an object of meditation and the freedom of mind it gives me—never changes. It’s always been that with a few sun salutations, my attitude begins to shift, and it’s still that way. Like the best medicine–take this and stop worrying. It helps me make better decisions about how to look at my life and what I want to do with it, how I want to experience it. It’s a creative act for me.
When and how did you come to teach Yoga at Shree?
When Genevieve and Suki first opened the studio, they asked me if I’d come on board to teach classes. And so I did. Except for a couple of breaks during Ski Season to work at the Bavarian Lodge and Restaurant in Taos Ski Valley, I’ve been there ever since.
Besides Yoga, what does your life look like?
Full. I’m a single mother with three teenage boys. My oldest is in college, and my younger two are 13-year old twins. They come first, and sometimes, often, Yoga takes backstage to them because after all, it’s about relationship. As they get older there is more time for me in the morning to gently reconnect with Yoga in a way I did before my children were born. I work at El Gamal, and before there I worked at the Bavarian–besides being one of the few means for income available in Taos, I really love waitressing; it’s a form of service, and bringing people food is awesome. I am a writer (Live Taos, Taos Magazine, and for myself), and I drop onto the dance floor whenever possible–free form, partner dance, Tango (with Richard Spera.)
Jennifer teaches two classes a week at Shree. Monday, 8-8:45am and Wednesday, 7:30-8:45am, but classes change and it’s always best for anyone interested to look at the Shree Yoga Taos website, or her site. Jennifer teaches privately also. Both sites are listed below this post.