Although I’ve never met Dr. Olga Rodriguez Rasmussen in person, I’ve been following her on Twitter for a wee while and have been happily corresponding via email. She is warm and generous in her communications as well as heartfelt and thought provoking.
Olga’s perspective is equally enriched by her extensive training in Anusara and her deep love of spirituality – a life long passion. In addition to being an Anusara Certified teacher, Olga holds a doctorate in spirituality and education and is also a Reiki Master Teacher and practitioner of Reconnective Healing®.
Olga is based in Northern Virginia, and also teaches in Maryland and the Washington, DC metro area. Her website is called Aligning with Grace.
Thank you Olga, for supporting me in my journey!
How did you get into yoga?
I meandered into my first yoga class more or less by accident, just shy of my 40th birthday. I saw an ad for yoga one summer, with a picture of Betsey Downing in it, who eventually became – not only one of my first teachers, but a mentor and friend as well. It has been an honor to share this journey into Anusara with her!
My coming to yoga is particularly interesting, because I am “kapha to the core” – and had really eschewed physical activity of any sort, save for walking. In my twenties, I was an avid cyclist – but abandoned that as I focused on raising my son. I ran briefly as well. Though it was great for keeping weight off, I hated every moment of it.
I only intended to take yoga classes throughout the summer. At the time, I was the chair of a theology department at an academic institution and I was very stressed out by my job – and often angry at home. As the summer weeks progressed, I noticed that I was less angry and calmer. I started to consider that continuing this practice might not be such a bad thing! So – when I mentioned it to my husband, he said – “By all means – do!” I think he noticed the change as well!
About a year into my taking classes, Betsey offered a teacher training. This was 1996. I took the training, partially financed by the athletic director at my school so that I could offer yoga to the students. But Betsey also offered me an opportunity to teach in her studio in 1997. Later, the studio that was hers transitioned to being one of the first Anusara studios. John visited the studio that year, and I remember being blown away by the things he said and his demonstrations. I recall thinking to myself – this is one cool guy – but never imagining that I would ever pursue certification.
What was your certification journey like?
The operative word here is – “journey!” And that it was. I had no initial desire to become certified – believing that certified teachers were just much more highly skilled and knowledgeable than I could ever be. My journey began with a transformational and healing experience on the mat coupled with the encouragement of my students at the time. I felt that pursuing the process of certification was as much for them as it was for me.
It became very evident, that while I had been teaching for years, I lacked a lot of basic knowledge and understanding. Betsey moved in the late nineties, and my subsequent teachers weren’t really committed to Anusara. A dear friend told me I had to go to Willow Street Yoga in Maryland, something I had never considered because of the drive. (I live in Virginia). I went to my first class with Maria Hamburger and was blown away. I went to observe her teaching for one session, and ended up staying three years. Now I study with Suzie Hurley, who is divine, though I visit Maria from time to time.
I really owe Maria my certification. I grew so much that my assessor, Lois Nesbitt, was blown away when I made my second video, telling me she never expected I’d be able to make that kind of leap in a few months. Everything she asked me to work on – I did – always taking more time than she suggested. One of her colleagues once told me she frequently used me as an example for good studentship. I am indebted to her, and consider her a friend. Today we serve on the Anusara Yoga Curriculum Committee together.
Which Universal Principle of Alignment and/or loop challenges you the most? How have you worked with that challenge?
Ah! Kidney Loop! Coming into the back body! Luckily I’ve had a teacher who is all over me like fly paper and is relentless about making me embody it. My other regular teacher, is gentler – but both invite me to work on this.
Inner Spiral/Outer Spiral are particularly hard for me on one side of the body. All I can say is – it’s a process and mirrors some of the issues in my life!
What has your Yoga Inventure revealed about who you are and what you want to do with the rest of your life?
Well, this is a good question for me right now – because I am at a sort of crossroads.
Three years ago, I left the studio I had been at for 9 years, in search of teaching Anusara in a more dedicated environment. I had both good starts and false ones – working at one venture that didn’t quite go as I had planned. I teach primarily out of my home studio, and also at Willow Street.
Anusara yoga is my community. The kula and its wonderful community of practitioners feed my soul and support me in so many ways seen, and unseen. Somehow I know that everything will unfold as it should. And as all Anusara practitioners know – it’s all good!