Name & Hometown: Khaya Davidson, Farmington Hills, Michigan.
Who or What inspired you to be a Yoga Instructor: Betsy Bertolino, my main yoga teacher for several years and one of the founding members of YAGD.
Describe your style of yoga: gentle to moderately challenging, based mainly on the styles of Lilias Folan and the Iyengars.
What’s your favorite yoga pose? Supine twist and variations.
What brings you to the mat? initially I began doing yoga to help me lose weight, mainly using routines found in magazines, then with Lilias Folan on public television, and eventually with classes, workshops & retreats, all with members of YAGD. I continued because yoga made a huge difference in my well-being & my approach to life.
If you teach, where? I have not taught since 2004. At that time, Lyme disease made it impossible for me to walk from my car to the classroom at Farmington Community School. In 2005 I had my hip replaced and intended to resume teaching, but then my husband needed surgery, my mother’s health deteriorated, and I was just too busy to teach ! I stopped doing yoga almost entirely when my husband was ill and needed constant care.
Now my boyfriend does yoga almost every day, with DVD’s, and I still have not reestablished my yoga practice, except for a few very simple morning stretches and occasional calming breaths. I occasionally give breathing instructions to my Lyme friends, to help them with anxiety.
How has being a member of YAGD helped you in your yoga career:
My teacher, Betsy Bertolino, encouraged me to join YAGD, even though the demands of my job made it impossible for me to teach until I retired, in 1991. Occasionally I agreed to substitute. After I retired, Kaye Thomas-Hogan (formerly Cauvin) left her teaching job at the Downriver Y to move up north to “The Ranch”, and recommended me to replace her. I consider my job at the Downriver Y to be my “practice teaching”. Sallee Rosen (another founding member) helped me get a placement at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield, after I moved from Taylor to Farmington Hills, and Patty Ralko (formerly Garvey) contacted me about an opening at Farmington Community School, where eventually I taught two classes a week. Both Patty Ralko and Patti Nevin spent time with me, helping me learn how to make lesson plans.
Several YAGD members invited me to “audit” their classes, and our YAGD programs often were devoted to issues related to teaching.
I met my husband, Tetshin Liddy, at a Total Yoga Retreat, and again at a peace march, and our relationship was nurtured in YAGD. We often did Hatha Yoga together, and also meditated together. He participated in my continuing level classes, and at the end of each school year he taught zen meditation to both my beginning and continuing classes. Often when I run into students, they remind me of how fond they were of this annual tradition. Tetshin stopped attending YAGD meetings because of mold problems in our meeting room in Southfield, but remained friends with quite a few members. Our relationship was nurtured by his even temper and his patience, both a result of his years of deep, silent meditation.
Do you have a favorite yoga story, from your teaching experience? When I first began teaching, I often felt like the yoga-teacher in me took over, and I became myself again after the class was finished. Students would ask me questions, and the answers would come out of my mouth from who-knows-where. Eventually these two aspects of my personality merged together again. Occasionally a student would move on to a more challenging teacher. One of them, Katherine Schaefer, began training with Karen Farkas, and traveling to workshops out of town with master teachers. Katherine is the only one of my students who became a yoga teacher (that I know of).
I used to really enjoy teaching the Five Tibetans. One of my students found the book and asked me to learn it and teach it to my class. Tetshin and I practiced it daily for two weeks. I’d love to re-learn it !
Is there anything else you would like to add? My path in YAGD led to several leadership positions, beginning with tea service (Hospitality), then Recording Secretary (twice), Membership, and President in the late 1990’s. It was during my term as president that I was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease, in July, 2000.
My proudest achievement as YAGD President was establishing lifetime memberships for the remaining founding members. I believe we awarded 12 lifetime memberships in December, 1999.After the presidency, I took on both Archives and Nominating Committee although one of those would be more than enough. Eventually, Lyme disease began to interfere with certain asanas. I had to learn to teach Sun Salutations without participating in them, which I believe made me a better teacher, since I could observe my students so much better! I also gained a new appreciation for students who had discomfort in certain positions. Although I always empathized with them, I really had no clue how difficult pain can make things. For me, yoga has been a way of life as well as a way of seeing things in perspective. I believe yoga has transformed my personality and my entire perspective on life.