Name/ Pronouns: Betsy Brandl Rippentrop (She/Hers)
What brought you to and how long have you been practicing yoga?
I came to yoga in the midst of massive stress my 3rd year of my graduate PhD program. I was preparing to take “comprehensive exams” where we were told to know “everything” about psychology…theories, statistics, specific citations. I had several months to study and was overwhelmed. A friend of mine who was also preparing for the exam asked me to go to an Iyengar yoga class with her. This was before yoga was popular and there was one studio in Iowa City. I agreed to go (the other part of the story is my friend was an Olympic Field Hockey Athlete). I clearly was out of my mind to go to an athletic endeavor with an Olympian. I was literally hooked in that first class. I remember walking out feeling like a different person. That was 20 years ago. And I still finish a practice and feel like a different person.
What is yoga to you?
Yoga is life. It is a lifestyle, a worldview, a psychology, a guidepost. It informs how I wake up, how I treat those around me, how I take care of myself. To me, it is so much more than asana (the physical poses). I had to do those asanas for years to clear my body and the traumas it was holding to get to a space where I was ready to work with the other limbs of yoga like meditation, lifestyle, and withdrawing my senses from the world.
What style of yoga do you teach? Why do you teach and practice yoga?
My initial training was in Anusura yoga, and I call this my foundation. However, I have been drawn to many teachers who focus more on a mind-body perspective and how to work with trauma in the body, which include Angela Farmer, Bo Forbes, Mariana Caplan, Bessel Vander Kolk, and Stephen Levine. My yoga teaching and my work as a psychologist are so entwined at this point that people often tell me my yoga classes feel like therapy to them. Although I had no idea when I started studying yoga that it would become so integrated with my work as a psychologist, I feel clear now that bridging these 2 disciplines is a big part of my dharma, or life purpose. I teach and practice and yoga because it is my calling.
What has been your biggest struggle or challenge in your practice of yoga?
My biggest struggle is quieting my busy mind. It is what I teach in almost every class – getting out of the head and into the body. I consistently teach this concept because it is so difficult for me. I have always been extremely intellectual, love to learn, read several books a week…I love stimulating my big brain! However, that same big brain gets me into trouble with analyzing, over-thinking, controlling, recapitulating, and ruminating. My consistent work is to drop into my body, feel it, move the energy through it, and when I do this the most miraculous thing happens…my mind quiets down!
What has been your biggest milestone in your practice of yoga?
Sticking with it for so long in such a consistent and dedicated way. I am someone that gets bored easily, and is off to the next book, experience, training, or technique. But I think because of the depth of yoga, I have never been bored. I can study it for lifetimes and still never fully grasp the mystery and magic of it. I will be dedicated to this practice until my last breath. I am certain of it.
What is your favorite yoga pose and why?
Ardha Chandrasana – Half Moon Pose. I love this pose because of the take off from triangle pose. You start in the grounding of triangle pose, and then suddenly you transition into this pose that feels a bit like flying. I always feel very free, expansive, and joyful in this pose.
Tell us something special about yourself
My greatest job and joy is my 3 children…Pieter (16yo), Jack (13yo), and Gretta (10yo). This is where I have really had to practice my yoga with patience, letting go, staying in the moment, and breathing! Although none of them formally ‘practice’ yoga, I hope that having a yogi mother has brushed off on them. I hope they “feel” my calm after meditating in the morning, or sense how I stay present with them in hard conversations. I do know that they have always loved coming to the studio, and when they were younger would take all the blocks and make forts and obstacle courses. I was pregnant with my middle son Jack when I opened the studio 14 years ago…so I have always told him the space is as much his as anyone’s. I do believe his grounding energy helped me pull that opening off!
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on their yoga journey?
It does not matter the style of yoga you go to or the type of class. Forget looking at class descriptions to figure out if it is the right one for you. Find a teacher that you resonate with – this keeps you coming back for more. Then, you start to see it is not even the teacher that matters, rather it is the journey inward to know thy self where the gold lies.
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