Yoga Teacher Interview Series: Michele Vinbury
This is the first of many upcoming posts of my interview series with central Ohio yoga teachers. I was listening to a podcast while I was running one morning recently. The podcast was an interview with Kathyn Budig, and while I loved listening to it, it made me think “we have all these amazing and interesting yoga teachers, teaching different styles of yoga, in our local community. I know they’re here. I’ve heard names and seen pictures, but I don’t really know many of them! What a cool thing it would be to connect us – to have one place for students to get to know the teachers in the area and for teachers to get to know each other more”. I know a lot of teachers know each other through mutual friends and other yogis around town and especially if their teacher training was done locally, but the central Ohio yoga community is growing pretty rapidly (which is exciting and great!)! Often times students drop in to a class and don’t get a chance to chat with their teacher, so hopefully this will evolve into a place to learn more and connect with their teachers! I hope you enjoy!
Michele Vinbury // Partner at Yoga on High, Director of the Yoga on High Foundation
I found it most appropriate to start my series with my dear friend, mentor, and teacher, Michele Vinbury. Michele has electrifying energy and genuineness that is magnetic and draws people to her. Michele was my mentor during my yoga teacher training at Yoga on High, and has been my teacher for many years before that. Michele is so honest, which I did and do really appreciate as a student. I find it refreshing to know my yoga teacher doesn’t feel the need to put on a persona of perfection and has had an admittedly hard week and her own journey to self-love, but she is also never too serious and is able to laugh. Michele’s laugh lights up any space! Being around Michele makes me feel free and happy, she “creates space” for those around her to feel whatever they need to feel by just being there. She is so authentically and unapologetically Michele! Michele and I share a love for the outdoors and will be traveling to Banff, Canada this summer together to explore the Canadian Rockies, which I am super excited for! Although I could continue to ramble for a long while about how much I love Michele, I’ll let her interview do it for me…:)
When did you walk into your first yoga class? What drew you in? What kept you coming back?
I practiced yoga for the first time at home, with a Rodney Yee video. My first actual class was in college. I loved making the shapes and I loved the pose names and the challenge and the Savasana (corpse pose). I would imagine white light flowing into my body on the inhalations, swirling around, and then black smokey energy flowing out on the exhalations, all the residue leaving my body. At the time, that was very soothing and meaningful to me.
At what point did you decide you wanted to teach?
Somewhere toward the end of my (yoga) Teacher Training. I was on a “self-inquiry” track when I started Teacher Training. The previous fall, I had been accepted to a master’s degree program at Ohio State University and after a very tumultuous period in my family life, decided that grad school was not what I wanted to do.
I remember telling my partner I was doing yoga teacher training and he said “it’s about time.”
The first class I ever taught was during Teacher Training, at a local Runner’s store. At the time I was still throwing down some trail mileage. It took me days to prepare for teaching it and I was a nervous wreck. I remember sitting outside the store in my car, feeling shaky and dry mouthed, why did I say I’d do this?! And then I started to chant the Ashtanga opening invocation, and a wave of calm came over me. My body-mind associated that ritual with ease and fluidity a sense of ‘it’s all okay’.
After that, I began teaching volunteers at a rape crisis center. I had volunteered there for years and though I wasn’t particularly interested in teaching a class on any schedule, I was –and still am – interested in teaching to communities that don’t always have the opportunity to receive the healing benefits of yoga. I have volunteered and worked with domestic violence, rape crisis and human trafficking organizations my whole adult life. It seemed a natural fit. So this is where I focused my teaching energies, SARNCO, CORRC, DOMA.
How did you end up as a partner at Yoga on High?
Is it strange to say I don’t know? I mean there is a linear, clear-cut answer – they asked me and I said “yes.” And then there’s the written in the stars way of viewing this question. This is not where I expected my life journey to take me, and at the same time, it feels like I was heading here all along – to a place that would nurture a very deep commitment to the practices and a community with some of the best, most skillful and knowledgeable teachers around. As a life-long student, I’m like a kid in a candy shop every time I take a class. I feel very grateful to be in a community that values love and compassion and silliness.
Where do you currently teach?
- Yoga on High
- Grow Yoga
- Ohio Reformatory for Women
- Netcare Psychiatric Hospital
- Reynoldsburg School, Students with emotional disturbances
- West Central Community Correctional Facility
What forms of yoga do you teach?
- EMBER trauma sensitive yoga
- iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation
- Vinyasa Flow
- Sekoia Spirit Journeys
- Yoga Hikes
- Reiki Attunements
Who or what inspires you right now?
Inspiration abounds!! Right now, I am really feeling inspired by the idea of creativity and connection. The many ways that we are woven together by filaments visible and invisible. Feeling into this unseen matrix allows me to feel the flow. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Krishnamurti – feeling into the ways I can be aware of my mind striving for “the more,” and the ways that releasing resistance offers a gateway to stillness in motion, feeling into the ways that when we’re in this open flow – there is no ‘other’. And then struggling with how this relates to our country’s current political cluster F. When I name someone as “trump supporter” or “republican” or “democrat” or “yogi” I cease seeing them as a unique expression of life. Krishnamurti says “When you name a whole group of people by calling them Muslims or what you will, you have got rid of them, you don’t have to look at them as individual, the name, the word, has prevented you from being a human being in relationship with other human beings,” so exploring what ways I can be aware of this conditioning, of the projections and allow attention to be with people as individuals in the moment, and then over and over again in each moment.
In the last month or two, I’ve completely gone down a sacred geometry/yantra rabbit hole with some women I meet with to explore energy and that’s been interesting and inspiring…
Seriously, I could go on and on with inspiration here – there is so much!
How has yoga impacted your life?
The biggest impact yoga has had on my life is softening the voices of self-loathing that were so loud for so long. I have found love and forgiveness and tolerance and compassion on this path.
It has helped me create space so that I can listen to life and find an authentic response rather than existing in a constant state of reactivity driven by conditioning and habit. Yoga has opened my heart and invited me into a deep intimacy with myself and others. Yoga is the rhythm of my heart beat, the stream of my breath, it has revealed all the ways that I am shimmery and sparkling and wild and free – it whispers in my ear that I am sunshine and stardust and earth and gold; that I am the most luminous beauty…that I don’t have to be perfect to be whole.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not on the yoga mat?
I like to plug into trees, put my hands on them to feel them breathe. I love to read, and take walks with my family. To create. To laugh – I really like to laugh.