By Beryl Wieland, Arizona Yoga Community
She dances. She teaches yoga. And she can probably guess your astrological rising sign, while painting. She’s taught at Kripalu, worked as a legal secretary and is now creating a movement of joy and love. Meet an amazing lady and multi-talented visionary, Beth Rigby.
Q: What was your inspiration for creating Yoga Meets Dance?
I am naturally inspired to share with others what helps me. I previously worked as a stressed out legal secretary in my 20s witnessing and experiencing first-hand the detrimental effects of stress.
I took my first yoga class in 1982 and continued to take as many yoga classes of every style I could find in Atlanta as well as dance fitness classes, and got massages to help alleviate work stress. I decided that I wanted to work in some way to help others manage and reduce stress.
In 1992, I went to massage school at night while I was a legal secretary by day. Then I moved near Kripalu, and did massage therapy at Kripalu and local spas and continued to take courses in yoga and dance at Kripalu.
As a kid, I was a gymnast and cheerleader– so yoga and dance remind me of the incredible joy of movement I experienced during my youth. I wanted to create a stress reduction class that was very, very easy to do, based, in part, on teachings I received at Kripalu from their yoga and movement programs. I visited Sedona in 1997 and again I just had to share my joyous experience with others, so I invited my students back east to join me on retreat, naturally sharing with other what I enjoy.
Q: From your time on faculty at Kripalu, what would you say your biggest take-aways? What did you learn about yourself during that time?
Kripalu gave me confidence. Immediately after I trained there, I was put on the schedule to teach. I was told I had a natural teaching ability. I then had permission to create and direct my own retreat programs, it was a dream come true for me. I also felt deeply honored to take classes on a daily basis from world-class teachers who I learned from just by watching them, which I still remember to this day– I particularly was inspired by the teaching style of Stephen Cope.
Kripalu gave me freedom to create, and find my way– it was like being in a giant playpen for me to share all the things I loved doing with others from massage to yoga and dance. All great stuff for someone who previously worked as a stressed legal secretary! Kripalu opened up a whole new world for me and gave me the encouragement and confidence to teach.
Q: I see you are an astrologer and watercolor award-winning artist in addition to your yoga dance work! That is so cool! Are there overlaps with those other creative avenues and your movement? Ex: Do you do create a watercolor painting that inspires an asana class?
Yes, I have studied astrology as a hobby for pver 30 years and love offering sessions in my free time. I see all of my work as a way to help people get unstuck from stress. Astrology can be profoundly healing when you understand how the planets are affecting you.
Yes, there is an overlap between my paintings and my yoga, dance and meditation work. I am also a long-time student of Soto Zen meditation. I began painting when I first discovered Zen meditation– I took a short period of time in 1994 and lived reclusively in the North Georgia Mountains, studying Eastern philosophy, doing a lot of yoga and meditation– then I would paint my experience. I paint states of consciousness, abstracts that reflect levels of being and transcendence. I have a transcendental experience, then I endeavor to paint that experience. One painting in particular is of figures dancing freely with abandon under a full moon that I share in my classes.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve experienced with yoga dance and what lesson came out of it?
In the late 90’s, I was teaching all over the country as a result of invites I was receiving from students who came through my Kripalu classes. I taught throughout Boston and New York City and also flew to Canada and the west coast to lead workshops. My career took off quickly after I finished teacher training at Kripalu. It was very exciting for a former legal secretary to have an instant career teaching and things just went too fast for me.
The travel was stressful for me while there were also some tragic events in my family. I burned out into exhaustion by 2004 and went to India to rest. Since then, I guard my energy and time by keeping a light teaching schedule so I can teach from the overflow of my joyous experience and not on an exhausting traveling teaching circuit.
I invite my students from back east to attend retreats and trainings with me in Sedona so I am traveling less. I haven’t experienced any challenges with yoga or dance itself, as it is just an extension of what I did as a kid, natural and easy for me. But I think some yoga teachers have experienced that challenge of being a sensitive yogi, and the demands of running the business side of things. I had 7 invites to travel to teach in foreign countries last year and I declined to enjoy a quiet, healthy life.
Q: Who has been an inspiration to you and why?
There are 3 that come to mind immediately.
I read Gabrielle Roth’s book “Maps to Ecstasy” in 1995 and found her work profound. I attended her 5 Rhythm classes with Ellen Watson at Esalen back in 1995 when I worked at Esalen for 2 months in their work-study program. Then I met Gabrielle once at Kripalu. I was deeply touched by her presence. I ran right into her on the streets of New York City on my way to teach a class. She looked at me with such healing love. It was kind of funny as I was just thinking about her class when I bumped into her. I’ll never forget that gaze she gave me, her class and her books.
Daniel Leven is another huge inspiration to me. He founded Leven Institute and is a movement therapist and Kripalu teacher. I trained in movement with him in 1995 and found him to be profoundly gifted. And last but not least, my first Zen teacher Cheri Huber. Soto Zen meditation is my first love and I had a profound experience of seeing the connection of all life, a kensho experience, at my first 5-day silent retreat with her in 1994. Stillness is where everything gets created for me and Cheri Huber had a way of making long periods of sitting easy for me. She is extraordinary.
Q: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Daydreaming is powerful. I sat at my legal secretarial desk in the mid 1980s in Atlanta, GA daydreaming of doing work that would contribute to the reduction of stress for others. I have enjoyed sharing the joy of Yoga Meets Dance with a wide variety of populations from wheelchair patients in New York City to government workers in Washington, DC to teenage trauma survivors in the Berkshires, to cruise ships in the Caribbean– and the expressions of joy I witness by the power of music, movement and asana is gratifying indeed! I would like to also give mention to the fantastic instructors who have trained with me in Yoga Meets Dance who have also touched the lives of many from Israel to England to Canada and South America, and to them I extend heartfelt gratitude for spreading the joy. I want to teach more in Arizona and travel less, so letting any studio owners out there in Arizona that I am excited to teach more locally.
To learn more about Beth and Yoga Meets Dance, visit www.yogameetsdance.com,
Video clips at www.youtube.com/yogameetsdance, and
Facebook at www.facebook.com/yogameetsdance.