Meet guest teacher Wendy Garafalo

  • by
I Am Love: One boy's story of living with autism

I met Wendy very early in my yoga journey at what must have been one of my first 10 classes. She was subbing for another teacher, and I told my husband she was one of the most beautiful people I’d ever seen. This was sometime around 10 years ago, and I will say her beauty has only deepened as I’ve gotten to know her as a person. So has her teaching. When she first started, Wendy was heavily influenced by her background in dance, teaching flow, creative sequences. Today, you’ll find Wendy teaching a more Iyengar-inspired style, focusing on providing healing and support through alignment.

I am thrilled to give her a big hug on November 12, and I’m even more excited you all get to practice with her.

Workshop: Shift Your Perspective
Sunday, November 12, 2:30-4pm
$25 with 100% of proceeds going to Autism Speaks

I’ll let Wendy tell you a little about herself.

Wendy Garafalo yoga teacher

Bethany: Tell us briefly about yourself as a yoga teacher.
Wendy: I saved this question for the last, as I have a hard time talking about myself.  I’ve been teaching yoga for nine years.  It is a part of my soul that has always been and will always be.  From the moment I opened my mouth to teach my first sequence during teacher training, I knew I had found my path.  A light switched on deep inside me and it was like all of the sudden I remembered who I was supposed to be.  My teaching has transformed numerous times over the years.  But several years ago, when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, I made a promise to myself that my teaching would always be about healing.  I say a collective prayer at the beginning of all my classes and set a collective intention based on the energy of the students and what is going on in the world.  I teach to help students connect to deeper parts of themselves.  I use a ton of anatomy to get you there.  But that’s my way and my passion.  When you are thinking about how your gluteus medius is firing to maintain a hugging of the mid-line, you aren’t thinking about your latest work project, your latest date or IG post.  You are in your body and you are in the moment. That is where healing can take place and that is where authenticity lives.  So I suppose my teaching is less about teaching and more about guiding you to the places where you get to make the choices, where you become the teacher and choose your path and decide for yourself what your soul needs.  (sorry, not very brief!)

Bethany: When do you feel most connected to your students?
Wendy: After an alignment centered class towards the end when we shift awareness from the alignment of the body to the alignment of the breath.  Guiding the class to breathe together reminds me how similar we all are.  The journey of a class is similar to your life, it is your ‘practice’ for life.  We show up to our jobs, new situations, lunch dates, etc. with an agenda and an expectation.  We do the same in our yoga class.  But in a yoga class, the expectations are slowly removed one by one.  And you find that its less about learning and more about un-learning.  Its about removing all the judgments, the expectations and the insecurities you’ve placed on yourself and finding what’s left.  And in those moments when we all slow down and breathe, that breath is what is left, and it is enough.  We are enough, just as we are!

Bethany: When do you feel most connected to yourself?
Wendy: When I take the time for my own practice, and give myself the gift of savasana.  Not savasana with my phone to post my latest IG post (which I’ll admit, I do on busy days).  But when I really take a savasana with no expectations, just me and my breath. 

I Am Love: One boy's story of living with autismBethany: What is the most painful thing you’ve experienced as Luca’s mom?
Wendy: Probably the morning my husband came in and told me he thought Luca had autism and that we should get him tested.  It hit me hard, deep in the gut.  I resisted his intuition and denied his worries.  But that was when the seed was planted and it hurt.  Mostly because I blamed myself.  As I started doing the research and filling out questionnaires, there was a lot of questions concerning care of myself while pregnant.  So, I spent several weeks beating myself up mentally.  ‘I shouldn’t have done so many handstands’.  ‘I should have paid more attention to my diet’  ‘I shouldn’t have had that glass of wine’ etc. etc. etc.

Bethany: A friend once told me, “Don’t waste your pain.” What do you do to give your pain meaning and purpose?
Wendy: After dwelling in grief for several weeks while waiting for our diagnosis.  I sort of already knew in my heart what it would be.  So when we got it, I wasn’t shocked and I was ready to move forward.  Rather than letting a simple word or diagnosis weigh heavy on us, we used it as a jumping off point.  Suddenly we were no longer treading water, wondering what it could be.  We had a firm place to plant our feet and a direction to move. And I realized thru it all that there is a stigma attached to the word autism.  People I knew started confiding in me their own diagnosis of themselves or their children.  It was sort of a secret that people tried to hide.  And from that, my mission became clear… to share the awesomeness of autism.  To talk about it and bring it into the open.  I want to create a greater understanding and awareness of what it means and how to interact with someone in your life who is on the spectrum.  With 1 in 68 kids diagnosed with autism, chances are high you, your kids or someone in your family knows someone with autism.  And that person, desperately wants to interact with you and share their unique talents.  So here I am dispelling fears and myths associated with autism and sharing our story to bring it out of the shadows and shift its negative vibe.

Bethany: What sets your soul on fire?
Wendy: Being real.  Nothing turns me off more than pretending to be something you are not … and gossiping.  And I’m not saying I never do this.  It makes me crazy when I do it!  But I love when people are real.  I love genuine conversations about real life, all the shitty stuff and the good stuff too.  I simply love authenticity and I aspire to be as authentic and real as possible in all areas of my life.