Lisa Mae Osborn (she/her)
Owner and creator of The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center & Certified Yoga Therapist
“I'm indebted to the wisdom of all of the teachers of yoga that came before me and shared their knowledge, and credit them all with absolutely anything wise, connected or smart that I ever say or do in the classroom. I am deeply grateful to these roots of named and unnamed, known and unknown indigenous Indian teachers (and the accompanying diaspora) of yoga, and attempt to be a wise and careful steward of the teachings."
In 1990 I took my first hatha yoga class on the wrestling mat in the NYU gym in college and never looked back. I thought I had found the connection to God and truth that had been naggingly missing thus far in my life, since at the sophisticated, ripe age of 17 of course I thought I knew what God even meant. I wandered onto the mat, then off the mat, but I never wandered far from the practice. I was a noisy, big-mouthed budding activist for women's rights and the environment, cooked in the fires of the early 1990's NYC activist scene, and I carry that justice streak with me deep in my bones to this day. I traversed the yoga basements, community centers and studios of New York City and then many parts of Asia, searching for what would eventually become the practice that I love. Early on, in my Ashtanga days, I really thought that yoga was this strict, rigid thing that was just what you DID everyday, not something that you LOVED everyday. Later in my life, as the medicine became food, and the definition of practice shifted, I would realize both were in fact true.
The beginning seeds of the vine of bhakti yoga were planted in my life by some miracle, and I felt interest percolating for the first time in the yoga path of devotion and service and love, and it started to make sense of yoga as a larger whole to me. I learned about devotional music and chanting kirtan, about expressing my heart and playfulness on the mat, and about working directly with my own noisy mind, directing it toward service, softness and love of God. I didn't intend to have yoga change my life; little by little, often clawing and whining, I inserted myself into a steady stream of practice, surrounded myself with others that were doing the same and were further along on the path than I, and that is exactly what happened. I was 23 years old and ready to take the leap into committing my life to yoga. As it turned out, that was more complicated than I thought, and it was a bumpy road. I was still a selfish, ego-driven mess, and had a long, long road ahead of me. But I never stopped practicing— forming committed, lasting ties with my teachers that often yielded nothing more than deeper connection with them, and more studying.
I opened The Bhaktishop (now The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center) in 2007 on instructions from my teacher to “bring yoga and bhakti together in a shop where people can come to learn more about transcendence” and also, in order to make a home for other people that are longing for similar conversations and self-interrogation; a place for you to feel welcome and at ease in exploring the deeper questions of your inner life and heart, and to learn from skilled, devoted teachers about the ways in which the practical, illuminating wisdom of these practices can touch, soften and change your life, every single day. I am proud as hell of the staff and teachers here, and their fierce, ongoing commitment to excellence, compassion, inclusiveness, honesty and their own pursuit of the wisdom and source traditions of yoga and beyond. I opened a studio also because I wanted some control of the money that yoga was earning, so that I could redirect those funds back to the source of yoga by way of supporting ashrams, yoga teachers and centers in India, and teachers that are sharing yoga from its source. I also wanted to direct that funding into justice and equity work, and deep, systemic untangling toward accessibility and change at home that sometimes only monetary resources can bring. I also wanted to connect the community to the practice of yoga as an agent for social change, and the service to something larger than oneself, so that we might return yoga back to something it was always intended to be—a practice of devotion, liberation and service.
I offer my gratitude to those that ignited a fire in me, busted my chops over and over, taught me the impossible task of discipline in my willful and selfish early-20’s and in general, saved my life.
Many thanks to my first real yoga teachers, Sharon Gannon and David Life, for bringing out the best and the worst of me upstairs at the old purple Jivamukti Yoga Center on 2nd Avenue in New York for six years in the early 1990’s. I would have given up long ago without dousing my body in the fire they started to awaken in me. I have since broken with that tradition and those teachers, but still hold gratitude for the doors they opened for me. I followed that training into study with Beryl Bender Birch in a short mid-90's Ashtanga stint, which was radically shortened by injury due to repetition and then ultimately, sexual violence scandals, and that practice really brought me face to face with myself time and again, forcing me into more and more honesty in my practice. I am forever grateful for her stern and disciplined approach to yoga. The deep roots of Iyengar Yoga made a strong, clear home in my heart, and I would have understood nothing resembling alignment (in both my inner and outer form) or real discipline without the Iyengar Yoga Center of New York and the fine teachers there who put up with me and my whining, excuses, and petulance. Those women teaching those detailed, therapeutic practices healed my shredded body, and gave me the pause, education, and structure that I needed to move forward in yoga. I met Dana Flynn of NYC's Laughing Lotus sometime around 1999, and she literally turned me inside-out. I had never practiced with such freedom, ecstatic grace, and deep soulful connection before I met her, and she really altered my perceptions of yoga asana with the idea of "moving like yourself." Early on both as a student and a blossoming yoga center in 2007, my friendship with her and with San Francisco's Laughing Lotus founder Jasmine Tarkeshi helped me enormously as a fledgling leader, trying to learn how to operate a yoga center on true yogic principles. I have since also moved away from teaching or practicing that particular form and style, but credit them with much of my early growth and the blessing/support to start The Bhaktishop with deep ethics, and to allow it to grow into The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center based on the deep learning from those deep ethics.
Since I opened The Bhaktishop in 2007, I have been in committed study with Doug Keller in Yoga as Therapy, as well as spending as much time as possible in company and conversation with Christina Sell in the lifelong hang-around-together study track. Both of these humble and wise friends and mentors inspire me deeply, open my mind, and help me speak clearly and honestly on the path of hatha yoga teaching. I also finally completed Iyengar Teacher Training with Julie Lawrence in Portland in 2014. While I am not a certified Iyengar teacher, and I do not ever mistake the asana teachers from the Krishnamacharya line to be realized beings or gurus, I also do not support the paternalistic, abusive history of the way these particular forms were often taught, particularly by Mr. Iyengar and Mr. Jois themselves. I’m grateful to have spent time in study with Carrie Owerko, who shifted the Iyengar legacy into one of self-directed, exploratory awareness for me. For the past couple of years I have spent a lot of my study time in the good company of Portland's Todd Jackson, learning to soften into my inner body's felt sense and grow my somatic and internal awareness in new and surprising ways. I am also a Certified Yoga Therapist through the IAYT.org and utilize the tools of yoga’s therapeutic wisdom in private sessions as well as public classes, even as I recognize that the organization itself is basically bullshit, and I will divest from it by the end of 2019. My studentship and abiding, dharmic respect for the roots of the source traditions are the driving forces of my life, and I am grateful every day for the practice and teachers that I have stumbled into. I'm indebted to the wisdom of all those named and unnamed, known and unknown indigenous Indian teachers (and those in the accompanying diaspora) that came before me on this long and winding and deeply colonized road, and credit them all with absolutely anything interesting, connected, or smart that I ever say or do in the classroom. (And I must be sure to note that many of the people on this list of teachers are doing their work in the world free of scandal or abuse allegations and while they may have had the occasional conflict with a student here or there, these people are teachers of high integrity and deep humility.)
More personally, in my spiritual life, around 2005 and by my great good fortune I read one of Swami B.V. Tripurari’s translations of The Bhagavad Gita, and was transformed. His wisdom, guidance, and living realization of Bhakti yoga have been illuminating the path for me ever since, guiding me to share the beauty and wisdom of bhakti in my small way. This yoga center belongs to and is in service to him and to Lord Krishna, and we offer our support to both the Sri Caitanya Sangha and the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math with the proceeds of this space. I seek to serve the grace of all the teachers that have offered their generous help by extending their hand to me, most especially my beloved guru. I know in these troubled times where many are questioning hegemonic systems (and rightly so) it is, for some people, somewhat controversial to have a guru, but I have one, and it totally works for me.My guru himself gave me the blessing and the encouragement to chant and to teach by sharing the wisdom of the source tradition of Bhakti Vedanta philosophy as he shared it with me by way of Gaudiya Vedanta, and I humbly mess this up daily but ask for blessings, forgiveness and guidance as I stumble, that I might share something useful on the path to transcendence.
I have been teaching yoga in some form since 1995, and I moved from NYC to Portland in 2002. I believe in our own innate wisdom, but I also believe deeply in good guidance and help on this wild and winding path. We all need to learn to listen better, and that is a vital guiding principle of yoga. Guided firmly by inner-body intelligence and more than 25 years of experience in bio-mechanics, anatomy, acupuncture, chanting, meditation and yoga asana, and aided by a sense of adventure, I seek physical honesty and cognitive clarity in yoga, wherein it is allowed to come alive as a living, dynamic practice. Sharing this life-affirming practice is what I was born to do, and every day that I get to wake up and do this work and my life, I am infinitely grateful. I have a personal and business commitment to ongoing, systematic training in equity, racial and other forms of inclusion, and decolonization and am deeply committed to the study of un-learning patriarchial and supremacist models of communication and of relationship. This informs every fold of my teaching, this program, and this yoga center. I am honored and grateful to share my vision of a more balanced, intentional, spirit-oriented life of service and love with you at The Bhakti Yoga Movement Center. Thank you all for making it a reality, as well as a daily pleasure.