Teacher Spotlight: Shannon Paige on Fearlessness + Yoga

This brave cancer survivor in Boulder, Colorado, 
helps students find a fearless passion for their practice.

This brave cancer survivor in Boulder, Colorado, helps students find a fearless passion for their practice.

At age 21, Shannon Paige learned she had cervical cancer. She battled for her life and won, but the resulting loss of her uterus left her feeling as if her body had failed her, and pushed her into a deep depression—until she found yoga. The practice provided her with a space to process grief, realize her body’s strength, and discover a sacred femininity and fearless center that would bring her lasting wellness. By age 30, Paige opened her first studio, in Boulder, Colorado: Om Time. Twelve years later, she leads vinyasa classes and retreats in her local community and worldwide that focus on using the body to retrain the mind.

Yoga Journal: Whom do you most enjoy teaching?
Shannon Paige: I love working with people struggling with anxiety and depression because I get it. I experienced those battles myself when I was fighting cancer and needed a way to get back into my body and heal. I once taught an 8 a.m. class, and the title was misprinted as “Depression Yoga.” I thought no one would show up. But I walked in to find 129 people. I asked the class who had come because they or someone they knew struggled with depression or anxiety, and, within this world of yoga, felt like the practice could somehow make everything OK. Every hand went up. I knew I was in the right place.

See also Dissolve Depression

YJ: Fearlessness is a big theme for you. How do you teach that?
SP: I want my students to realize that everyone wobbles on her mat and in life, and that it’s OK to fall down. In yoga and in life, you’ve got to get back up and try again. It’s not yoga perfect; it’s yoga practice. There is joy and fearlessness in being brave and using your breath to try difficult things. It’s easy to remember to breathe when it’s easy to breathe, but it’s more valuable to remember to breathe when the breath seems far away.

YJ: Who have been your most transformative female teachers?
SP: My teacher, Shiva Rea, helped me discover my femininity through grace, body, and breath. My mother, who taught me that if you cultivate your passion, you’ll never go hungry. And my recently adopted 21-year-old daughter, Victoria. Twenty years ago, I was told I could not have children. Through Victoria, I have learned lessons about love, patience, accountability, and holding grounded, consistent space.

See also 10 Body Mudras to Celebrate Earth Day with Shiva Rea

In the Details

Paige shares a few more of her favorite things.

Place to teach: In southern India, I taught on a houseboat deck with a view of women doing laundry in the lake like their ancestors had for 1,000 years.

: Somewhere between my horse’s pounding hooves and the wind, we find each other.

Exercise: I’ve realized that I have to run before hitting my mat. It’s my 35 minutes of pranayama, and I love it.

Present: I cook gifts for friends, like paleo cookies and orange- and mint-flavored waters.

: “I got this.” The mantra helped me get out of bed on mornings when I felt my worst.

See alsoTeacher Spotlight: Sangeeta Vallabhan on Empowering Students