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Jamie Turner Allison

Caramie Schnell

Seven people lie stretched out on the floor, palms facing upwards. The lights have been dimmed; four candles flicker at one end of the room. The smell of incense faintly fills the room as the sound of a lone bansuri flute plays softly in the background. It is the end of one of Jamie Turner Allison’s beginning yoga classes and it’s hard to imagine not coming away feeling centered, peaceful and renewed.”The more I go down this path of yoga, the more I receive,” Jamie says. “I never wanted to be a teacher, that was the last thing on my mind, I just wanted to walk without pain, sit without pain.”Jamie was born in Baltimore, Md., and moved west in the late ’70s.”I fled from the East Coast in ’78 and just fell in love with the mountains,” Jamie remembers. “I graduated from college and I’d been working for a couple of years. I had a boyfriend who lived in the mountains and I went out and spent a summer and just fell totally in love. The expansiveness, the beauty of the mountains it just really resonated in me. We moved out here to together and that didn’t last, but my love of the mountains did.”Jamie first settled in Aspen, but moved to Vail in May of 1978. She worked at numerous retail establishments in the valley and also taught modern dance at Colorado Mountain College for a number of years. In 1989 a friend told her that she should check out yoga and Jamie took her first class. A few years later Jamie decided to travel to India.”I figured I may as well go to the fountainhead of ashtanga yoga,” Jamie says. “It just seemed like it would be a great adventure. I was way too stiff to be trying to do what was asked of me. It felt as if the poses were forced from the outside in. I tore cartilage in both knees on the first day of a two month stay.”Jamie returned home from India with her body broken and battered, but amazingly she still had a deep desire to practice yoga.”I had damaged shoulders, tight hips, torn cartilage in both knees, a very stiff spine, but I loved yoga. I was craving freedom. I remember as a kid I would watch professional dancers, professional gymnasts and I could just see in their body a freedom I wanted.”The pain that hounded Jamie eventually opened the door for the meeting with her would-be friend. guide and mentor, John Friend. Friend is the founder of a system of yoga called anusara yoga. Anusara yoga is grounded in a tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness. It is a system of alignment principles based on the biomechanics of the body, informed by the wisdom of the heart and inspired by the passion of the heart, according to Jamie.”It’s a very clear, inclusive style of yoga where body, mind and heart are honored equally,” Jamie says.Jamie met Friend at a workshop in Boulder in 1994. A friend had told her nearly a year earlier that she really needed to study with John Friend. When she ran across a flier in Boulder advertising a workshop with him, she jumped at the opportunity.”I was the most inept student there. But everything about John was so warm and welcoming, so very real and safe feeling. He exuded confidence, one that comes from wanting to help people grow and open to the wonder that they are.”After that first meeting it was clear to Jamie that she had found her teacher. She approached him about a possible apprenticeship in order to learn more about anusara yoga and the philosophy behind it. Over the years Jamie has continued to learn from Friend, traveling to his home in Texas to study with him privately. In 1999 she was certified as an anusara yoga instructor, the same year she opened her own yoga studio.”I was teaching in the early days at every health club here in the valley,” Jamie says. “Then, as I started learning more, I could see this phenomenon and I wanted my students to all come to one place. I wanted to have a place that was fully, 100 percent dedicated to anusara yoga.”Suzanne Nelson has known Jamie for nearly 10 years now and is currently studying with Jamie in hopes of becoming a certified anusara yoga instructor.”Jamie is a wealth of knowledge within the anusara yoga field. She has a better understanding of the principles of alignment and the philosophy than anyone else in our area, by leaps and bounds,” Nelson says. “She’s a really sweet, tender person with so many nice qualities, in and out of yoga. What you see is what you get with Jamie.”It’s no surprise that Jamie met her future-husband, Justin, while practicing the thing in her life that she’s most passionate about: anusara yoga.”It took him about three months to ask me out,” Jamie says. “He was thinking, ‘I love yoga, she seems pretty cool, but what if I ask her out and we don’t get along and I lose my teacher?'”Justin eventually took the risk and a year later, in 1996, the two were married.”She was my first yoga teacher, that’s how we met,” Justin says. “What’s fascinating with Jamie is watching her grow. She’s 50 years old and her practice keeps getting deeper. She keeps becoming more connected to her heart and she continues to grow more on all levels physically, emotionally, and spiritually and that just knocks me out.”For Jamie, there is no question that anusara yoga has changed her life, and her dedication in return to both her mentor and the practice of anusara is paramount.”I don’t have pain anymore. I’ll be 51 this year and the freedom in my body is amazing. If I had gone to India and just breezed through the practices every day I wouldn’t have learned anything. I wouldn’t have found John as my teacher; I would have nothing to offer, so it was all just part of the journey.” VTCaramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vailtrail.com.


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