MEET JOY ZAZZERA
A little about my journey to becoming a yoga teacher ...
My yoga journey began in 2002 and similarly as with most new and skeptic participants, it was consistently sporadic. Little did I know then that sometime down the road of my life would I retreat to the practice of yoga and find my life’s true calling. Lots has happened. But let me get right down to the minutia. During a span of five years in my late thirties, I would begin to suffer work-environment induced panic-attacks, early-onset osteoarthritis, weight-gain, and life-path uncertainty, resulting in great pain, exhausting insomnia, and relationship tension, not to mention, halting this since-birth sports warrior’s athletic enjoyment. At 39 years old, I underwent my first Total Knee Replacement surgery and recovery, which, mildly-speaking, was a horrible journey from start to finish. As it should have been, given the state of being occupying my body at the time. Additionally, a few months later I experienced an abrupt end to a relationship that left me feeling confused, depleted, and sad, but motivated for growth.
During 2016, I celebrated my 40th birthday with a trip to Puerto Rico with some girlfriends – all also celebrating the big-40 during that year - and it was there that I set some lofty intentions. I was determined over the next year to not to let my then confusion and sadness to define the life ahead of me. I was motivated to move on and grow and I knew given personal to me circumstances that it wouldn't be easy.
After a period of self-inquiry and immersing myself in self-help work, my sporadic yoga turned into a daily, dedicated practice. It motivated me to also take every precaution within my means to live a healthier lifestyle. The key was finding something positive to build upon which, for me, was having quit, cold-turkey as they say, smoking cigarettes a year prior. That’s a pretty big thing and was the obvious place to start from for me. But it’s called “your starting-point” for a reason! I slowly incorporated a pescatarian diet, using food for fuel rather than comfort. I spent as much “active” time as I could in the great outdoors.
"Wrong seeing is the cause of suffering."
After three months post-Puerto-Rico, and the self-dedication that followed, I began to see and feel my mind, spirit and body (including my new joint replacement) transform into the most joyful and healthy version of myself to date. I conquered turning 40 through intentional dedication to myself, incorporating yoga, healthy eating, activity, friendship and that critical time for self-inquiry and reflection. It sounds easy. But it was the hardest work of my life.
During the Fall and Winter of 2016, while I continued to heal, I prepared my mind and body to undergo my second TKR surgery and recovery. Suffering from bi-lateral knee osteoarthritis at a young age, forced me to make decisions about my health before I was prepared to. By beginning to see my yoga practice at work in how balanced I was feeling in body and in life, having knees of the same “age” became important to me, given I will reach a time in the future when I must replace them again.
With one horrible experience as a starting point and knowing what I didn’t do to prepare for the first surgery and recovery, I sought redemption for my mind and body to not have a similar experience. From late 2016 into early 2017 I was making the smartest investment in myself I had ever set out to make – and seeing great evidence of its pay-off all along the way. On the eve of my second surgery, I attended what I thought would be my last studio yoga class for a while. I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to return for about a month. You would have never guessed that the following morning I would be undergoing total knee replacement – I was THAT strong and balanced during that class. I was reveling at my state of being. I was THAT prepared for what laid ahead of me.
To paint a better comparison, on my discharge day following my first surgery in early 2016, I was assisted out of the hospital in a wheelchair - a hot-mess of a 40-year-old in great pain in the months to follow. I had to have a manipulation due to the quick build up of scar tissue while physical therapy left me in tears and in pain three days a week for months. Following my second TKR surgery in the Fall of 2017, on discharge day I slung my backpack over my shoulder, and using a walker, escorted myself out of the hospital and into the car. For both hospital stays, I was blessed to have the same delightful nursing staff. They were quite frankly, in complete awe! The next day, I drove myself to dinner with my family. The day after that I drove myself to my community yoga studio and participated as I could in class, with my cane and chair and bar accessible. My absence from the studio lasted a mere 6 days. Second time around…no manipulation, no tears or much pain at all and physical therapy was a joy. It wasn’t a miracle. It was hard, intentional and mindful work. And if you’re facing a joint replacement due to osteoarthritis, I can help you make your preparation and recovery a more productive and peaceful experience.
In January of 2018, just five months post-op from my triumphant second joint-replacement, I decided to make an unexpected investment in myself. I signed up for an eight-day educational intensive at the nationally-recognized leader, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, titled Yoga for Athletes & Teaching Yoga to Athletes. The intensive was designed and led by Sage Rountree, PhD. E-RYT-500, an internationally recognized authority in yoga for athletes, an endurance sports coach specializing in athletic recovery, author of ten books and co-owner of several wellness businesses.
Totally life-changing eight days. Unique to me, I was the only non-certified yoga instructor in a group of 15 amazing individuals. On the 7th day, I had to teach these yoga instructors, including Sage and another inspirational human named Alison Heilig, a 15-minute “test kitchen” lesson. Throughout my preparation I knew I needed to have this “lesson” recorded. I knew the kind of learning tool video provides, because I used it throughout 2017, and continue to, to develop my own practice, and understanding of functional movement. And quite honestly, watching yourself make actual progress is motivating!
Upon delivering my short sequence, title ‘Yoga for Snowboarders’, and despite not having the yogic-language (Sanskrit) at the time, they called me a natural. And in that moment, I had never felt so proud for the effort and the investment I had made in my current and future self. I now have this moment on film, a starting point reference for my yoga teaching that will only grow with further study and practice. I encourage the use of video as a tool that will allow me to help you achieve your individual goals. And it will motivate you! It should be insightful.
While I was considering Kripalu as the place where I would study for my initial yoga teacher
certification, the experience under Sage’s leadership led me to enroll in the 200 Hour RYT Yoga Alliance approved Teacher Training program at her Carolina Yoga Company in Carrboro, North Carolina. This summer I was a resident of a magical community and land of enthusiastic, guru-connected instruction – which simply means every teacher that was before us was a rock-star to their personal tradition of yoga. And there was a legit direct-lineage Guru and rock-star among them! This program exposed me to the major styles of yoga as practiced in modern America, gave me a thorough grounding in yoga philosophy and practices, shored up any hesitation in my life (thanks to my favorite Mantra – All iN) and further propelled me down the path of what I see as my true calling. While Kripalu was a life-changing 8 days, studying with the Carolina Yoga Company was the experience of the lifetime!
Upon graduation, I returned to Pennsylvania and opened up a small teaching studio where I could lead classes and begin to help the people in my community find healing and growth through a more simplified and therapeutic feel to yoga. My intention was to create an inviting space where students new to yoga, with arthritis, joint replacements and other physical limitations, athletes, and more experienced yogis desiring more individual attention and less larger-studio feel could attend classes customized for their unique needs. I have since moved to a very nearby larger space with the same inviting feel where I lead commitment based classes that occur in series of a few weeks at a time, private lessons (single person and small groups) and workshops.
If this all sounds nice but you are still unsure If I would be a good fit for your intended pursuit of personal growth and wellness, well, I’m wondering about the same fit. If you’re are ready to feel alive, get moving and add nourishment to your life, if you are eager to try an individualized approach to yoga, and able to make small time commitments, please reach out to me and let’s talk! The time is always now!
The foundation of my professional background before my life as a full-time yoga teacher includes a liberal-arts based undergraduate degree in Education with concentrations in Health & Physical Education, Physiology and Psychology as well as a graduate degree in Sport Management. Over 20 years, I held a well-balanced variety of leadership roles including: elementary, high school, post-secondary and private classroom instruction. 10 of those years were spent between Smith College & Arcadia University where my work in collegiate athletics administration concentrated on Sports Information & Scheduling, NCAA Rules Compliance, student-athlete leadership and mentorship and marketing & public relations. I also have a mind for small-business operations and entrepreneurship, and have wholeheartedly participated in community-engagement, civic organization and activism. I’m a natural people-person with an authentic and light personality, and have always brought a roll-up-your-sleeves attitude to any work I've done. I have combined the best of my previous experiences with my love for yoga and understanding it's potential to help the human body heal. I have genuine passionate for helping others find improved motion in both body and life, through yoga.
JOY'S PROFESSIONAL TRAINING & CREDENTIALS
Yoga Alliance E-RYT 200, YACEP
Over 1,000 hours teaching yoga to adults, beginners, athletes and those with medical conditions.
200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training, 2018
CAROLINA YOGA COMPANY
Studied and trained in a comprehensive immersion under Sage Rountree, Carolina Yoga Company Owner, Author, Endurance Sports Coach & internationally recognized authority in Yoga for Athletes. This elite program included training highlighted by Jenni Tarma (Yoga Medicine), Carol Krucoff (Duke Integrative Medicine), Mira Shani (108 Yoga Love), and Michael Johnson (Asheville Yoga Center).
Advanced training and continuing education in Applied Anatomy, 2020
CAROLINA YOGA COMPANY
Studied and trained under internationally recognized teachers Jenni Tarma (Carolina Yoga Company + Yoga Medicine) and Jenni Rawlings. Foundational anatomy concepts supported by a closer look at the spine, sacroiliac joint, hips, shoulders, the nervous system and pain science and their application to yoga and movement.
Certified as an expert in teaching yoga to athletes, 2020
SAGE ROUNTREE - YOGA FOR ATHLETES
Continued advanced training under Sage Rountree, leading to 30 hours of continuing education and my first advanced certification. Curriculum and application focused on athletic recovery, the athlete training cycle, common athletic injuries, philosophy, psychology, physiology and pedagogy for designing highly effective sports-specific recovery classes.
Summer School Training, 2020
Studied with Yoga Detour founder Cecily Milné in an interactive course focused on building and moving more efficiently through a stable and balanced Sun Salutation and the anatomy involved.
Innovation Conference, 2020
Studied and earned 20 hours of advanced training with Yoga Medicine. A comprehensive training from internationally recognized Yoga Medicine Therapeutic Specialists on current scientific research including but not limited to: Fibromyalgia, Cancer Survivorship, Interoceptive Awareness, Optimizing Human Performance, Athlete Workload, Neuroimaging, Somatics, Post-Traumatic Growth, Gut Microbiome, Energy + Intuitive Management, Thoracolumbar Fascia, & Teaching Yoga to Older Adults.
Spine: Anatomy, Dysfunction & Application, 2021
In progress: 55 hours of intensive training as a student in Yoga Medicine's 500 hour advanced yoga teacher training program. Studying and training under world-renowned teacher trainer and Yoga Medicine founder Tiffany Cruikshank and YM teacher Jenni Tarma.