Aline and I used to joke about being “yoga hustlers.” To make ends meet we were teaching multiple classes a day, driving all over town and subbing classes. Aline stood out to me because she has genuine, overflowing love for humanity. If I didn’t know her, I’d think no one like her exists. Or that they’re faking it. But Aline’s the real deal. She’s one of the reasons I started this blog: to handle challenging interactions with gentleness and understanding. When she lived in Encinitas, I got the privilege of being her dog Truth’s walker and Aunty. His photo hangs on my fridge. And the first piece of art I ever purchased was a commission from Aline that hangs in my bedroom.
You were established in Encinitas for a few years. What made you decide to leave and go back east?
You know, it was a series of crazy events. I was the director of Carlsbad Wellness & Yoga and the guy running it was crooked. The studio had not been doing well. I got the studio to make more money and we figured out some goals. We signed a contract that said when the studio would start making money, I would get a percentage of that. Things were turning around but all of a sudden he was like, “I’m not gonna pay you anymore but I still need you to do the work. I just can’t pay you.” So I said, “A: we have a contract. I’ve let go of all my other jobs to devote my time and energy into this place. And B: it’s not legal.”
Things got really weird and he ended up accusing me of stealing. I think he was out of his mind and maybe on something. I ended up filing a police report because he was trying to find out where I lived and was sending me harassing text messages. It got scary. And I filed with the Employee Rights Association in San Diego because he wouldn’t pay me for the classes I taught. I sent him certified letters. He would just black out his address and send them back. And from a financial standpoint, I got left without a single dime. I had to go back into bartending. It was a blessing that I had another skill I could make money quickly at.
I called up a good girlfriend back east and told her what was going on. She said, “Ya know what? If you want to come back home, come work at the studio, you’re welcome to come back here.” I had one of those destiny moments where I sat on my steps and I said to myself, “If I say yes, everything’s gonna turn around in California and I’m not gonna wanna leave. But if I say no, things aren’t gonna change and I’ll lose my motivation and probably be angry and bitter.” So I said yes. And as soon as I did, I was making more money, my classes doubled in size, I met a really great guy. And then I left.
I’m always up for a challenge so I moved myself and Truth and we drove cross-country to New York. I ended up working at a studio in New York and Connecticut. And then 3 other yoga studios. I went back into hustler mode. (laughs.) I was working 5 jobs, 7 days a week, driving all over the place.
You recently sent out a newsletter in which you talked about people betraying you. Explain a way in which you’ve been betrayed and how you still have faith in people and love for humanity.
You know, I think it might be a particular way that I’m wired. I have a really incredible amount of resiliency in my spirit. And some of the stuff i’ve been through… I mean, girl, I’ve literally looked death in the eye and I’ve been at points where I’ve thought, “Do I take myself off the planet or do I stick around?” I’ve been pushed up to that point with the negativity and the contrast and people doing horrible things to me. I don’t know what it is inside of me. I credit yoga for helping me understand that I can make choices with my emotions and how I handle situations. I guess when you’ve been through hell, you decide if you wanna stay there or not.
Being jaded doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t work for me at all. The contrast that I’ve experienced hasn’t make me jaded or angry or hate people (not that I don’t have my moments.) But it’s done the opposite. The people that have treated me wrong made me realize that I’m never gonna do that to anyone. I’ll never act that way towards people. I want to spare others from negativity and violence and pain. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I’ve gone through. I’m always thinking, “How can I help? What can I do? You don’t have to suffer. You have a choice. There is another way.”
When did you start to feel/notice that people were treating you poorly?
There was tough stuff when I was a kid. I had family conflict. We’ll keep it PG. I’ve had best friends betray me and boyfriends do horrible things. I think maybe people see my kindness as weakness and they take advantage of it. Or maybe it’s a vibe. Maybe I’m attracting bad people so that I can learn these lessons and go out to help good people.
I have an opportunity in January to lead a yoga teacher training. And I’m stoked about it because I feel like I’ll be able to take all the bad stuff that I learned- like how not to do things- and teach people how to reach out to the community and help using yoga.
I’m originally an artist. The yoga happened by accident. The yoga saved my life back in 2003. I was in what I’ll call one of those “contrast moments” and rather than take myself off the planet, I decided to take a yoga class instead. That was exactly what my soul needed. Prior to that I was pretty much mute. I didn’t really communicate my feelings. I kept to myself and could only express myself through pictures. And when I found the yoga I was able to channel my art more, express myself through art more. I learned how to actually talk about what I was feeling on the inside. It was phenomenal. It actually fueled the art because now the art took on another layer of spirituality. It dove deeper, which was really cool for me.
So literally it was, like, a Tuesday and you were gonna commit suicide and you said, “Well, first lemme just go to this class real quick?”
Ya know, it actually might have been a Tuesday! I’m not joking. It was the summer of 2003, the end of July. And I was just like, “Today’s my last day on earth. I’ve got 10 bucks in my pocket. What am I gonna do? Well, at least when I go back to God, I’ll be able to say ‘I tried.’”
At that time I was homeless and living in the back of my pickup truck and I was estranged from my family and my friends. It was a bad scene. There were things that were beyond my control. I was super naive and trying to do the right thing by someone who was a bad person. (Or at the time a bad person.) I was backed up against the wall. And I had heard that yoga was helpful so I figured I should try it.
The precursor to that is that I took some yoga in college as a gym requirement. But it didn’t stick. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand that there was a sequence to the way you did things. I didn’t get why we had to do one pose after the other. It didn’t make sense. So part of it, when I was giving up, maybe I remembered something from the class, something about how it was healthy. So I thought, “Fuck it, lemme try it.” And I found a good teacher who was monumental in helping me save my life. I’m not in touch with her anymore. She’s slaying her own demons right now and our paths have split. But I’ll never forget what she did for me.
What charities do you support?
Anything for pitbulls. Anything for the bully breeds. And financially and energetically I support the Newtown Resiliency Center which was set up after the Sandy Hook tragedy. It helps support the parents and the families of Newtown and surrounding affected communities. It’s for their well being and their healing after that incident.
I was fortunate to have the time to be able to volunteer and offer healing yoga classes to some of the families who lost their children, as well as in the school system with the teachers and older students. Everyone was across the board devastated. I did one-on-one work with them. It was an honor to be able to give back like that and to hold space and create a little pocket of love. We just did gentle restorative work because their baselines were so rocked. They couldn’t even drink caffeine, some of them, because they were just naturally shaking. And, I mean, a year plus later I’m still working with some parents. Some have really dove in and gotten as much help as possible and they’re getting back into the world and advocating for more love and more healing. But some are having such a rough time and they don’t feel safe.
The children are the ones everyone is the most concerned about because the ones who survived are living in fear and are missing their classmates and beloved teachers. The new “norm” has been a hard transition. There are a lot of programs that have been set up to help the children that survived. But there’s a lot of fear around going to school. I’m not working with the children right now, but I’m talking with the director of the Newtown Resiliency Center about possibly putting together a kids yoga program so I can teach the kids some life skills on how to heal Post-Traumatic Stress. But we don’t call it that; we call it “play.” You know, just human skills. How to regulate the stress, how to breathe when they get scared, how to feel safe in their bodies.
When you work with adults, do you do talk therapy also?
I don’t initiate it but if they want to talk about stuff or share stuff, I hold space and listen with a big heart. But I don’t bring it up. What I’m trying to do is help folks be in the moment and process the shock with their bodies. So we just do gentle work. You know, Where are your hands? Where are your feet? What’s the texture of your yoga mat feel like? Where’s your breath? Can you find your breath? Just gentle movements and keeping it simple so folks can stay really in the moment.
[We chitchat for a few minutes and I compliment Aline on her uncanny ability to love humanity.]
Yeah, I do have big love. But I almost lost my life a couple of times. I had a near-death experience and I’ve looked death in the eye. So I know that being alive is a gift. Sometimes we choose it. Sometimes we’re given it. There’s a lot of good stuff going on in the hearts of people. We can just tap into it.
To ogle/buy her paintings and hand-painted yoga mats, go here: www.alinemarie.com (You can actually practice on the yoga mats; they’re fully functional.) The site also has a contact form so you can get more info on her yoga Teacher Training. If you’d like to donate money to the Newtown Resilicency Center, click here: www.resiliencycenterofnewtown.org