Where are you from originally? Georgetown, South Carolina
How long have you lived in Chattanooga? I’ve lived in Chattanooga since 2014. I love living in a city that’s so intimately connected with nature.
Tell us about your childhood: I grew up on the coast of South Carolina—the Lowcountry has a mystical charm that still captivates my heart. A majority of my childhood was spent communing with nature, especially at the beach (I miss living near the ocean!).
I was raised in a loving family, who also struggled with the complicated dynamics of alcoholism and codependency. My early life experiences have inspired and shaped much of the healing practices I offer today.
Even as a young child, I was naturally introspective and felt an inner calling to the realms of mind-body healing and transformation. When I was introduced to the practice of Yoga at age 16, my life forever shifted. Yoga has always felt like a sacred homecoming, helping me to connect with the rhythms of my true self, and it has been my lamp in the darkness during many difficult times in life. I am so grateful to have been introduced to this ancient practice at a young age.
Do you have a nick name? When I became a yoga teacher at Savannah Yoga Center in 2009, the office manager called me “Steffie Jo” one day, and the nickname has been with me ever since.
When were you introduced to Yoga? In 2001, when I was 16 years old, my mom convinced me to accompany her to a yoga class at our local gym. I will never forget that first practice—It was Love at first sight. I knew immediately that yoga would be an important part of my life, and I have been dedicated to the yogic path ever since.
How do yoga and the community play a role in your life? Yoga and community teach me that life and practice are one. “Yoga” means “union.” When I am in a state of Yoga, I am reminded that what I do for myself, I am doing for others; and what I do for others, I am also doing for myself.
As a trauma survivor and wounded healer, I am inspired to help survivors of PTSD reclaim empowerment, nurture personal transformation, and increase resilience through yoga and ancient mind-body healing practices. Being of service to those struggling with difficult times is a deeply meaningful part of my own healing journey. I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling, and I blend western psychology, yoga and ancient indigenous healing practices into my teachings and various offerings.
In 2018, Kaylee Frano, Rikki Donahoe and I created Still Rising, an organization that transforms, renews and unifies communities by empowering leaders with trainings to identify and address trauma in children and adults. Our goal is to help communities enhance mind-body resilience on personal and collective levels through scientifically validated healing practices, like yoga. When we cultivate meaningful resilience, we transform our deepest wounds into our most precious gifts, which creates inner freedom; and, a free person sets others free.
What pose do you love the most and why? Siddhasana means “perfect pose”—it’s a seated pose for meditation. “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” the oldest surviving text about asanas (postures), lists this pose as one of the most essential. Taking this pose easily settles us into a state of meditation, which is the pinnacle of Yoga. Most of my profound awakenings, flashes of insights and openings to inner truth have been through the practice of meditation. “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika” even says that Siddhasana “opens the door of liberation.” Truth, consciousness, bliss, liberation…this is why we practice yoga, to remember that the freedom we are seeking is always within us.
What is your favorite quote? “We’re all just walking each other home.” -Ram Dass