Eddie Modestini and Kristin Bosteels, who will be teaching at this year’s Hanuman Festival, both have a deep and profound love for the practice and teaching of yoga. Eddie has been teaching yoga since 1983 and has studied extensively with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar. Kristin is a lifelong student of yoga and a breast cancer survivor that is healing herself with yoga and inspiring others to do the same. Together, Eddie and Kristin teach the inner, individual experience, offering students space to explore comfort in the discomfort. Both currently study extensively with Senior Iyengar Yoga Teachers Manouso Manos and HS Arun.
How did you find yoga? What inspired you to dive deep into the practice and become a yoga teacher?
Eddie: The truth is, I was terribly injured and yoga found me. I slipped two discs in my lower back building an elk fence on my farm in Colorado and I moved to California looking for healing. I started with fasting, Tai Chi, and meditation. One day I asked my Tai Chi teacher how I was doing and he said, “You know…you are really stiff! I would like to take you to a yoga class.” I knew within a half hour of my first class that I had found the modality that would heal me. Now I have been practicing yoga for 36 years and it has brought everything that I cherish into my life.
When I first started teaching I was driving a long commute during a northeastern winter to work at a bakery for very little money. The university just up the road from me heard I was a yogi—which was not true—and called me up and asked me to teach! At first I said no, I wasn’t a teacher. But later in the conversation, they offered me $25/hour and I said yes. I continued teaching because yoga healed me and I felt that I needed to be of service to future students in sharing this practice.
Kristin: My introduction to yoga came in a high school gym class back in the late 90s. I had never seen a yoga studio at that point. I had just lost my mom to breast cancer and was just beginning my senior year of high school. My P.E. teacher circled us up to “stretch” and started to talk to us about yoga. I don’t remember exactly what he said but I remember just being in the poses made me feel better emotionally.
A couple of years later, my then-boyfriend gifted me The Women’s Book of Yoga and Health by Linda Sparrow and Patricia Walden. I practiced out of this book for the next several years but honestly had no idea what I was doing. I found my first in-person teacher, Tracey Burke, years later in Dubois, Wyoming. She had studied with some of the most senior teachers in the world and inspired me to be a better student and person.
After about three years of study with Tracey, she sold her farm, leaving a great need for a yoga teacher in that small little mountain town. I decided to step in. She sold me all of her props for very little money and I paid about $250 in rent each month. I was still working at the local phone company at the time, but teaching yoga was my real dream. I never imagined I would be doing what I am doing today!
Where do you find inspiration for your personal practice and teaching?
Eddie: My inspiration comes from my teachers and my enthusiasm comes from my practice, which has completely changed my body and continues to balance my mind and emotions on a regular basis.
Kristin: A little over three years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 31 years old at the time and literally felt like everything was taken away from me. I had a double mastectomy and very quickly slipped into what would be a year and half of deep depression.
Yoga made my life tolerable. Just a couple of days after my drains were removed from the surgery, Eddie had me doing extremely supported backbends in the chair and this was the first time I knew that my life would revolve around my practice and sharing yoga with others.
A week before my reconstructive surgery, which turned out to be more difficult than the mastectomy, Eddie took me to his teacher of 35 years, Manouso Manos—one of the most therapeutically knowledgeable teachers in the world. Manos immediately handed me off to his assistants and started to tell them what poses to put me in. As I entered each pose, he would come over, adjust me if needed, and give me little insights. I’ll never forget the moment I was backbending over the horse and he gave me a strong adjustment, looked me in the eyes and said, “I want to see you become an old lady.” Holding the skin of my back together and adjusting the skin of armpits he also said, “You have to be able to breathe life into the void in your chest before they sew you up for good.” I left that first class with him in tears, able to feel feeling where I will never have feeling again.
The point of this story is that everyone is suffering and yoga can help to ease that suffering and improve people’s lives in a tremendous way. This is what fuels me every day. I practice so that I am not in pain in my chest, arms, back, or mind, and I know that this is what our society needs more than anything.
What serves as your touchstone for integrating new techniques and practices into your yoga teaching?
Eddie and Kristin: Our greatest touchstone for integration comes from studying with our teachers, HS Arun and Manouso Manos, both long-time direct students of BKS Iyengar. We have a strong belief that every student should have a teacher and should regularly study with that teacher in order to advance in his or her practice and teaching. The more we study with our teachers, the deeper our connection becomes to the lineage, tradition, and in turn our own spirituality. The spirituality for us comes from our dedicated practice. We have such a deep, deep love for the subject of yoga—our entire life revolves around it—and we feel extremely fulfilled. Our hope is to inspire others to practice and pursue a lifelong study of yoga.
How do you approach challenges? What gives you the strength to persevere?
Eddie and Kristin: Both of us have had extremely challenging circumstances to overcome with our health, and in turn, our emotions. In our practices, we search for difficulty and challenge. This doesn’t mean that we are looking to accomplish the most advanced poses, but instead to search for the congestion, the stiffness, the parts of our being that cause us pain. We use yoga to dissipate that pain.
We ask ourselves on a daily basis, “What is it that I need today?” As it turns out, we are usually practicing to chase pain out of the body.
What gives us the strength to persevere? FAITH! We have both been healed by yoga and we know that it has the power to heal anyone who is a genuine, committed, daily practitioner and has the tools from the teachings to go down this path. We have an extreme belief in this tradition and that gives us the strength we need to always choose yoga.
What do you hope to offer your yoga students, other teachers, and the greater community with your work?
Eddie and Kristin: We are just the vehicle through which these teachings pass onto the next generation of practitioners and teachers. By walking a committed path of yoga, we hope to inspire others to do the same for themselves. The practice we share is of the inner experience; Yoga on the Inside, we call it. We are not concerned with the outer appearance—what people see on the surface—but instead, we hope to lead students on a journey deeper into themselves, where they can find comfort in discomfort and learn what they need to heal themselves.