It doesn’t’ surprise me anymore.
They experience a shift in life values. Amy Treciokas was a Princeton grad, and then a Sloan Kettering fellow at Cornell’s medical campus in New York City. She gave up a potential career in a white coat and stethoscope, for one wearing mala beads and yoga pants. Keen on helping people, now she practices yoga as medicine.
I can relate. For decades I wore my hair in a tight bun (or used a flat iron), and dressed up in suits and heels that didn’t fit my inner or outer mold. Amy realized early on that true challenges, and triumphs, are on the road to self-discovery, rather than in the board or operating room.
Her transition to the yoga life wasn’t overnight. It was gradual, over a combined three years spent in India, cementing her deeper into the philosophy and knowledge of the Vedas. Of that period in her time, she says, “It was a vigorous and transformative practice.”
When Amy returned to Chicago after one of her 14 stints in India, she began to think more seriously about what she wanted to do with her life. She knew she could work as an actuary to make money, but her main concern was how to contribute in a meaningful way to society.
Amy saw yoga as a way to heal people, and in sync with her beliefs and personality. Recognizing yoga as medicine, she ditched her corporate job.
“Yoga is medicine for the body. Most of today’s illnesses are lifestyle diseases stemming from a sedentary lifestyle and inaction of the life force. Yoga helps to stimulate the cells in such a way that the life energy is induced to return and resume its work of maintenance and repair.”
She also left the traditional suburban life, with a husband and a picket fence. As part of her yoga journey, she returned to her musical roots.
Amy’s interest in kirtan (devotional music) was natural. She studied piano for 11 years, seven years for the flute, and another five years of cello practice. At Princeton, she sang as a soprano soloist in the Glee Club, touring Eastern and Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, and Tahiti. While in Mysore, India in 1996, Amy began chanting with fellow students and the founder of Ashtanga Yoga, Sri Pattabhi Jois.
“So much grace has been present to create the opportunities to make all of this possible. Now I teach yoga full-time and have had a studio for 13 years. This has turned into a lifetime of teaching and music.”
Today, her band, Amy and the Bliss Tribe, leads monthly kirtan at Yoga Now in downtown Chicago, at poetry circles, and other Chicago area studios. “Once people hear and participate in the music, they love it,” says Amy about the devotional music that is a part of yoga.
Kirtan is also very therapeutic. “Kirtan is medicine for the heart,” says Amy. “With students, I teach yoga with enough anatomical knowledge to prevent injury, and have an enjoyable practice, and provide regular opportunities to experience kirtan and open the heart. For myself, yoga and kirtan are an essential part of my health maintenance routine, because they have allowed me to have a healthy life, for which I am grateful.”
“The only demographic for which there is increasing mortality in the last 15 years is for the middle-aged, white, non-Hispanic males and females 45-54, for whom drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis use are on the rise. Kirtan helps to open the channels of the heart and revive the flow of good energy, and bring connection to all beings, alleviating depression which is the underlying cause of all these symptoms.”
In June, she will be leading several two-hour yoga workshops and kirtan at Chicago’s first Bhakti Fest. This is Amy’s fifth time as a featured presenter at one of the three annual Bhakti Fests. It’s anticipated that this retreat will unite the largest number of participants to Chicago who are interested in sacred wisdom and spiritual practices.
“Chicago is the biggest city in the Midwest, and the people are hungry for the excitement, the teachings, and the music that Bhakti Fest is bringing to the Midwest. It is the most amazing festival ever. The teachers and musicians are unparalleled, and they are in a great, easily accessible location. It will be a weekend of divinely inspired transformation.”
For more on chanting or yoga as medicine, read previous blog posts. For a partial lineup of Chicago’s Bhakti Fest, visit http://midwest.bhaktifest.com/kirtan/.