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"Yoga Saved My Life." Learning to Breathe with Paige Trisko

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Paige Trisko at Art in the Loft. She was teaching the yoga portion of a Creative Awakening class, and it was one of the most enjoyable afternoons I had had in a long time. After a guided meditation, I felt awakened, focused, and ready to enjoy the art portion of the day I had previously been a little apprehensive over with a newfound sense of peace.

I met with Paige in her lovely home, where she regularly conducts sessions for clients. Her yoga studio was warm and inviting, and an impressive array of drums and bowls were positioned neatly in the corner. There was a lot in the space, but it wasn't cluttered. It felt homey, and professional without being cold. While I took in the space, Paige told me a bit about herself. She owns Karmic Roots Yoga, although it's not a path she would have predicted for herself when she was growing up in northern Michigan.

Paige Trisko sound bath Michele Zee Photography

I can't say enough how grateful I am to have been invited into Paige's home, and to have had the pleasure of speaking with her about everything from cat names to divorce to breath work. I learned that she lived in Japan with her family while growing up, and that she's planning a novel based loosely around a culinary road trip she and her mother took around the United States. I sincerely hope that I did justice in portraying what a beautiful soul Paige is, and the healing she's bringing to Michigan.

Where are you originally from?

I grew up in Hillman. On a farm north of Hillman, over in Royston.

Did you ever think you'd end up back here?

No! I just moved here (this house) in February, March, and my divorce was finalized in April. That was my opportunity. If I was going to move somewhere, that was it. This business is a baby business, it can go anywhere I want it to go. This community is holding me. This is my home base.

Did you leave once you graduated high school?

I did. I went away to college and I did four years at Albion...I got a really amazing scholarship opportunity there, being from a rural area. So that had a real advantage when it came time for scholarships. It was an academic scholarship, of course, but they were looking for someone from a rural area. So I went there, and I moved back after because I had a job offer for a grant funded position at the Besser museum. So my background is in anthropology and art history, and the museum was looking for a one year position to do the collections curation....I went to the museum for a year, and then I applied to grad schools and got into a program at Western in anthropology. Partway through that program I took a leave of absence to pursue a really amazing job opportunity that came up in California. So I moved to northern California for a year, and worked with kids of all ages. It was a private company that taught kids reading skills. The yoga stuff actually came much more recently.

So how did you get into yoga? Have you always been "kinda into it?"

No, in fact, I was like...not like an "anti-yoga" person, but I was NOT going there. All that woo-woo stuff...during undergrad, I was a basket case. Just really stressed out with school, exams, my thesis...and my mother said, "Paige, you need to do something to manage your stress." And I was like, "What do you want me to do, mom?" You know, real smart aleck. And she was like, "Oh, I'm glad you asked." So she said, "There's a yoga class that occurs on your campus all semester. You take it as a course. Sign up for it." And I said, "I'm not doing that woo-woo stuff. There's no way you're getting me to do that!" And she said, "Yes you are. You're gonna sign up for it." So I did, and after the first class I called my mom up and said, "Mom, you were right. I love this." And so that was 2008, and I've practiced ever since.

And it was in, I think 2014 another yoga teacher in town, Desiree Nowaczyk, she and I were becoming friends. We worked together at ACC, and she said, "Paige, have you ever considered becoming a yoga teacher?" And I went, "Oh my goodness, I can't do that. I can't do what you do." And she said, "Well maybe you could think about it a little bit more." And so I thought about it for a year, and then started looking at schools. I landed at Yoga Roots out of Petoskey, with Tiffany Lenau. And it...kinda changed my life. I went into that program thinking, "oh, you know, I'm going to learn to cue all these postures that we do in yoga," but I didn't realize all of the self-work that was involved in all of it, and just the way in which it would transform me. Because yoga's just not about moving and doing these poses, but that's where we most often get into yoga.

We're looking for some kind of active movement practice. That's what gets people in the door for yoga, what keeps people doing yoga is everything else that comes with that. It can be a complete change of lifestyle and just outlook. So, it's pretty amazing in that sense. So I went through that training and I was so hungry for more that I went and got my 500 level. And then I took that and transferred into a 1000 hour program that I'm currently in called "Inner Peace Yoga Therapy." It should take another two years before I'm finished and become a certified yoga therapist. So right now I am a teacher of therapeutic yoga.

Is that where you stop?

You never stop, because yoga is continually evolving in using both Eastern science and Western science to take a look at our bodies, minds, and spirits, and making that connection between the three.

So where do you do yoga with clients right now, in addition to your home?

I teach classes at Performance Locker. That's kinda my home base. I love it over there, everything is small group so it's almost as though you're in one-on-ones. That's my main place where public classes are offered. I also do recovery yoga at Bella Rose. Desiree and I started recovery yoga back when I started my teacher training because right away I knew I needed to get out there, and one of our assignments was to work with a special population, and I chose addiction recovery, due to wanting to work with trauma survivors. And most addicts have some kind of trauma that they're using to survive. It's a coping mechanism, just not a healthy mechanism. So I dove right into a quite challenging group, because you never really know what to expect. So I started that, we had the classes at the college and it became so big that Desiree and I could no longer sustain it on our own and we reached out to Jess Beatty, and Jess said, "Bring it here. We'll do it here. We'll rotate teachers, we'll keep it going." So we taught it at ACC for two years, and then Jess came on board. And we've been going on for three years now. And it's authorized, so people who are required to attend meetings, we are allowed to sign off because this is considered a meeting.

That is a challenging group to get into. What was it about that group that made you want to work with them?

I really wanted to work with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. I didn't feel quite ready to jump into that. The opportunity was actually presented to me, to work with addiction...I've seen the judgement that society has on them, and I've seen their souls, and they are so beautiful and just hurting and I want them to know that no matter what, they are loved. And I get to go and share that love and give them tools that they can choose to use as alternative coping mechanisms. Because this stuff works. I know it works. I've seen it work over and over, from my own healing. Yoga has saved me. We all have our own addictions, just some are more readily accepted by society. So, it kind of chose me. I didn't choose it.

So when you said you were initially resistant to the "woo-woo" stuff, I assume you mean sage and crystals and things like that--all of which I see you've got! Did that come with the yoga?

(laughs) It all did! So my first teacher, she's a professor at Albion and an artist and she's amazing. And, I don't know, just her vibrancy and her opennness, she had to have been able to sense my apprehension. But that didn't stop her from loving me. And it just helped me learn to love myself. I just...I love crystals. They have all kinds of different properties. And they're beautiful! And if they help to create a calming, tranquil space--that's healing. Because that softens my stress and other people who come into this space. If stress levels drop, that affects us all on a neurological level. Our sympathetic and parasympathetic systems can find that ease. And anytime we can get out of those chronic states of stress, our bodies are more innately able to find the healing that they're capable of. Because our bodies are amazing. They're made to function. So yeah, I got into all of that woo-woo stuff. I'm even a Reiki master, so I do that Japanese form of energy work.

Michele Zee still life photography

What did you have to do to become a Reiki master?

Study with a Reiki master. They had weekend workshops, and fortunately for me my yoga teacher training came with the first part of Reiki training, because she feels so strongly about the healing properties of Reiki and how it complements yoga. So I got that exposure there.

Is that something you offer in all your classes, or is that one-on-one?

I don't offer it in classes, although that would be a really awesome class. Healthy, invited touch is healing, we know that. It's scientifically proven. I do the Reiki for special events, and I do sound baths, often called sound healing but I prefer sound bath. I have a hard time accepting the title of "healer" because I don't really feel like I'm healing people so much as giving people the tools to heal themselves. I'm just a conduit, or a part of what inspires them to move in that direction.

Do you do the sound baths at your public classes?

I do special events. Because there's so much and it's heavy to carry, I tend to do special events. So once a month I do Yoga Nidra at Bella Rose, which is yoga sleep. So it's a deep type of guided meditation. I do that with a sound bath, so they're getting live music and I'm guiding them through these stages for this deep relaxation. So I do that once a month, and at special events. I travel for it! In my regular classes I'll often incorporate a few regular sound things. I'm a musician, I've been doing it since I was little. We all connect to music, so I try to incorporate it anywhere I can.

What other kinds of services do you provide?

I lead yoga retreats. I'm kinda dabbling in a bit of everything right now, trying to hone into what Karmic Roots is going to be doing. There's a saying, "Yoga without breathing is just stretching." To me, the breath work is equally as important as the movement itself. Movement is just one part of yoga. Breath work is a part of yoga. Meditation is a part of yoga. The way in which we treat ourselves and others is a part of yoga. If I look at what I'm doing now and where I want to be, I'm doing the things I want to be doing. And that's pretty cool.

Did you have any inclination you would end up an entrepreneur?

I grew up on a farm, and that was a business. My dad gave me a lot of responsibility there, like managing our cattle herd. I've always been drawn to working independently and then bringing people together. Did I ever imagine doing this? No. I really thought I'd have a more traditional job, because that's what's expected. An "adult's" job. With my background in anthropology, I guess I expected a faculty position. And I do, I do teach as an adjunct at the college. I teach yoga and sociology.

So you said you're recently divorced. I'm going through a divorce as well, it'll be finalized on December 18th, and I feel like lately life has put a lot of people in my path who have gone through the same or at least very similar things.

It is, it's all over. And it's been really interesting, the last year I've had a lot of women coming to me with their stories. And a lot of it isn't like this awful, terrible things. It's a disconnect, or a woman realizing, "I'm not happy. I need to find my way to happiness, and I'm growing in a different direction than my partner is." And that's ok. We're allowed to move out of those kind of situations. We don't have to stay there.

Have you had a lot of people react in surprising ways to your divorce?

It's either, "Oh, I'm sorry" or "Congratulations!" And I don't know how I feel about either one. My ex-husband says sometimes, "you know, it'd be a lot easier if I hated you." It's just the way we are.

What else do you do in your spare time, if you have any?

I'm learning how to play the ukulele! Somehow I'm sure that's going to get incorporated into the sound work I do. I already have incorporated it in some, actually. Another place I teach public yoga is at the Besser Museum on Tuesday, and I've brought it a few times. It's mindful movement, so it's not necessarily yoga. Just really feeling into our bodies and into our breath and noticing where we are in space and just noticing...just noticing. It's a sneaky way to get into that "be here now."

Where do you see yourself, business-wise in the next 5 years?

You know, I often am thinking that I'm not planning things out well enough. I don't even technically have a business plan finished. I mean I have it, it's there, I just...I haven't needed it for anything. I look more at the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, and the end of the year, and then make a tentative plan for the next year. But a lot of it, fo me, I'm a person who is a recovering perfectionist and over-planned everything in my life, and wanted that control. But life just doesn't work very well like that. I guess it can work, but life didn't work very well for me like that. It brought up all this stress and things didn't happen. But having a little more trust and faith--and I don't mean not taking action, no, no. Action must be taken--but trusting in that intention, and doing something about it...that's what I focus on.

So what advice would you give to graduating girls in this area who might feel like there's no opportunities around here?

Graduating high school? Hmm...I guess I'm trying to think of what I would have liked to hear at that age...and would I have listened? I guess: don't be afraid to ask questions and have experiences. You don't have to do what is expected of you; listen, really listen, to what your heart and soul is seeking.


Michele Zee Photography women's portraits

While I listened to our recorded interview to type up our exchange, I mentally berated myself for talking so much. And I did, I promise you. I edited a lot of my own words out for brevity's sake (you're welcome). That's not what an interview is supposed to be, right? I'm supposed to be listening, getting to know my subject. But even while groaning inwardly at my recorded voice babbling, I still found myself nodding along to Paige's responses and words. Paige just has that sort of presence about her, she makes you feel safe. She makes you feel like a friend.

If you've been considering a yoga class, or just doing something to improve your mental and/or physical health in general, I can't stress this enough: Call Paige. Go to a class at Performance Locker. Check out the Art in the Loft event schedule for her next class. Follow Karmic Roots Yoga on Instagram. Get started on bringing some peace and balance to your life, even if it doesn't seem like something you think you can do. After all, as Paige said-- you don't have to do what is expected of you.

Check out the slideshow below for more images of Paige, and the custom-necklace she wore that absolutely enchanted me! The Labradorite memorial necklace was made by Letters to Sarah Metalsmithing. Check out their Insta here!

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