california yoga

Chaotic Mindful Sanctuary | Dr Kendall Hassemer

Welcome to the latest interview post from the True Nature Tribe. If you’re new here, head back and check out the earlier True Nature Tribe blog posts for some of the other stories. Throughout this project we photograph and interview yogis about yoga in nature. We’re honored to have met and interviewed Dr. Kendall Hassemer. We’re excited to share her insights on yoga and mindfulness. What is yoga?

“Yoga is a chaotic mindful sanctuary.”

Kendall describes yoga as a chaotic mindful sanctuary where we can explore the depths of all of the lessons that we’re upturning in this lifetime while finding a place of ease within all of it. Because, she recognizes, the human experience is so fleeting. Recalling a bumper sticker she saw on the way to Ojai, “we are spiritual beings having a physical experience.” It sounds like a tricky balance to explore life lessons while also finding peace. Kendall seems to relish the challenge and appreciate the balance.

mindful sanctuary california yoga mindful sanctuary california yoga california yoga

“Yoga teases out that aspect of mind body and spirit when we need it to, but it also helps put the pieces all back together.”

Dr. Kendall Hassemer works as a naturopathic doctor and yoga teacher in Santa Barbara, California. She found yoga for the first time in school in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. She hated it. She remembers that she got bored. Bored out of her mind. Athletes like Kendall are often used to more challenge, more sensation, and more activity. Needless to say she didn’t go back, at least not until she ended up in London for work and walked into a Bikram studio. She was in love.

Kendall quit running, got a yoga mat, bought all the yoga clothes, and practiced for three to four hours a day. Her friends thought she was crazy and her parents were worried she needed medical evaluations, but Kendall was dedicated. It was that dedication that inspired Kendall to move out west and explore a yoga teaching career.

She landed in Portland and started taking Baptiste style classes that combined her love of music, dance, and a little bit of heat. She got to move her body in a more free way and loved it. Her very first teacher training was on Big Island of Hawaii with Baron Baptiste. To make it even more interesting, she was simultaneously in medical school. The hot temperatures of Hawaii were appropriate for that time of her life. At that training, Kendall made dear friends that she still has to this day. As her teaching developed she continues her training with teachers such as Uma Kleppinger, Doug Keller, and Tias Little.

As a naturopathic doctor, Kendall is acutely aware that you can get hurt doing yoga. Despite the intensity of her own practice, she has taken a more therapeutic approach to her teaching. Her understanding of the practice combines concepts from Chinese medicine, craniosacral therapy, and yoga. She sees how we can heal the constant sense of strain on the nervous system.

“Yes, I love to do fun flashy poses. I love armbalances and handstands. I think they are therapeutic in their own way. I love to see how the body can be challenged and how we can push ourselves. But I also want to encourage people to find a way they can find a sense of peace.”

As a teacher, Kendall enjoys provide both a safe and exciting experience. She wants to guide to students but also give them something that they can find off their mats. Her personal practice and her professional expertise lend well to her teaching an alignment-based therapeutic vinyasa. She is able to guide students into more challenging poses while also helping them be present wherever they are.

Her classes typically have an idea in mind. A sequence might focus on a specific part of the body with very clear alignment that allows for more depth. Whether it’s a focus on the bandhas, energy, or a physical benefit, Kendall enjoys helping students find new connections in a posture. She notices that sometimes this plays out in finding a new sense of ease in postures that have been difficult in the past. A simple benefit of yoga is just feeling good about yourself.

“That sense of empowerment from attempting something, not being sure you can do it, and then figuring it out.”

california yoga

Beyond asana, the physical postures, Kendall appreciates and integrates mindfulness into her teaching. Mindfulness is something that she would have wanted to know when she was younger. There is power in just remembering to take a breath.

Yoga, mindfulness, and remembering to breathe can have a big impact on life. Kendall notes that sometimes it feels like the practices change us lot, and yet we still fall back into old patterns and habits. There is a short-term positivity boost that we gain from asana, surfing, hiking, rock-climbing, or even reading a book. Sustaining the benefits outside of a moment is another challenge. Kendall jokes, “Once you can touch your toe to your nose or finally touch your hands to the floor, all of your problems are going to go away.”

As Kendall says, you obviously quickly realize that’s not true.

“Being better, not perfect. That’s where we’re aiming.”

Yoga has helped Kendall find a sense of calm and ease within. In addition, it has taught her to be able to sustain that for a longer period of time. It is both physical and emotional. It helps her physical body to sustain other activities. It helps her mind be more present.

“It really benefits my mind because I’m able to slow down and at least check in from time to time with my body, and my partner, and my friends, and my family. And without that, without a sense of community, I think that all would be just not as exciting and not as rewarding in this crazy life experience where there’s lots of challenges but there’s also lots of opportunity.”

beach yoga

beach yoga

beach yoga
beach yoga

“Yoga has been integral in the way that I approach not only my life on the matt but then when I step out into this beautiful world.”

Yoga and naturopathic medicine have become closely intertwined in Kendall’s life. Her heart is in helping more people rather than less. She enjoys giving more people opportunity to experience a better sense of well being. As a Naturopathic Doctor, Kendall’s work utilizes the healing benefits of functional medicine, bodywork, nutrition, yoga, and nature.

“I love being outside. I think if I could have and would have known about California and the ocean when I was in a diaper and I could have crawled out here from Wisconsin, I think that definitely would have happened.”

Kendall imagines a documentary about little Kendall in her white diaper heading west. She’s always felt at home near the ocean. She considers herself a novice surfer and equates the feeling of being out on the water to the feeling of being on her yoga matt. It is not something you can find many other places. She has always loved being in nature. Fade back to a scene of little Kendall, a little older, growing up on her bike. She had a big rainbow windsock trailing behind her that always made it easy to spot her coming.

Kendall expresses a desire to maintain that outdoor lifestyle, specifically in southern California where the tendency is to drive. She finds it interesting that in a place where the climate is beautiful 12 months a year, people spend so much time in their vehicles. Getting outdoors helps Kendall kept her sanity. She loves to appreciate and take advantage of the playground of the west coast. She makes it a point to get outside and enjoy and she reminds her community to do the same.

“Get outside and do something nice for yourself today.”

beach yoga

beach yoga

The reminder is part of her e-mail signature. “It’s so important. I don’t always follow it myself, but it’s a good reminder to me as well.” She even combines getting outside in her business. It can be something as simple as getting outside and talking about something that’s going on. It can be going on a retreat and finding something that can be carried home into everyday life.

Kendall emphasizes that self-care is not just a fleeting moment. It shouldn’t be where we get one week to relax and take care of ourselves and then the other 51 weeks we just have to get through our routine. If we aren’t finding a lot of joy in the routine, then we need to bring more wellness into it.

To get technical for a moment, Dr. Hassemer (Kendall) discussed the HPA Access, the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal access. When Kendall is teaching her students about breath and meditation she talks a lot about the parasympathetic nervous system. “That’s our ability to rest and digest. We spend the majority of our time in fight or flight, in sympathetic nervous system dominance.” Kendall also uses nature to help her clients learn to rest and digest whether it’s something as simple as walking or sitting on the beach.

“Whenever I’m inviting people to start on a course or a path to better well being or improved well being. I invite them to get outside, watch the sunset, watch the sunrise, and make sure you’re taking a breath while you do it.” She says that she encourages it but then adds that she almost makes it mandatory. Doctor’s orders. Get outside. Kendall is also able to teach health and wellness from her personal experiences. She is her own guinea pig constantly learning from her own injuries and limitations. From knee injuries, stitches, depression, and fatigue, to the unique abdominal injury she was recovering from during our interview.

“Every injury I’ve sustained I’ve learned from and have been able to help other people.”

While some injuries seem like a big deal, Kendall cautions against always thinking that everything has some grand meaning. While that can sometimes be the case, she emphasizes the importance of listening to whispers and taps. Sometimes there is something we’re supposed to be learning. It’s not always a catastrophe throwing us off course, sometimes it is a sign or signal to gently change course. Her abdominal injury forced her to step back from a certain level of proficiency and think about a new sense of awareness.

Safety in yoga is important. Kendall comments on the fact that there’s an expectation that the yoga instructor is supposed to know every thing for every person. “It’s hard enough to keep tabs on your own being, your own body, and your own breath.” She finds that it is important to teach her students to listen to their bodies rather than taking on responsibility herself. “There’s no way every posture, every movement, and every stillness will feel the same way to everyone.” So she encourages her students to explore their own edges and listen to their bodies. It might be a voice, a sensation, or an emotion. She says that we should pay attention to the little whispers to fine tune our awareness.

“The feeling I get when I’m on my yoga mat is the sense of, ‘this place is mine.’” The four edges of Kendall’s sticky mat hold her and protect her in the space and she gets to express herself however she chooses. That might means savasana or inversions, stillness or movement, either way it’s a time to be with herself. Yoga feels natural in her body so it’s an easy place to connect back to ease, stillness, and sometimes even the chaos.

“To find a way through it (the chaos) rather than around it.”

Conversely, being outside gives Kendall a sense of ease, clarity, and peacefulness from a sense of expansion. The sense of place is different. There is always an element of change. For example, it’s going to be different every time you come to the beach. There are different rocks, different tides, different people, and different animals.

“Just to watch that shift is a place where I feel like I really can honor that shift and change in myself.”

california yoga

california yoga

beach yoga

beach yoga

beach yoga

beach yoga

Thanks Kendall! And thanks to the rest of you for tuning in! Be sure to visit our website for more information on what we are doing with the True Nature Tribe project about yoga in nature. You’ll see glimpses of the stories ahead and well as ways to get involved. We would be honored if you would support our project in whatever way you are able. Join our newsletter below. We’ve also created a Postcard Pack that is available for purchase. 100% of the profits will be donated to land conservation.

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