Yogini of the Month: Claudia Hinton
Claudia Hinton is our Yogini of the month. She has a master degree in clinical counseling and runs her own private practice. She is the mother of two daughters and wife of Kevin Hinton the CEO of an incentive travel association. Two professional careers and teenage daughters can be a challenge for anyone. It is no coincidence that she was drawn toward practices that help with the stress and chaos of life. Claudia eventually found that Yoga complemented her life and her practice. Her yoga journey began in 2009 when a friend opened a yoga studio and she decided to give it a try. "I feel like I've been doing yoga for most of my life, but I didn't know I was doing yoga. Then a friend of mine opened a yoga studio in the city called Nature Yoga. I took a class and I really liked it, but I wasn't ready yet. I was so busy with grad school that I didn't have time to pursue a deeper practice. In 2010 my brother-in-law took me to a Bikram yoga class and I really liked it, particularly the sweat. But I felt like I needed more, that something was missing. We moved to Evanston and then a friend told me about North Shore Yoga. I tried it and I loved it! I said to myself, 'This is Yoga, what I've been doing isn't yoga!' It was the beginning of a love affair. I feel that my Yoga was birthed at NSY."
Claudia grew up with healers and esoteric practices, but despite those spiritual underpinnings she hadn't really connected to a path that would lead her where she wanted to go. After a class With Daniela she started to realize what she needed to do. "Bikram accentuated to me how disconnected I was with my body. When I was in that intense heat I was not able to feel my body. At the same time I was running and my body was saying 'slow down.' The first class I took was an intro class and I got Daniela. Daniela was all about slowing down and paying attention to your body. She is very methodical and precise. She offered tiny little adjustments that were like, WOW, they made all the difference. Everything in my body said 'this is what I want now.'" While Claudia had a personal meditation practice she found that she was making her progress by working with her body.
Claudia said that her Yoga practice has helped her to feel more confident at work and to create more harmony in her family. She says she tries to do too much as a mother and a professional, often at the expense of her children's opportunity to learn through their own efforts. With Yoga Claudia found a new connection to her Self and was able to let go of the need to do and to control. "Yoga at NSY was the first time, in a felt sense, that I began to develop an intimate relationship with myself. If you don't have an intimate relationship with yourself and know yourself, then you don't have a place to start to have an intimate relationship with others and understand other people." The benefits have begun to show in her family and her professional life. "My husband and my girls are doing yoga. Most importantly the philosophy is being brought into the family. The thing I think that has helped me the most is to pay attention to the breath. It's taught me to find that peace. I have a teenager who has a need to do more for herself and for me to do less. I have a tendency to do everything and by slowing down and connecting to the breath I can determine whether my actions are empowering or disempowering my family."
Claudia's grandmother was a spiritual healer in Mexico and she has taken a unconventional approach to healing in her counseling practices as well. So it was natural for her to add Yoga practices into her own counseling, but what occurred to her personally was more surprising. "You know I do counseling. There was a client that was making great progress then there came this space where nothing was really happening. I want to feel that my client is getting something out of their investment. So I'm thinking 'Am I being effective,' I was starting to work up my own anxiety. I checked in with the client and asked do you think we are done here and he said no I think we should go on. Then I had this epiphany. It was in a yoga class while we were working on opening the heart center. I was trying to straighten my arms in urdhva dhanurasana and I just couldn't get it. I was doing all sorts of exercises at home to try to get through this pose. Then one of the NSY teachers said to me in class that everything is organic and you just have to let it happen. Suddenly my clients situation came to mind and I realized that I was pushing and not letting things go at its own organic pace. So I decided that at the next session I was just going to 'BE.' I just sit there and was a witness rather than trying to do. I had no agenda and no effort. It was an incredible session. It was almost like a meditation. The client felt so good afterwards and complemented me. My yoga practice changed after that session. I stopped trying to push, push, push. I thought I was letting go, but I really wasn't."
Claudia is committed to helping others and in many ways her Yoga Path is dedicated to others through herself. "At some point you become this beacon of creative energy that supports everything around you. And to me that is freedom. Where everyone feels permission to do things in their way. It is still their journey and they have a right to stumble and fall." She emphasizes that Yoga has many paths with different paths for different needs. "In teacher training Sharyn Galindo was talking about all the different paths that have been given us for enlightenment. The sages were saying if this doesn't work try this and if this doesn't work try this. The lesson is it's important to not adhere to something rigidly and apply it with a broad stroke. There is this dance that happens where you are going inside and something resonates with you. It gives you hope. There isn't one path that you have to try and then you're done. You can try something now and if it doesn't work for you then you can try something different. But you got to keep on going." Claudia's story is one of growth, hope and help to others. She through her own example has demonstrated that one can use the tools of Yoga to grow personally and to have an impact on the world around you. Her favorite quote is from Nelson Mandela: "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Congratulations Claudia and Namaste!