Bio

Yoga teacher, dance fitness teacher, performing artist, creative wellness coach and curator, Sandi Higgins offers her students the flavors of serenity and the spices of playful energy. Sandi loves seeing the threads of compassionate community weave through her classes and she strives to help her students align with their heartfelt aspirations while attaining practical and workable goals. A student of Ashtanga yogi Sharath Jois and a Buddhist refugee with tulku Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, Sandi has been blessed with continual learning from deep spiritual lineages as well as from all humans, fellow animals, and environments! Ommm & Mooo!

Yoga Bio

Dance Fitness Bio


 


A long story:

First of all, I just want to thank my parents for supporting all my studies over the years. I would not be doing anything that I’m doing now without their love and kindness! I also want to thank my dog, Fiesta. She was my best yoga practice buddy. I miss her! I also miss hearing her snore throughout my practice!
I was not a former ballet dancer nor a particularly flexible nor strong person in any way before I began to practice yoga. To the contrary! I was wayward and rough around the edges. I had taken a year of gymnastics as a kid before getting into sports like softball and soccer and then leaving athletics entirely to do musical theater in high school. As a teenager, I tried learning some yoga poses from books, but real yoga practice for me began when I was finishing my bachelor’s degree at New York University and working as a film/video and theater artist. I was trying to help my best friend document her devastating battle with Multiple Sclerosis; I was working full time for $5/hour on a Hollywood film; I was trying to finish my college degree: I was losing my sanity in the city and literally had seizures. The one compassionate thing my film boss did for me at that time was to recommend that I take a yoga class. I felt totally clumsy and out of place in my first classes, especially when looking at everyone else in the room. I thought “how on Earth…?!”. Truth be told, I still ask that question today, but now I ask with more joy and less fear! Despite my voracious inner-critic, I kept showing up to yoga class and gradually found my body-mind opening to poses that I had never imagined possible. I started feeling better. After 8 years, I realized how much yoga was actually helping me move through and beyond challenges and self-limiting beliefs. Yoga helped me get through the traumas of co-dependent caregiving, grief, loss, depression, and clinical PTSD. I never even took anti-depressents because I found that in practice. Wow! As such, in 2013, I shifted my professional goals entirely from the performing arts to teaching yoga in order to help others find this natural medicine, or, nectar.
I completed my first 200-hour yoga teacher training in Ashtanga & Jivamukti inspired Vinyasa as well as Restorative Yoga with teachers Barbara Verrochi & Kristin Leigh at the Shala in NYC in 2013. I have been teaching yoga ever since! That same year, I also started showing up for early morning Mysore Ashtanga classes and had my first Led Ashtanga Vinyasa practice with paramguru Sharath Jois and his mother, Saraswati Jois, who were then teaching together on tour in NYC. This marked the start of an ongoing devotion to the Mysore Ashtanga sadhana. In the way you need a starter SCOBY for making homemade kombucha, I discovered that Mysore Ashtanga is like the most potent Mother for making homemade yoga. I was thrilled that the Mysore approach empowered me to develop a home practice while also pointing me towards greater nuance and subtlety in practice. I was also inspired by reading the book GURUJI A Portrait of Sri K Pattabhi Jois about the lineage’s founder, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and I sought to learn from its authors and some of his famous students in NYC. Then I finally traveled to South India for intensive practice with Sharath Jois (the grandson of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) in Mysore itself (which is also the geographical source of most modern postural yoga). It felt clear to me then that Sharath is my main teacher and I started following him on his tours in the USA, while still continuing to practice with Saraswati Jois on tour in the USA and Europe, as well as taking workshops with other teachers in and visiting NYC.
In 2018, I drove across the country to complete my second 200-hour teacher training in an Advanced Ashtanga Yoga Teacher’s Intensive with Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor at the original Yoga Workshop in Boulder, Colorado. I had visited Boulder once before to meet Tibetan Buddhist lama Dilgo Khyentse Yangis Rinpoche on his first tour to the USA from Bhutan. I felt then that I would return to Boulder, and perhaps there is something to Chief Niwot’s curse because this time I stayed and haven’t left since! As for the yoga training, I was drawn to learn more about the “unorthodox” and mystic approach that Richard and Mary offered to the Ashtanga practice. Ultimately, the training helped me find space for more Restorative Yoga into the balance of my practice and teaching. It also made me value the drive and asceticism of the Ashtanga “orthodoxy” too! It was also during this training that the first sexual assault reports about Sri K. Pattabhi Jois came to light. Whoa! A lot to process. Ongoing prayers for healing. I was grateful then that Mary Taylor, among others, made some space to acknowledge and discuss this deep hurt being vocalizing within our practice community. Where is that conversation today? Ashtanga is a spiritual lineage and a shamanic lineage and we need to continue to acknowledge and discuss how it (and maybe just about every yoga lineage) has a history of both help and harm. May we better discern, relate, and look out for each other rather than recoil from what we don’t want to hear in shame and fear. May we work together to strengthen the very foundation of our practice, the 1st limb that is yama यम, whereby the whole mahāvratam (great vow) of yoga is defined by the core value of ahimsa (non-violence). More about my thoughts on this can be found on my #MeToo page.
In 2019, just after the Yoga Workshop’s 30th anniversary, it was suddenly announced that this historic yoga studio for which I had come to Boulder in the first place would be closing in 30 days due to an unexpected sale of the building. I had only been practicing there less than a year following my training, but it already felt like a cherished yoga space for me, and it was quite a shock to witness its closure. The community dispersed with some divisiveness regarding the studio’s next incarantion and I felt a great loss of practice camaraderie in an already challenging time. At least, as mentioned, the Ashtanga tradition empowers us to do home practice so I’ve been doing a lot of that ever since, especially as we then turned the corner into 2020 where all the yoga studios in town had to close temporarily anyway with the onset of COVID-19!
Right before the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I broke my foot on an Ashtanga retreat in Mexico and thus got a head start on the lockdown upon returning to the USA. My broken metatarsal forced me to pause from my regular morning practice. Gasp! What to do when we can’t even do our home yoga practice? Fortunately, yoga is not just about what we can do on our mats. Even off our mats, there is always something to practice! In Ashtanga Yoga (as outlined in the yoga sūtras of Patañjali) there are 8 limbs or stages of practice and only one of them is about the stuff we primarily do on our mat. The rest is about the stuff we do the rest of the day! How do we relate with ourselves and each other and our sense of the Supreme? While healing my foot, I was able to take more time to get more into yoga theory and reflect on these other dimensions of Ashtanga that can all-too-easily get neglected when we are so focused on āsana. I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the yoga sūtras and came to adore more than ever before their mystical, practical, and poignant correlations with Buddhism and Tantra.
I feel a heartfelt connection with Buddhism, especially from Tibet (where I first visited while trekking with my sister in the Himalayas as a teenager) and have received meditation training, practice, and empowerments directly from several Tibetan yogis including the 14th Dalai Lama, the 17th Karmapa, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, and Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche. I’m especially drawn to the teachings of the Bhavachakra, the Bardos, Avalokiteshvara, the 4 Immeasurables, Tonglen, and Tara.
I’m most grounded in the Ashtanga Vinyasa and that’s my favorite form of yoga to practice and teach, including its corresponding philosophy, but I also really enjoy Restorative Yoga, Yoga Basics, Vinyasa Yoga (on land and in the water), Chanting, Meditation, and Yoga Theory.
In my early 20s, I lived in France for just over two years where I studied theater and worked with French filmmakers. It was a really inspiring time and I try to keep that part of my heart alive by staying active with French language and culture (Sanskrit might be the most refined language in the world, but French has a music to be reckoned with, too!). Join me and my French Language Learning Meetup for occasional book clubs and pop-up thematic workshops!
In my late 20s, I studied tabla (hand percussion) and North Indian Classical Music for several years in NYC. Perhaps it is mostly my love for Indian rhythm that compels me to Bollywood dancing, but along with a love of theater and cinema (particularly Indian cinema), there’s dance, and dance fitness… and then there’s the thing that brings them all together: BollyX The Bollywood Workout! Dance had been on the periphery of my life as a fun recreational activity and occasional workout before I found BollyX. The Bollywood Workout really brought dance into the center of my week, as a weekly community ritual for me and a source of connection and inspiration. This dance fitness program is by far one of the best ways to work out together! BollyX calls forth the playful exuberance of Indian cinema while also taking us right into our ecstatic inner cosmic dancer. Dance can also be yoga!
Lastly, I’ve been vegetarian since 1991 and vegan since 2011. These are two of the best choices I’ve ever made and continue to make! I love sharing the nutritious deliciousness of healthy plant-based cooking. It’s also encouraging to see how even little shifts in our diet can make big difference for ourselves, for animals, and for the sustainability of our whole planet Earth. Vegan shifts are a valuable part of the yogic lifestyle on many levels and can be made in beneficial, incremental steps through Cooking & Cleaning (and more).
Upon moving to Boulder, I founded the BAE (Boulder Animals and Environment) Yoga Group in 2018 to directly connect yoga classes with animal and environmental activism (#GiveAnOmForClimateChange). Before COVID-19, I taught several series of yoga and dance classes under the BAE Yoga banner which donated class proceeds to local animal and environmental organizations. I’d love to be able to do more of that!
May we embrace the wild, creative, unlimited potential within us while remaining steadfast in the pursuit of yoga… hearts rooted in compassion… spirits awake with the taste of liberation.
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः Oṃ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ Om peace peace peace!