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Daily Inspiration: Meet Christine Burke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christine Burke.

Hi Christine, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was an actress who loved art and writing for the first half of my life. I studied, went to school in San Diego, London and eventually New York. I was working endless challenging side jobs including the prerequisite waiting of many tables and my spirit and body were taking the toll. As a former dancer and secret spiritual seeker (secret even from myself I think), I found my way into a yoga class in New York at Integral Yoga Studio. Something was awakened and started to sprout as I lay in the dark incense filled room surrounded by strangers and feeling a deep sense of connection, induced naturally and perfectly by the movement and breath. I followed this feeling in my off again on again practice and as I became a working actress, it became my essential. It put me back together when things pulled me apart. Later, I landed in LA and met my someday-to-be-husband, Gary McCleery, who was also a working actor and yoga enthusiast. He introduced me to Frank White and the then Center For Yoga in L.A. I fell deeper in love with yoga and fell in love with Gary. We opened a theater in Silverlake – Salvation Theater -and while I had some T.V. and theater success in LA, we folded blankets, ran the front desk, cleaned the Center For Yoga and built our theater. I became a certified teacher through CFY in 2000 which was the beginning of my deep study that included multiple trainings, mentorships and influences.

While managing CFY, we ran the theater while Gary directed, we both acted and we hosted many talented performers and musicians. It was personal, grassroots and wonderful. Gary’s mother Virginia, in her late 70’s, tended to the lobby and bar and the theater won accolades in the papers and in the neighborhood. It was also grueling, stressful and wild and when the roof caved in during a storm and ruined our handbill stage and vintage seating, we had to face some hard realities. But we loved holding space both at CFY and Salvation. After four years, rents in Silverlake became untenable, and we had to let Salvation go. At precisely this time, CFY was undergoing major challenges and the owner decided to sell. We rallied and gathered and borrowed and placed an offer – we lost to Yoga Works. As Yoga Works came in and made their changes, we realized that we wanted to see something different survive and thrive. A place where teachers can be themselves and teach only what inspires and moves them, somewhere Independent, personal, community-based and spiritual. So we set about planting some seeds very quickly, were fortunate to have backing by two generous donors to get us started, and Liberation was born from the mud on La Brea avenue in 2004. Despite our acting careers, we threw ourselves 100% into building our magical space and supporting the teachers and students as best we could. I realized I couldn’t straddle both worlds and I wanted to touch and share with as many as possible the power of yoga and help, heal and inspire from a mat rather than a stage. I left acting and we dove deep into our yoga world and community.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has really never been a smooth road. It has often been a gorgeous, bumpy, fun (and occasionally terrifying) road. But we both found yoga to be a salvation in our lives; and as we saw person after person find their way through their own bumps and curves with yoga there to prop them up and soothe their hurts, empower their spirits and clarify their intentions, we were driven to supply the space. Our original space from 2004 – 2019 was blessed with an outdoor space that became known as the Liberation Garden. It grew (literally) into an oasis in the city. But being on an alley in the middle of La Brea/Hollywood there were many colorful events. We had giant garden heaters stolen under our noses. We had homeless people making pancakes in our parking lot on a grill. Being sensitive to the homeless, we often tried to support however we could with water, blankets and such. Sometimes this backfired and we found them finding a way to get into and sleep in our car.

On Valentine’s Day of 2008, pipes burst beneath our floor and flooded the entire studio within 2 hours. Our stunning mahogany floors were completely ruined. In order to stay open (we could never afford to close other than Christmas) we had giant fans blowing and people practicing on what appeared to be a miniature skateboard park with its rolling waves of wood floor. Our incredible community rose up, spearheaded by the teachers, and surprised us with a fundraiser of a full day of classes at alternate location raining money to keep our heads above water. This theme recurred at various tender moments when the studio community would band together and help us save the studio. There are enough stories to fill a book! In addition to the bumps, we have had many incredible highs. the studio was featured in many films and shows (including Big Little Lies) was the home to many partnerships being born – business, marriage, creative, etc., and has functioned as a place where people with limited means could practice (on the house) until things improved for them. We have received numerous awards including being named one of the top 20 studios in the world by Travel and Leisure and being cited in many top 10 lists. It is wonderful to see that one family-owned and operated studio can touch the hearts and senses of many.

The most recent struggles were that the city decided we had to close down our garden. It was battle that dovetailed with other state and government changes in the business structure for studios and Independent contractors that threaten small businesses survival. It was heartbreaking as our garden studio trees were home to baby hummingbirds, we were struggling with rising rents, and the loss of this iconic and financially essential piece of our home was not something we could come back from. The final blow was that our rent was set to increase by 60% due to the booming high-priced retail and renovation of this part of the street. We had to leave. It was devastating but in true lotus from the mud style, good fortune smiled upon us, and after an exhaustive and down to the wire search we found our new home – south and still on La Brea. It’s unique, special and has an indoor garden of sorts in place of our now gutted Lib garden up the street. We spent precisely nine months there and then the pandemic hit. We have been paying rent on a closed space for a year. As everyone is struggling in some we stay these days, we stay committed to providing online health, joy and relief and then eventually back in our beautiful space. It’s important to us to have brick and mortar and we want to offer both options as we love our community and want to support the teachers who want and need to feel loved and valued by a studio as they do their important work.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I love everything yoga and I love people. I have written two yoga books – The Yoga Healer and The Power of Breath and Hand Yoga (both on Amazon) and in addition to Liberation and my incredible private students, I teach at Marlborough School for the last nine years. My oldest student began at 93 and my passion is to share the practice with people from all stages and all walks of life as often as I can. Professionally I am most proud of Liberation, including our teacher training program, my books, and my online course The Spiritual Mental health Diet, which is a seasonal weekly six weeks course centering around self-care, group support and yoga philosophy. Personally, I am proud to be inspired daily by the teen students I teach, the Liberation teachers and extended family, my own family and Gary, and in particular my daughter Clementine who is an essential ingredient not only in my life personally of course but to the success of Liberation.

At the risk of sounding vague, I think to experience what sets Liberation apart, one must experience us directly. There’s a bit of mystery and magic to the energy of it all. We have incredible and passionate teachers whose full livelihoods are sharing this practice and who average 15 years or more teaching. We have a unique and welcome space that is not typical, we have weathered countless storms and practice what we offer – real yoga. But beyond that, it’s alchemy when you find a yoga home and a teacher and that cannot be well defined on paper. What sets me apart personally is really what pulls us all together. That is that we are utterly unique – snowflakes – and yet we are also completely connected and interdependent. The best way I have found to promote love in the world is this way and for that, I am eternally grateful.

I am also deeply and humbly grateful to the country of India and all the sages, healers, and spiritual masters who cultivated and continue to generously share the treasure chest that is yoga, which is for everyone with no exception.

How can people work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
Well, how nice! People can email me christine@liberationyoga.com if they are interested in collaborating or renting the studio which is clean and waiting with open arms! Please visit us online for Zoom classes, and soon in person for safe and small classes. People can purchase series through Liberation for those struggling which helps support us staying open during this challenging time and helps people who are experiencing hardship stay healthy in mind and body! Also, please enjoy my books as a way to stay nourished and supported. Lastly, stay connected with us through social media and our newsletters – we will be launching our subscription based on demand platform – “The Liberated Life” later this spring!

Pricing:

  • Single class $19
  • 5 Classes $85
  • 10 Classes $150
  • 20 Classes $250
  • Unlimited Month $140 or try auto renew with a discount!

Contact Info:

  • Email: christine@liberationyoga.com
  • Website: www.liberationyoga.com
  • Instagram: @liberationyoga
  • Facebook: @liberationyoga


Image Credits:

Ryan Hebert

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