Kathleen Ross-Allee provides yoga therapy for the recovery and healing process of cancer patients.
Photos by David Young-Wolff
Before she became a yoga therapist or even a fitness and wellness professional, a friend asked Kathleen Ross-Allee to substitute teach for her aerobics class, even though at the time, Kathleen was a fitness enthusiast with no experience actually teaching fitness. Her argument, “You’re an actress right? Pretend it is a role you are playing,” convinced Kathleen to just do it.
What began with a spontaneous “yes” revealed Kathleen’s passion for helping people regain their health and fitness commitments—and led to a subsequent change in career path. Kathleen began training people and became an ACE certified personal fitness trainer. She started studying yoga in the 1990s, first with Jasmine Lieb and Erich Schiffmann; yoga influenced both her personal practice as well as the way she worked with individuals in her fitness business, Leen Bodies. Words from Kathleen’s late father, a university professor who would read Greek mythology in the evenings, “Once you stop learning, you stop living,” influenced her passion for education.
She enrolled in the 200 hour teacher training program at the Center for Yoga on Larchmont and in 2001, she completed the training, joined the center’s staff, and interned with her mentor, Fred Miller. When Liberation Yoga opened, they asked her to join the staff. There she taught Gentle Yoga and developed and continues to teach a free Yoga for Parkinson’s class in the garden studio, supported by the studio’s owners Christine Burke and Gary McCleery, along with generous donations from her network of friends, family, and students.
Becoming a student in the Yoga Therapy RX Program on campus at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), under the direction of Larry Payne, felt like a natural progression and being on a college campus felt like home for her. There, Kathleen’s fellow student, kindred spirit, and business partner Alison Crowley were inspired to find their own niche to implement yoga therapy in the community. In 2007, they launched The Yoga Prescription with a focus on supporting people through the recovery and healing process in dealing with cancer, even after treatments have concluded or after the medical establishment has seen evidence of remission. Kathleen and Alison believe that healing continues long after treatment is over. Through The Yoga Prescription, the duo and their trained yoga therapists and assistants teach a total of 42 monthly classes throughout Los Angeles. While many of these specifically address the concerns of cancer patients and survivors, they also offer classes for people with Parkinson’s disease and other conditions. Their vision is to see these programs “become permanently placed in these wellness centers and hospitals side by side with Western medicine as a viable source of recovery.” Their model is influenced by their certification in the Yoga Therapy RX program which trains students in the practice of integrating yoga therapy with modern medicine; as well as their continuing study with Jnani Chapman, RN, in Chapman’s Yoga Therapy in Cancer and Chronic Illness Training (YCat).
No matter the title of what she is teaching, Kathleen says, “I design each class to meet the needs of my students. I am able to do that no matter what the situation is.” She does this by choosing sequences based on what is presented to her in the room. Kathleen holds the following intention for working with her students, “In the time they spend with me, something can happen that will allow them to have a different perspective on their day.”
As a teacher, there are times when she draws on lessons from her acting background. She is comfortable presenting in crowds, groups, or at the front of the room. And she prepares for her classes with the same attention she would dedicate to script analysis as an actor. She combines this preparation with the ability to both be spontaneous with and to pay close attention to her students, as though they are her scene partners. In class, “It’s constant improvisation, she says.” In addition, Kathleen believes being a teacher and a yoga therapist also includes a commitment to ongoing education. She lives the advice given by her father that guides her: keep learning to keep living.
Between teaching private clients, daily classes, volunteering whenever she can, and serving as the Managing Director of the Yoga Therapy RX Program at Loyola Marymount University, Kathleen is a heartfelt workaholic. She even admits to it, “I am officially a workaholic, but I insist that it’s only in the best sense. I love and am passionate about all of the work I do.” Kathleen even enjoys the driving which is a necessary part of the life of a nomadic yoga therapist in Los Angeles. “The drive home at night allows me to decompress before I see my husband. And I just sing Broadway songs all day long!” She finds time for balance with a membership at Burke Williams, a standing Saturday morning Fryman Canyon hiking date with friends, and a husband who keeps her accountable to personal and social commitments. Somehow she also fits in cuddle time with her friends’ pups.
When this show tune singing compassionate yoga therapist is asked for the advice she would give potential students of yoga therapy, she offers, “To learn and absorb from those who have preceded you. To ask questions. To embrace what comes your way. When you are open to what comes your way, then you will serve the needs of the people who are seeking you. And in this way, you will have found your authentic voice.”
It sounds like advice that Kathleen could have given her younger self, the one who was acting and working at the Gaucho Grill on Ventura when she said yes to a random request from a friend asking if she could sub her class. Kathleen was open to what came her way.
For more information on Kathleen Ross-Allee and The Yoga Prescription, visit: theyogaprescription.com
For more information about Yoga Therapy RX, visit: http://academics.lmu.edu/extension/programs/yogatherapy/
Jessica Malloy is a freelance writer torn between the California Coast and Kentucky Countryside. Aside from Yoga, she spends as much time as she can in the sunshine rock climbing, water skiing, and traveling. Check out her newest adventure on narrowhips.com
By Jessica Malloy, an Orange County-based writer and avid climber with a B.A. in English and emphasis in creative writing and journalism.