Susan Cambigue-Tracey: a Guiding Light
There are many stories of success and joy that Susan shares about her life. The gift of bringing delight and freedom to thousands upon thousands of people through dance is something that was made possible by her impressive career, which includes long-time dedication to organizations such as the Music Center, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, among others. Her Instructor Profile includes an overview of her career trajectory and notable accomplishments, and there are many more stories of love and community that readily emerge in conversations about her life.
There are also stories of loss and sadness that have shaped Susan’s journey. “The storms in my life were huge,” she shares. Susan knows what it’s like to be in the midst of a personal storm where one feels disoriented, out of control, and anguished. “At this stage, I’ve handled the challenges and have moved forward without being encumbered or trapped by them.” Of course, weathering rough seas has never been easy, but she has clear motivation. She views her purpose as that of a lighthouse: “I have to keep my light bright because I’m trying to guide other travelers…I give courage to those in rapids and whirlpools so that they can navigate even when they can’t see.” Yoga is one of the principal tools Susan uses now to assist others on their path to a healthy outlook.
Early on in her dance career, Susan and her mentor Jeri Salkin, made use of dance as therapy in hospitals and mental institutions. Many of the storms she had to weather in her life came along before she had developed a personal yoga practice. It was only after turning 50 that she discovered the benefits and power of “plugging in” through yoga. When probed as to whether or not she regrets not having come across yoga earlier, she gives a most yogic answer: “You have to trust the process of your life…yoga came along when I was most ready to use it.” Her previous tools had included creativity, art, journaling and having a support system that begged her to be courageous and healthy. Yoga has added mightily to her toolbox as she helps others, especially those who are themselves experiencing pain. When asked how she does it, she humbly states: “You work with whom you have in front of you.”
Last week, I had the pleasure to attend a Chair Yoga class at Goorus Yoga Studio taught by Susan. The practice was strenuous and enjoyable. The attendees were engaged and enthusiastic. This comes as no surprise, given that is Susan is a gifted teacher used to managing groups of all sizes (even up to 3,500 students at a time!). When in her presence, it’s clear there is a lot to learn. Though she has her own beautiful home studio where she teaches group and private lessons, she often refers people to Goorus and she teaches there regularly. It is the community that Gretchen and John Lightfoot are building here in the Palisades that keeps her coming back - wanting to contribute in any way she can, as both a student and a teacher.
I asked Susan to reflect on ‘the big lesson’ she feels she has learned in her journey. Without pausing, she answered: “If I’m not healthy, I can’t help others in my life. If I’m stuck in grief, I can’t be present… my life won’t be here forever, so what am I going to do with it?” With meditation, yoga and deep gratitude, she has been able to guide others to a healthy outlook on their lives and we, her students, are able to walk away from her class having heard – and hopefully internalized – the lesson.
Susan teaches Chair Yoga at Goorus on Wednesdays and Fridays at 12 noon, and Wake Up Yoga on Wednesday mornings at 6:30. The picture above is of Susan on her recent zip-lining excursion on Catalina with her grand-daughter!