Dawn is first and foremost a student of yoga, eager to learn and expand her experience of the meditative traditions that guide us toward embodied insight and Self awareness. Her classes include a mix of flow & form and emphasize breathing, balance and grounding as the foundations of asana and a launching pad to introduce yoga into daily life and the world.

Eka Pada Sarvangasana One Legged Shoulderstand

photo: Margo Jones Duvall

Dawn's teaching encourages a deepening of embodied insight that utilizes alignment as a way to explore sensation and nuance. She honors that each body is unique, and that your experience in a particular asana (pose) will be different than hers, and also different every day. 

Alignment cues are offered as a tool for deepening insight, not for getting a pose "right".

Dawn's focus on alignment in the practice is designed to guide students into feeling states within the body, which means that the outer form of the pose will look different for each student. This invites us to consider how alignment is a part of weaving our actions and choices in the world, and not a destination. 

Somatic practices are an important component of Dawn's teaching and invite a meditative awareness that allows you to embody your experience and develop more subtle insight. 

An Example of a Class Framework

Sometimes Dawn begins class by introducing a theme or element to bridge the asana practice with life. This yoga pre-amble offers you the opportunity to plant a seed in your life and yoga practice. This seed might be inspired by yoga philosophy, a life event, a personal story, a poem, the seasons, etc.

Dawn then leads the class through a "rolling on the floor" somatic practice known as SATYA (Sensory Awareness Training for Yoga Attunement) that she has been studying with Tias Little of Prajna Yoga. These movements are slow, soft, and small, and are more receptive & reflective in their energy. SATYA movements have been inspired by practices such as Feldenkrais Method® and Hannah Somatics®. She sequences this part of the practice to present actions, movements, and awareness that provide a foundation for the asanas explored that day.

Dawn guides an asana sequence that emphasizes the foundations of movement and the practice as keys to exploring the body in the moment. She finds herself influenced by a variety of movement schools and encourages curiosity and exploration. She is always looking for ways to approach “classic” asana with a new perspective and sometimes she deviates from the “classic” approach completely.

Some classes will find more form through steadiness & holding of poses to build strength and stamina. Other classes will find more flow as grace & breath meet in the practice. Expect to build up to new things and break down a pose or two each class.

Exploring different variations and prop set-ups in the same poses help to reveal the many layers of each asana. You will find that there are many props available and sometimes you'll use all of them! There are countless creative ways to use blocks, straps, and blankets, as well as the more exotic chairs, sandbags, and wall-ropes.

Bring enthusiasm - both to work hard and to have fun.
Bring compassion - to be safe and mindful of your body and its limits.
Practice with patience and persistence and your yoga will blossom with grace and beauty.
— Dawn's guidance for your practice

The Pause & Contemplative Practice 

Dawn Hayes Meditation.jpg

Dawn finds that contemplative practice is an important part of her daily practice. Yoga practice is not limited to asana alone, and taking time to pause is important in our fast-paced and connected world.

The availability of information at the click of a finger (or thumb), the ever-ready cell phone call or text message, and the streaming videos on a screen of light offer such mixed blessings in our lives. These tools connect us to friends and family far and wide, to information and perspective from all over the world, and yet they also distract us from what is happening in the present moment. At worst, they can become addictive and destructive.

A morning sitting meditation practice can be an antidote to the over-stimulation in our lives. This time allows us to connect to our selves and our bodies, breath, mind, heart, and spirit. It is quite nourishing to sit in the silence of the breath and to observe what arises in each moment. This small gift is a beautiful way of offering presence and peacefulness to the day.

Contemplation, reflection, mindfulness, meditation: they are simple, but not always easy. They are practices inspired by countless poets and sages throughout history. Each pondering the workings of the heart & mind, offering their own questions & insights to us.

We are fortunate to have access to the philosophy of many cultures. Dawn finds much inspiration in the teachings of Buddhism, Zen, Chan, Taoism, and Yoga. But she also finds herself drawn to the writings of Rumi, Mary Oliver, Rilke, Anne Lamott, and many others.

Ultimately, Dawn finds much support and inspiration for her practice from her teachers, but also from her husband, family, friends, and students. She looks forward to the journey of this life, and she welcomes the opportunity to share the journey of yoga with you.


“Beautiful ability to create a safe and playful container for inquiry”

“Dawn Hayes has been my primary teacher since I moved to Santa Cruz seven years ago (in 2012). I can definitively say I have never met a more erudite, thoughtful and intellectually curious yoga instructor.  Dawn’s perpetual studentship and love of yoga shines in her group classes and one on one teaching. Her use of props and purposeful sequencing has dramatically transformed my physical practice and the way I view it. Dawn has a beautiful ability to create a safe and playful container for yoga asana and somatic inquiry regardless of context. Her infectious sense of humor, humility, and innate kindness help facilitate an enjoyable learning experience that is highly accessible to students of all levels.”

— G.A.B