It’s not hard to center yourself when practicing yoga at the Birdwing Open Air Classroom along the San Dieguito Lagoon.
That’s where Rancho Santa Fe resident Susan McCrea teaches a monthly yoga class through the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to sustaining the natural resources of the San Dieguito Watershed.
McCrea has practiced and taught yoga for decades.
She started doing yoga when she was 18 and studying dance and drama at UC San Diego.
“I couldn’t even touch my toes, so they were going to kick me out of the dance program,” McCrea recalled. “A lot of the girls were naturally flexible. I had no flexibility.”
McCrea practiced yoga every day, and her dedication paid off. Over the years she has been a professional dancer and has taught all forms of modern dance, as well as yoga, spinning, kickboxing and Tae Bo.
“That’s why I know anybody can become flexible,” she said.
A San Diego native, McCrea grew up in Lemon Grove. Her father owned a music store in La Mesa, which spurred her love of music and dance.
“I just always loved dancing,” she said. “The one thing I loved to do was dance.”
After graduating from UCSD, McCrea went on to become a professional dancer, moving to Los Angeles when she was 28 years old. Not long after arriving in LA, she landed her first gig as a dancer in “Perfect,” a movie starring John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis.
“I just followed my passion,” she said.
McCrea went on to produce a fashion show at the Los Angeles Playboy Club and form a dance group, which she called “the original Pussycat Dolls.” Dangerous Curves toured around the world, from Mexico to Japan.
At the same time, McCrea taught fitness and yoga, even becoming the personal trainer for architect Frank Gehry and a conditioning trainer for some athletic teams.
Eight years after getting her start in LA, McCrea had her daughter, and later, a son. She and her former husband relocated to Germany, where both their children were born.
McCrea moved back to San Diego, settling in Del Mar, when she was 45 years old. Although she retired from dance, she started a new career as a drummer and also became a drumming teacher.
“I can’t dance forever, but I can play my drums until I’m 100,” said McCrea, adding that she had taken drum classes in middle school, but other students made fun of her.
Despite a double hip replacement a little over a year ago, McCrea, now 61, is more active than ever.
She plays drums for her band, Soul Seduction, which tours locally and even overseas in Germany. She teaches yoga for the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, as well as water aerobics, cardio dance and yoga at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club. McCrea, who holds a master’s degree in education from National University, has also served as a substitute teacher for the past decade.
“It’s my favorite thing to do — play music,” said McCrea, who was back on the drums nine days after surgery. Yoga, once again, helped. “It’s just fun.”
McCrea started working with the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy about four years ago.
The monthly class takes place on the third Sunday of every month at the Birdwing Open Air Classroom.
“I just love nature,” McCrea said about the location. “We live in such a beautiful place. That’s why we need to appreciate all the things we have here in San Diego.”
All ages and levels are welcome. The class is free for members. Non-members are asked to make a $10 donation.
“My way of teaching yoga is anybody, any age, any level can join the class,” McCrea said. “I don’t think yoga should be competitive. That’s the opposite of what yoga is supposed to be.”
For more about the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, visit sandieguitorivervalleyconservancy.org.
For more about Soul Seduction, visit www.mccreaproductions.com.