August 31, 2015
It all started with a stuffed koala.
US born Jessica Loan was just three years old when her father handed her the cuddly toy, returning from a business trip 'down under' - little did he know it would spark his daughter's lifelong love-affair with Australia.
But it would be another 20 years before she plucked up the courage to make the move.
"I was living in Chicago after uni, working behind a bar and didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life," she said.
"But my early fascination with Australia kept niggling at me, it was like this intuitive feeling was guiding me there - so I bought a ticket, packed my bags and just did it."
While backpacking around Australia Jess ended up in the Barossa, where she met her now husband, Richard, while working in a grape picking gang.
"I was staying at the caravan park with a few other backpackers and there was a notice up on the board for grape pickers," she said.
"At the time Stanley Brothers and Rockford had picking gangs, so we called the number and Richard was the guy on the other end of the phone.
"It was a bit of a whirlwind, we met in the vineyard and were married just one year later — it was beautiful, meant to be."
Two children, and 17 years later, Richard and Jess are now happily settled just a few kilometres down the road from the Tanunda Caravan Park, on a beautiful property lining the banks of Bethany creek.
"Richard's grandparents always had property in the Barossa, but he grew up in the Adelaide Hills," she said. "When his grandparents passed away, there was no one left to run the vineyard so he took it over in the mid-80s, he was just 17."
And while Jess now calls the Barossa home, her journey of discovery has continued, through yoga and Ayurveda.
"I've always had a fascination with the human mind and intuition" she said. "Years ago a woman named PJ was doing a regular Tuesday morning yoga class at the local recreation centre and I had always wanted to try it, so in 1999 I went to her class for the first time.
"She was a beautiful teacher, and I did her classes for a term, but found it difficult to make the time every week."
Continuing her practice by starting a regular yoga discipline at home, Jess said she experienced a real change in her physical and mental health.
"I could see the disciplined practice of yoga was creating such a calmness and clarity in my mindset, but it also improved my flexibility and overall wellbeing in quite a short period of time," she said.
"So I just started practicing every day, every morning, and it became an integrated part of my life - I've never looked back."
“I began to share my knowledge of yoga with friends and family and could see the positive benefits it was having on others”.
But it wasn't until the need arose in the community that Jess started to think about teaching.
"In 2009 a group of girlfriends and I started taking a fortnightly class with an instructor from Clare," she said. "We all enjoyed our practice together and wanted to do something weekly so eventually the ladies looked at me and said, "well, why don't you just lead us?" "
"It was something I'd been wanting to do for quite some time, so it seemed like everything was aligning when the opportunity presented itself."
Jess enrolled in a yoga teaching course at the internationally renowned Integral Yoga Academy of Australasia in Adelaide and began teaching a class from her home in 2010.
"I completed my formal studies in 2012 then went to India with my teacher, where I also started to learn more about Ayurveda - it was a transformative experience," she said.
"I'm now formally studying Ayurveda, which is the sister science to yoga and basically the 'science of life'.
"Looking back I think I was meant to go to India because it led me toward Ayurveda, which has had a huge impact on me."
So how does Jess balance her life as a yogi, while also enjoying the indulgences the Barossa has to offer?
"It's definitely about balance and lifestyle choices, we were making our own wine for ten years and selling it, so I became quite absorbed in the Barossa lifestyle," she said.
"But you can incorporate aspects of yoga into your every day life in many ways, simply by waking up in the morning with mindfulness, having a glass of warm water and sitting and doing some meditation, or just making time for a regular practice.”
"There are other aspects of life that come into play all the time, but it doesn't mean you need to segregate them and it doesn't mean that you need to go one way or the other."
With a diverse clientele - from 'yummy mummies' to Yalumba cellar-hands - Jess embraces every aspect of her Barossa lifestyle and her surroundings to inspire her practice.
"I have people coming to my class from all facets of Barossa life. I don't do a lot of advertising - I think that the people who wind up here are the ones that are meant to be here," she said.
"My classes are very small, I only take nine or ten people per class and I teach seven classes a week, so it can be quite an intimate setting.
"It's a beautiful little studio, we refurbished our old winemaking shed and it overlooks Bethany Creek - I feel very blessed and fortunate to have the space and its nice to share it and the knowledge of yoga with others."
If you can see yourself at Jess' beautiful Bethany studio, you can contact her at email@example.com