More Yoga Off the Mat Than On
Newbie yogis are enthusiastic. Eager to learn, progress and gain the expertise to do more challenging postures, they attend classes and unroll the mat every day. Eventually, they begin missing classes and decide to start a home yoga practice. Dedicated for a week or two, soon enough, the call of the mat tucked away in a closet becomes more like a whisper. Practicing yoga takes a backseat to more pressing demands such as family obligations, work, doctor appointment, music lessons, soccer practice and more. Eventually, all yogis learn that life will always hand them something that competes with mat time.
Natural Awakenings interviewed six local yoga teachers to talk about the inconsistencies of yoga practice and what keeps them coming back to their mat.
Salima Silverman – Monarch Wellness, Naples
Salima Silverman has been teaching yoga to the general community including special needs children for more than seven years. Her classes at Monarch Wellness in Naples demonstrate to children and adultswith special behavior challenges such as anxiety, introversion, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other issues how they can connect with their body and self-regulate.
“After any amount of time away from my mat, I’m motivated to return by a feeling. It’s how good I feel after I finish my practice. Students frequently express my sentiments when they say, ‘I’ve had a long, exhausting day and had to push myself to get here, but I’m really glad that I did.’ Yogis of all levels notice the feel-good energy that circulates through and around them after practice. Internalize that feeling often enough, and it will lead you back to your mat,” says Silverman.
Beginners are frequently under the impression that they need to practice yoga for a full hour every day. “Knowing that sometimes I can only practice one hour of postures a week, I tell clients, “You don’t need an hour every day. Five to 10 minutes can change your perspective.’ Whether it’s a stretch, standing up at work to do a breathing exercise in the office or a child’s pose in the evening before bed, you’re consciously choosing to take time to be present to your practice and rest peacefully in the present, letting go of busy thoughts,” explains Silverman, who also teaches at House of Gaia in Naples.
Barbara King – BKS Yoga, Naples
Asking herself the question, “Why didn’t I do yoga while I was on vacation with my crazy family members?” King laughs with abandon. While observing a student struggling to get into a pose during a yoga classshe was teaching, King recalled a frustrating family incident that had previously occurred during vacation a few weeks earlier. “Our inner world shows up in our outer world. I saw myself in that student struggling to get into a pose. I immediately had an insight that I was watching myself struggle to let go of the family incident. Being present to that moment sparked me to say, ‘Let’s forget what we just did and move forward’. Living moment-to-moment is yoga.”
King offers two tips. “A yoga mat strategically placed in a highly visible spot where you spend your time serves as a reminder. Because life events interfere, you have to prioritize. If you say to a friend, ‘I can’t meet you because I need to practice,’ there is no need to feel guilty. You’re role modeling how important it is to take care of yourself first so you can be more centered and available to your friend.”
Jennifer Colluci – Awakening Through Synergy, Naples
Colluci is drawn to her mat by an inner knowing. “I know how calm my mind is, how relaxed, peaceful and whole I feel, and how content I am after meditating and practicing orafter a discussion about the yamas and niyamas,” she says. Yamas are self-regulating behaviors involving our interactions with others—nonviolence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, non-possessiveness and non-greed. Niyamas are personal practices that relate to our inner world—purity, self-discipline, training the senses, self-study, inner exploration and surrender to God.
“Internalizing the teachings from Yoga Sutras of Patanjali regarding yamas and niyamas, has enabled me to slow down, have a clear and peaceful mind and to live a more whole and well-rounded life in a crazy world. The Indian sage Patanjali taught me that yoga is living from a peaceful center, no matter where I am,” says Colluci.
Kiersten Mooney - Green Monkey Yoga, Naples
Inconsistency is common in any physical movement practice. From the knowledge that she acquired while earning a degree in exercise physiology and from experience as ayoga teacher, Mooney has seen how the same motivational strategies work for any physical exercise. “Find a buddy; preferably, more than one. Surround yourself with people and set a goal of committing to practicing together. A group yoga practice cultivates a sense of community wherein you get the support you need to accomplish your goals, have fun and are accountable to one another,” advises Mooney.
“The physiology of achieving a goal involves the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Write down specifically the goal you are committed to and break it down into bite-sized, dopamine-friendly pieces. If you want to do yoga every day, use a calendar and check off each time you practice. Each time your brain gets a whiff of this rewarding neurotransmitter, it will want you to repeat the associated behavior,” she enthuses.
Susan Carter – Seven Seas Yoga, Fort Myers
A Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher, Carter teaches at Seven Seas Cottage, at Newton Park, in Fort Myers Beach, as well as AHA! A Holistic Approach Center, in Fort Myers. HerAHA! study group also focuses on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life. “Patanjali never wrote anything about fancy postures, alignment or physical flexibility. He wrote about yoga as a tool that can be used to live a more contented life,” says Carter.
Called to her mat by a sense of gratitude and appreciation for her body, Carter advises, “The more yoga that you do, the more you listen to your body, and it starts communicating to you in a whole new way. This is important to me because I feel that the relationship I have with my body is the most important relationship I will ever have. Yoga cultivates this relationship.”
Inconsistency doesn’t warrant beating yourself up. “The important thing is to get back on the mat. Attend a class and learn a repertoire of poses that you can use in life’s varying circumstances. They will serve you in moments when you are tired, depressed, fearful or stressed out. Yoga doesn’t make life easier; yoga makes you easier with your life,” she says.
Meredith Musick, Yoga and Massage Therapy, Naples
Musick’s motivation for practicing yoga is learning to respond to life’s changing circumstances with equanimity and gaining strength to abstain from what attempts to divert attention away from her practice. “Yoga isabout life, which I compare to an ocean of waves. I prefer to practice what singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s lyrics suggest; ‘If you don’t become the ocean, you’ll be seasick every day.’ Yoga provides me the grace to navigate the choppy fray of the waves. It also provides the opportunity to live my dharma, the inner development of my peace and happiness that shows up in my outer world as teaching yoga classes or preparing my Vermont farm as a yoga retreat. Straying from yoga is straying from my dharma which helps me to cultivate and live a purposeful life,” she advises.
“While I’m not always consistent with asanas, I am consistent with practicing guidance provided by the sutras, yamas and niyamas; the part of my practice that helps me integrate body, mind and spirit. Diligent and sincere, I feel guided off the mat where there is far more time to apply what I learned on it,” quips Musick.
AHA! A Holistic Approach Center, 15971 McGregor Blvd., Ft. Myers. 239-433-5995. AHolisticApproachCenter.com.
Awakening Through Synergy, 1084 Business Ln., Naples. 239-529-7582. AwakeningThroughSynergy.com.
BKS Yoga, 2900 Tamiami Tr. N. 239-213-9276. BksYogaStudio.com.
GreenMonkey Yoga, Naples, 6200 Trail Blvd., 239-598-1938; Naples, 1800 Tamiami Tr. E., 239-598-1938; Coral Gables, 1430 S. Dixie Hwy., Ste. 116, 786-953-7709; Miami Beach, 800 Bay Rd., 305-397-8566. GreenMonkey.com.
Monarch Wellness, 843 Myrtle Terr. 239-325-9210. MonarchWellness.net.
Meredith Musick Yoga and Massage Therapy, Naples. 239-269-8846. MeredithMusick.com.