It sounds too wishful or sometimes mythical but when it strikes with its beauty, it leaves you mesmerized and completely enchanted–yes, we are talking about the beauty of Yoga. It continues to ensnare people around the world and sort of completely consume them in its depths. We found another being who was caught in the vortex of Yoga and blissfully losing her worries and stress flying tangentially away from her.
Stephanie has been teaching dance for over 15 years. More recently, she stumbled into a yoga class and discovered her unlikely, new passion. Yoga opened up a world of spirituality and allowed Stephanie to find her voice and speak this language of love she had been longing to share for a long time. She teaches Lotus Flow, in NYC.
Q1. How you first got into Yoga?
I first heard of yoga from my Mom. I was 15. My Mom was practicing yoga and meditation, and I was dancing. For 10 years, she tried to bring me along and all I would answer was “Yoga, me, never!!!”
A few years later, I moved to New York and took a couple yoga classes at the dance studio where I was studying. I wasn’t blown away. We stretched. We kinda made some sounds, but kinda not. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with myself. It felt more like a group of dancers wanting to relax for an hour, than a practice of its own.
Five years later is when it happened. A friend of mine invited me to take her class at Laughing Lotus NY. I walked into this bright and happy haven in the middle of the city. People were laughing, smiling, having fun. I hardly found a spot to put down my mat. My friend, Sheri Celentano, started her class with laughter, and before I knew it, I was taken away by the most powerful sound I had ever heard. The vibrations of the sound of OM did it all. It was so powerful. I felt it. Something shifted. Then I was chanting to the top of my lungs, these Sanskrit words that were completely new to me and which were coming out of my mouth like if I had always known them. It felt good. It felt like I was hOMe. The Vinyasa class took me through a beautiful flow of moving prayers and that was it. I was in Love. Within an hour, I went from “Yoga, me, never” to “Never without my yoga”.
Q2. What kind of change Yoga has brought to your life?
Yoga has changed everything, from my diet to my relationships, from my sense of self to my daily routine. Everything is different.
The second day that I went to the studio, the teacher who would become my spiritual mentor, exposed me to the beautiful teachings of Ayurveda. The first changes for me appeared through my application of some ayurvedic principles. My dinacharya, or daily routine, changed drastically in a very short time. I went from staying up every night until 2am, to going to bed at 10pm and waking up at 6am. Aligning my sleep pattern to Mother Nature’s rhythm has had tremendous effects on the way I felt during the day. My level of energy was much better. I was more alert, was paying more attention. My days became longer! I was happier!
With time, yoga has lowered my level of stress and anxiety. I discovered what self-care meant! I learned how to take care of myself physically by being more mindful of the way I practice, by shifting my diet as well. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but pretty quickly, I became strictly vegetarian. My asana practice made me feel pure and whole, and I started to long for this feeling to stay with me. A vegetarian diet seemed to be one of the elements that would support this longing. Other elements would become part of my personal practice; how I learned to take care of myself mentally and spiritually. Starting my day connecting with the divine, by a few minutes of meditation, some conscious breathing, a japa practice, has made me feel so alive, that I would never be able to do without it anymore.
All these changes inside me have brought a lot of changes around me. I used to be a very negative person, and I still struggle with it, from time to time. In the past, I would surround myself with people who would connect to the emotions I was going through, and I would be basking in a world of negativity. My longing for the light, for more love, for more peace, has brought me to look for the company of people sharing the same true and deep desires for themselves and the world around them. My world has brightened up.
There was my life before yoga and now, I live my life in the light of yoga.
Q3. How much time one should devote daily to practice?
I don’t think there should be any rule. Yoga is a way of life. It is not only the time that we spend on the mat; it is a constant awareness and observation of ourselves and our environment. If you only have time to sit down 5 minutes in the morning, then, this is your practice, and it is beautiful. Find the time to make a connection, daily. By repetition and consistency, your practice will become more firmly grounded and you’ll carry it with you, it will ripple through all areas of your life. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali tell us: “the practice becomes firmly grounded when it is well attended, for a very long time, with a lot of devotion.” So keep showing up! There is no right or wrong in the way we live our practice, what matters is our commitment to it. I came to learn that discipline is a gate for freedom. Do the best you can to stay committed to your practice. It will bring you way more that you ever expected.
Q4. Does it make sense to learn Yoga from online resources and other similar material?
There again, I don’t think there should be any rule. And I don’t think that there is any right or wrong answer. What I do know though is that you cannot know yoga if you don’t experience it. If reading a book about the chakras inspires you to investigate in your own body how you feel, how you can stimulate these wheels of energy, how to strengthen the aspects in you that feel a little weak, then yes, read the book, why not? If you find a teacher online that you resonate with. Sure, take his/her classes online. If it is the way you can feel and renew the connection regularly, this is beautiful.
To me, books, websites and all other material are just a stepping stone to find your own practice. They are here to support, inspire, explain, guide, etc. That’s not where the practice is. We don’t talk about yoga, we don’t read about yoga, we live our yoga. And as the Buddhist Proverb says: “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Eventually, yoga becomes what we make it, with the gathering of all our yogic experiences. We create our yoga. We are unique and our way to live our yoga is unique.
Q5. Is there a particular age from which one should start Yoga?
Yoga is not something that you choose. To my own experience, yoga found me when I was ready, and that’s my belief. Yoga finds us when we are ready.
Q6. A simple reason to do yoga?
Don’t you want to be happy?!