Yoga Feeds the Mind, Body, and Soul

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Harry Potter Yoga. Goat Yoga. Naked Yoga. It is undeniable that yoga is experiencing widespread popularity in America. While there are a number of themed yoga classes constantly emerging, this practice is more than just a trend. Practitioners explain that this form of exercise contributes to heightened self-awareness and spiritual progress.

Recent reports back up the assertion that yoga contributes to mental health and wellness. In a study from Brazil published in “Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice” in 2016, university students reported feeling good after their yoga practice, especially pertaining to self-control, self-perception, well-being, body awareness, balance, mind-body, and reflexivity. In another study published in the same journal, researchers found that women experiencing postpartum depression saw a significant improvement in their anxiety, depression, and health-related quality of life after just eight weeks of yoga in comparison to those who did not practice yoga.

To further explore the topic of how yoga positively impacts one’s life, BTRtoday spoke with Mary Colarik, a certified yoga instructor from Akron, Ohio.

BTRtoday (BTR): How and why did you start yoga? 

Mary Colarik (MC): I began yoga in the summer of 2009 because my daughter, Courtney, who was a dance major in college, came home for the summer and said she needed to take yoga in addition to Pilates during her summer break. So, I went to a class with her and I was hooked. I felt so good the rest of the day–I truly believe it was the body, mind and spirit all coming together right there on my own my mat. The flow–connecting movement with the breath allowed my mind to let go of some of the “monkey chatter” in my head.

BTR: When did you realize you wanted to be a yoga teacher? 

MC: I considered becoming a yoga teacher for over four years. I went to a master class taught by Jonny Kest at a studio in Cleveland–it was an incredible experience with like-minded people. I think that was the catalyst for mulling over the idea of becoming a yoga teacher. The Jonny Kest master class connected to a huge community of like-minded people who were moved by Kest’s leadership flowing through the postures by connecting physical, mental, and spiritual with breath and his motivating words.

Image courtesy of Mary Colarik

BTR: Who was your great mentor/teacher?

MC: My first teacher was Caroline Gronowski. Amy Boswell-Graves and Tracy Rhinehart were the two fabulous teachers that conducted my teacher-training program. All three of these teachers were trained at the same time and same place in Cleveland–I liked their enthusiasm, making yoga not overly serious, but staying focused and calm. Mostly, I learned that we must be who we are. Although they all trained together, their style of teaching is very different, but still supportive of one another.

BTR: Tell us your practice style and how you chose your yoga method.

MC: My practice style is Baron Baptiste Vinyasa Power Flow yoga. This is was what Caroline taught. As I developed my practice attending her classes the flow made sense to me when my life as I knew it was crashing out of control. The flow made sense–coming to my breath in the first few poses, integrating breath and movement. The warrior series brought strength and vitality to my body and I loved the inversions which create harmony and bring everything to balance. I like this practice because although it is an athletic style of yoga, it is calming, but there are always challenges on the mat, just like in real life. If you can carry the calmness and courage learned on the mat, you can take it out into the world.

BTR: What is the most challenging part of becoming a yoga teacher?

MC: I think that the most challenging part of becoming a yoga teacher is revealing and realizing your most honest self. We were required to delve into lots of spiritual readings and then speak the truth about ourselves in a direct and honest manner in front of the class. I overcame this challenge with courage and grace and compassion for myself and others.

BTR: What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher?

MC: First, I discovered I loved teaching, although I still have a lot to learn. After most classes, at least one of my students will come up to speak to me about something that has changed in their life and how much yoga is helping them get through some type of difficulty, or how much calmer they feel for the rest of the day or evening.

BTR: Why is yoga so important for the times we’re living in?

MC: I think is so important right now because people have such hectic lives and yoga gives you time to “let go” and find some calm. Many yoga poses calm the central nervous system and re-oxygenate the blood flow–especially when doing inversions, when the head is below the heart. Also, yoga breeds love and compassion for all.