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A blog post by Mary Moscarello. Photos by Mary Moscarello. Banner image by https://www.shutterstock.com/g/skumer

Malala Yousafzai graduated from Oxford University this year and in honor of that massive achievement, the staunch advocate for educating girls and women world-wide penned an article in Vanity Fair.

I managed to read through only the first few paragraphs of her article before I had to stop and stare at the line leading into the fourth. In those first three graphs, she’d set up how her final semester went, looking back through the thick and obstacle-weight heavy veil of COVID-19. I smiled as I read through the brief and relatable list of things that she missed out on doing while attending school in one of the world’s most prestigious learning centers. Drinking tea in cafes and photographing gardens, quaint and sweet and somehow very innocent from someone who survived being shot by the Taliban for her views on equal opportunity education for girls.

Then she wrote, “this felt like such a loss because education is so much more than a reading list or syllabus…”

How very true.

Taken during my early yoga days. Yes that’s Bongo’s tail in the shot.

College life experiences – swept away by the threat of a deadly virus – teach too. For many, higher education provides a first taste of independence. Responsibility for getting up for class on time, turning in work worthy of the high cost of education at a college or university level or choosing to avoid the fraternity kegger lies with the students themselves.

Life experiences in general teach us about ourselves and how we handle things. Yousafszai reminds us that the classroom is one of many places where learning happens and by no means the only one. In full agreement, I add that allowing everyday life experiences to teach us takes some work on our part.   

How well we’re able to hear those lessons can depend on how we observe our own body. Body awareness is one of the first hurdles for a new yogi to summit and leap over. I call it a hurdle, because there’s that leap when you finally tune in to the body – and I use the word “summit’ as a verb – because the leap comes after time spent trekking up the summit of that hurdle.

Once body awareness enters the perception, sustaining it when in a particular asana or not, it serves as a valuable antenna – helping us tune in to how we respond to a situation. 

We can be unaware of how a situation is manifesting, or becoming tangible in the body. Aches and pains that pop up from nowhere can often get traced back to stress. Think of the last time you were really sad about something. I will go out on a limb and admit that the last time I felt really sad, I FELT it in my bones. Can you relate? 

As humans, we inherited a capacity within to be numb. How it arrives, whether by self-defense numbing or self-imposed numbing – both are possible and real.  

I’m hard-pressed to think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to be able to notice the shifts of tension as we respond and react to various situations in our daily lives ESPECIALLY DURING A PANDEMIC. Can you come up with one?

The very act of having a qualified teacher guide a person through a series of positions, with focus on the breath and direction to observe sensation begins a journey to body awareness unlike any other I’ve been on. I’ve run half marathons, competed in sprint level distance triathlon, had my share of self-medicating lapses of judgement and soul searching blips of visitation into self-help methods. Nothing has ever opened the doorway to my own Self in the same way yoga has.

There’s a free workshop being offered by a studio where I teach – I’m coming up on my first anniversary of teaching there, so it has a special place in my yogi heart. The workshop is meant for beginners so you can really get a good foundation. The studio owner is offering this in a sincere hope that she will help people – you can take it from me. 

I heartily encourage you to take advantage – you won’t be sorry, just give it a chance.

Theresa Conlon

Theresa is a Yoga Alliance certified instructor (200-hour RYT) who has been teaching since 2013. She is skilled in various yoga styles including Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Flow, Restorative, and Meditation. Theresa also brings an extensive dance background to her yoga practice, which includes teaching both modern dance and ballet. She has over 40 years of dance/theater performing experience and currently showcases her choreography as part of Bergen Dance Makers, a dance collective in northern New Jersey. Theresa’s yoga classes offer a calming mix of traditional asana postures and creative movement flows, supported by energy-moving breath. Students of all skill levels are invited to find ease and peace in their bodies/minds/spirits through the joyful bliss of yoga movement.

Carrie Parker Gastelu

Carrie Parker Gastelu, E-500 RYT, has been teaching yoga since 1993. Carrie began her journey when Yogi Raj Mani Finger initiated Carrie into the ISHTA Yoga lineage after training with Mani’s son, Yogi Raj Alan Finger. In addition, she has studied many other yoga traditions as well as anatomy, physiology, movement, and awareness practices to create an eclectic style all her own. She is known for her honest, non-dogmatic yet passionate approach.

Carrie is a regular speaker and contributor at conferences, websites, and print publications and has been featured in Fit Magazine, the Yoga Zone Book, and in the Yoga Zone Video, “Flexibility and Stress Release.”

Lisa Podesta-Coombs

When Lisa found yoga in 2008, she started to find herself again and it set her on a path of health and healing. She received her 200HR RYT certification from Raji Thron of Yoga Synthesis, and her 30HR Chakra Yoga Teacher Training certificate with Anodea Judith and holds a Y12SR (Yoga of 12 Step Recovery) certification. She is also a Holistic Health Coach (certified through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition). Lisa believes we’re all on a journey of learning how to trust ourselves; she helps her clients build that trust by supporting them in creating better habits for a better life through various functional movement modalities like yoga, barre, Pilates & strength training, mindset, and whole food nutrition.

Forever a student with a passion for people, holistic health, and self-actualization, Lisa is always embracing opportunities to advance her education to better serve; Ayurveda workshops & immersions have been of particular interest as she continues to deepen her knowledge of and experience with food as medicine and she recently completed Unleash Her Power Within, a transformational program of rediscovering our truest selves, powered by Tony Robbins.  

As she continues to give herself space and grace to nourish her natural self and actualize her potential, Lisa continues to share the gift of movement as medicine to inspire authenticity & health in body, mind, and spirit. You can expect mindful, accessible, dynamic, playful, and uplifting classes from Lisa.

Tanisha Sutton

Tanisha’s yoga journey began when she was an undergraduate student studying at university. Changes in her health coupled with anxiety over grades, relationships, and life in general, forced her to search for healthy lifestyle choices she could implement to help manage the stress that she was experiencing as a new adult. A friend of hers suggested that she attend some community yoga classes to help with the anxiety and increase her daily physical activity. Initially, she was reluctant and filled with all these false ideas about yoga and the people who practiced yoga. Like many others, she was concerned that her body type and lack of flexibility automatically excluded her from being a student. Curiously yet hesitantly, she journeyed on to her first class and began laying the foundation for a home and public practice that has supported her over the years.

On this journey, she has discovered that yoga has nothing to do with appearances nor is there anything, but an open mind needed to begin. She intends to provide you with a gentle yoga session that is safe, inclusive, and accessible. Her classes are an expression of self-love and are a deliberate choice to tend to ALL the parts of our being that are neglected, ignored, or disregarded during the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Through meditation, deep breathing, and gentle movement we will collectively share space to observe, rest and re-set. Tanisha is honored to share her practice with you and looks forward to seeing you on the mat!