I found Ashtanga yoga while earning my BFA in photography in Buffalo, NY. Or perhaps I should say Ashtanga yoga found me.
From my first class, I knew I had discovered a practice I would commit to for a very long time, if not forever. I was a classical ballet dancer for nine years and practiced martial arts for five years, so Ashtanga’s intensity satisfied me – but also afforded me a deeper experience I never had with those other disciplines. This experience is what keeps me practicing Ashtanga today.
After a couple years practicing in Buffalo, I was asked to teach. I felt completely unprepared, but said “yes” anyway. To deepen my practice, I began attending classes and workshops at Downward Dog Yoga Center in Toronto. I eventually enrolled in their teacher training, and was put on their teaching schedule upon completion.
I moved to Toronto and spent another three years practicing, learning, teaching and growing with my teacher, Ron Reid. Diane Bruni, Marla Joy and many other great teachers, friends and yogis at Downward Dog also inspired my path. Chuck Miller and Maty Ezraty led the first workshop I attended at Downward Dog, and I have been blessed to have several opportunities to study with them since.
I was also gifted with an amazing opportunity to meet Sri K Pattabhi Jois during a transformative spiritual journey to India. My path has not been to study the entire system in Mysore, but I did have the honor of practicing for a month at AYRI. I also spent time studying at Krishnamacharya’s Yoga Mandiram (KYM), and was blown away by the wisdom that was imparted to me by Desikachar and his students.
Among many other gifts, yoga helps me look at fear as an opportunity for growth. In yoga, we breathe through difficult postures. And in life, I do the same. Each time I practice, I’m confronted with the same postures – even the ones that aren’t my favorites. I have no choice but to find self-acceptance and truth and work through the challenges. It’s a beautiful message that never ceases to touch and inspire me.
Now settled in Los Angeles, I’m studying Traditional Chinese Medicine at Emperor’s College. Yoga is a healing system I will spend my entire life learning, teaching and, most importantly, practicing. I’m interested in learning more about various healing paths and collecting tools to assist myself and others on our journeys.
Namaste. ; )
For more information about Maria, please visit her website at www.mariavillella.com.Maria Villella,