I work with different entrepreneurs, all smart, talented and creative. For every 1,000 ideas they have, one or two are good. So it's important to find the good ones as quickly as possible. The entrepreneurial world is ripe with energy and talent. The ideas and excitement that flow from this group of bright, driven people truly inspires. But it's important to surface great ideas quickly. This filtering process is challenging and requires clear thinking. I really believe that yoga helps de-clutter my mind and improves my mental clarity, and I am certain that this increased awareness will only serve me well both personally and professionally.
My yoga journey began two years ago when my friend Anne took me to my first class in the basement of her amenity-rich apartment building. Yoga encompasses much more than the physical practice, but at the time that was all I knew. I began practicing more steadily but found myself drawn to certain studios. This was during the financial crisis, when the company I was at faced liquidation and uncertainty. As silly as it might sound, yoga was a constant that calmed me during that crazy period. And it wasn't long before the mental benefits began to surpass the physical ones. In the fall, I enrolled in Sonic Yoga's training program to learn more about the yogic lifestyle. Upon graduating, a realization took hold: I had started the beginning of a lifelong journey.
I am extremely grateful that as part of HuffPost Living's Total Energy Makeover, Tara Stiles has generously offered me the opportunity to practice at Strala Yoga. I've loved my first two weeks. Although there are many different styles of yoga, Strala really emphasizes building strength and balance through controlled breath and movement. This requires a particular focus that I sometimes find difficult to maintain. Additionally, if there is an advanced option, I usually like to take it, even if I'm not necessarily ready. I have been kicking up into all kinds of inversions, despite being universally encouraged not to do this (see video below).
In my first class at Strala, Mike brought us into preparation for forearm stand, explaining that there is a tip up into the asana that really comes from your core; therefore, you are floating into the inversion instead of encouraging it from the momentum of your kick. What does this mean for me? For starters, I'm not quite ready to take forearm stand. But more importantly, this disciplined approach is teaching me to ignore my ego. Learning to listen to my body means I have to differentiate between what my body is telling me and what my mind is suggesting. This requires tremendous focus.
Some people around me have commented that I am an intense person. Two fellow yogis (Jeanne Joe Perrone and Alexandra Velella) made this exact point this past Sunday: "Marissa, you are an intense person." I'm not exactly sure what makes them think this, but the discussion centered on various topics that ultimately stemmed from my individual practices. I work hard and am proud of that, but I am also incredibly hard on myself. I notice sometimes I bring this demand to the mat, when I really should be working on the reverse, bringing the discipline I am developing on the mat to the rest of my life.
The words "be present" have become a mantra for yoga practitioners. For me, it is truly challenging to train my mind to embrace a particular presence that is not a constant. Meaning, everyday is different, and it's important that I'm driven by what is right for my body that day, instead of what is purely satisfying my ego. This mental exercise sharpens my focus and will serve me well in life and business.
By the way, for the first few weeks, Tara gave me an "enjoy yourself" assignment. She explained: "your time at Strala is set up for you to breathe deeply, and start to let your intuition take center stage. All that good Marissa stuff is coming out in a big way, and grounded in health, focus, and calm!" Thanks, Tara! I couldn't be more excited.