How and when did you being your journey with yoga?
In 2011, I was in the US with my cousins who are big fans of yoga. I always wondered what it is about it that made them love it so much. I considered myself an athlete and performer then and thought that yoga would be a piece of cake and when I tried it out I was in for a big surprise, I felt like a loser in class. Honestly, it didn't excite me much and it didn’t really click with me. A year after, I went through an emotional trauma and I had always read about healing through meditation and spending time with your own self. I started practicing kundalini yoga and it was my way out of the traumatic experience. It absolutely changed my life and I started discovering a lot about myself and it humbled me completely; there was a lot of inner work happening. About eight months later I started practicing Ashtanga, which was like magic to me. There was a lot of discipline and commitment to it which I had always lacked in my life. It healed me and I wasn't sure how or when. At one point, I started watching big and international yogis with all the moves they do and I would want to do them myself. Throughout the process though, you come to realize that you don't really care if a pose happens or not, and once you reach that point of understanding everything actually begins to happen. As soon as I let go of expectations, everything began opening up to me. Soon after, I experimented with other kinds of yoga until I fell in love with Vinyasa. It broke the routine and gave me a lot of space to be creative.
Why did you decide to become a teacher?
I've never thought of pursuing yoga as a teacher at all. On the contrary, I've always said that I don't want to become a yoga teacher so I don't lose my love and passion for it. I've been a fitness instructor since 2011; I taught spinning, boot camp, Zumba and more. I noticed, for me at least, how when I turn something into a career, I start losing passion for it and it becomes a routine. The idea of this happening with yoga suffocated me, so I always said that no matter how good I become at it, I just want to keep it for myself, which was a bit selfish of me.
About two and a half years ago, I went to India for a friend's wedding and I became so mesmerized with the Indian culture as a whole and not just yoga. I began to think about when I would go back to practice and learn more about yoga, but still with no intention of teaching. I had a corporate job at the time and I wasn’t sure how I can take time off to go and do the training and then the funniest thing then happened. About three weeks after I came back, I was let go from work. While I was signing my resignation, I was so sure that this was a sign and I was actually very happy to do it. Two weeks later I went back to India, I felt that the universe was planning for this to happen way before I even did. I thought of it first as a good break between two jobs but little did I know, the experience was actually a life-changing one for me. It changed how I see myself, how I pursue things, and how I value and see everything. I have never been as grounded in my whole life as I was during my experience there. It made me change all of the decisions that I was about to take. There was a voice telling me to never go back to a corporate job, it wasn't because it was draining or because of its routine, it was more about that I wasn't going to be good at it. I felt that I was meant to be something else and do something different.
I came back and started teaching, I felt the need to share and spread what I know about yoga. It wasn't about a practice anymore; it was about finding harmony with your own soul. The more I taught, the more I fell in love with it, the more people loved the practice and loved me for sharing it with them, feeling that I was touching their lives. Most students started coming to talk to me about how they felt that there's something that was happening on the inside, not just physically, but they couldn't really understand it. That was my favorite part. The voice in my head grew louder and louder that I would never go back to a corporate job and that this was the path that I’m meant to pursue.
What about the fear that you had that when you turned yoga into a teaching job, you would lose your passion for it?
To be honest that feeling comes every now and then, I can't say that I totally beat it all the time. Mainly during the times when I don't practice, this is when this feeling starts to grow. I came to realize that your self-practice is not about keeping or improving your physical abilities, the physical practice gives you energy which you can share with other people. Whenever I lost my practice, I felt very empty to the extent that I wouldn't be able to teach. You cannot pour from an empty cup, and that kept me inspired to always practice even if just for a little bit. It kept me humble too, realizing I should never take something for granted. Anything can be lost if you don't work on sustaining it. That was also part of my inspiration for continuing my yoga education and going to do the 300-hour training.
Teacher trainings can be very profound and overwhelming in many cases. What are three of the things that stuck with you the most after your last training?
Being humble is the profound basis to any success in life; and that success can't ever be taken for granted. If you always perceive yourself as a work in progress, then there's always room for expansion and improvement. When you see it this way this is when real growth happens; growth that's not necessarily physical or mental but also spiritual.
Never stand in a place of judgement, to yourself before anyone else. Don't judge yourself, not by your flaws nor by your good deeds. Always find your center and accept the fact that things will always change because change is the only constant in your life. What you used to do before might not be accessible to you now and vice versa and that's ok. We always hear that acceptance is the key to surrender but of course it's easier said than done. but if you’re already standing in a place of no judgement, you will be more grounded and more accepting of change. And when you start by accepting yourself, you're able to accept the people around you.
Yoga is definitely a lifetime course of work, just like a seed that you need to water every day in order for it to grow. You do have to water it with love and patience though and not just out of duty waiting for fruit. It's more about working but detaching yourself from the fruit of that work. Once you find this detachment from a result or a goal, this is when you really start to see changes and that's one of the many amazing things about yoga.
What does the phrase "to live in yoga" mean to you?
It means that yoga shapes my whole life, it shapes my character. We know that yoga means union, but to me it's not just the union of your mind, body and soul, it's more of adherence between your thoughts and your actions. You can't really call for and teach yoga when you're not practicing it yourself, and I really don't just mean the physical practice. You can’t call for yoga when you're so egoistic, or you're so doubtful about yourself or about the process or about the universe or how things fall into place. Living in yoga is to trust the process and trusting that time is the key to everything.
When I was in Peru for my training, they asked me why I’m here and what yoga is for me. I always say that I found God through yoga. I'm not talking about it from a religious perspective per se. Finding God inside of you is so different than practicing religion. It's about finding that divine light inside of yourself, whatever your belief is. This is the most humbling and calming experience anyone can go through because when you start finding this light inside of yourself, everyone else truly begins to feel it, they can see it in your eyes and in your actions. Of course, I don’t live by this 100% of the time but I try to; I still struggle because it's a process. Sometimes you feel it strongly and many other times you really need to put in the effort to keep on experiencing it this way. This is what living in yoga is for me.
One of my favorite quotes is, “I have three eyes. Two to look, one to see.” – Bellamore
Seeing is very different from looking, you can look at something and not see through it and you can have your eyes closed but actually see everything. You can also hear something but not listen to it. So, spend some time with yourself and see and listen to what your inner self is trying to tell you. It will probably tell you things that will truly be life-changing.
---> To practice Vinyasa with Mariam, you can find her at Groovy: Saturdays at 1:00pm, Tuesdays & Thursdays at 4:00pm • At Hers Studios: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays & Mondays at 5:00pm • At Brass Monkeys: Sundays at 9:00pm, Wednesdays at 5:00pm • At Osana: Fridays at 1:30pm.