Finding Gratitude in Unexpected Places

guest post by Missy DiDonato

gratitudeDuring this month of November, we’re reminded to give thanks. I count myself lucky that I’m grateful for my family, friends, my body and breath. These things are so important, but also obvious in a way.

I was taught to look for the good in everything. This year, I’m trying to find the positives in the unpleasant and downright annoying experiences of life. Here’s my top three unexpected situations I’m grateful for this season:

TRAFFIC: The sound of the word alone probably sparks an ugly feeling inside you, as it does me. Like many other San Diegans, I drive a lot, so being stuck in traffic happens often. I use traffic and driving in general to practice patience and compassion. I’ve come to the realization that no one wants to be in traffic – we all have destinations and other places we’d rather be. So instead of complaining and yelling (which is my first instinct) I simply put on some mood music and try to enjoy just being. I am grateful for the time to relax and listen to good music.

JERKS ON YELP: We recently got a yelp review that rocked my world! The guy was a pretentious asshole who didn’t have any traction for his opinion of the teacher whose class he almost attended. My first response was to be defensive, angry and sad. After I calmed down, I asked myself why a rude comment on the internet upset me so much. I realized it was because I have created a life filled with people who are supportive and non-judgmental. I am grateful for my family, friends and colleagues who show me their love on a daily basis.

DIVORCE: Now this one is pretty unique to my experience. Divorce may have had a different impact on your life. The divorce in my life happened to both of my parents before I was born. They were both married and divorced before they met each other, so I wouldn’t be here without it! They both had children with their previous partners, which helped create the large family that I have today. I embraced their exes as parents, so I got double the love. My second mom has taken me around the world which has been a huge influence on who I am today. My dad’s ex-wife remarried a man who was also divorced and had two sons whom I now consider my brothers. We are lucky because there is a mutual respect for all the ex and current spouses. As hard as it can be for families to separate and recombine, I am grateful for divorce because it has given me the loving family that I have today.

Missy DiDonato

Missy DiDonato
Guest Writer

Missy began practicing yoga at home when she was fourteen, following along to a DVD in her living room. She has since completed two separate 200 hour Yoga Teacher Trainings with UCSD and Yoga One. Missy loves helping others find their own yogic path and students of all levels appreciate her warm and friendly teaching style.

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Calling Savasana By Its Name

by Laura McCorry

Missy DiDonatoAs a new yoga teacher, I was in love with everything yoga. I wanted to soak it all in and learn as much as I possibly could so that when my training was over, I could go out into the world and help people move and feel better in their bodies.

I diligently memorized all the Sanskrit names and their English translations. I practiced saying both names whenever I taught a class (and I’m a bit embarrassed to think how many Sanskrit names I’ve now forgotten). But there was one pose, one name, for which I always used the Sanskrit: savasana.

After yoga and namaste, it’s probably the most-recognized Sanskrit word, so you can get away with not saying its translation. I’ve used “final relaxation” to explain savasana in many classes. But here are the words I’ve avoided saying for so many years:

Corpse Pose.

I was reminded of the proper translation this week. I had just finished leading a restorative yoga class and everyone in the room was lying down on their mats, not moving. This is the most relaxing part of yoga, the culmination of the previous hour and the time when the body receives the greatest benefit from the practice.

And I remembered that savasana meant corpse pose and I felt a chill go up my spine to see a room full of people, essentially “practicing” death. In that moment, I realized how much easier it was for me to be the teacher, to sit on my mat and stay “awake” so I could guide them out of savasana when the time was right.

My level of comfort with death ranges from “not very” to “nope, this is not even a little bit okay.” And I know I’m not alone. Our culture pushes death outside the realm of public discourse. We cover it up in medical jargon and leave death in the hands of hospice and the funeral home – anything to create some distance between us, the living, and the-thing-we-fear-above-all- fears.

So there’s something profoundly radical about the practice of yoga ending each session with the practice of death.

It flies in the face of popular culture which would rather pay attention to the youngest, newest, brightest thing under the sun. Which helps explain why savasana at some of the trendier, more corporate-feeling yoga studios can be so short – sometimes no more than two minutes.

How long savasana should last is a matter of debate in the yoga world, but the goal is long enough for you (your essence/spirit/soul) to surrender you (the body/mind). To truly practice corpse pose, you must recognize your Self as separate from your body. This acknowledgement can take years to manifest because we are very attached to our bodies in both a literal and psychological sense.

One of yoga’s primary tenets is the yama of non-attachment, aparigraha. It is natural for us to cling to things, to hold on tight to the people we love and the experiences of our body. But yoga teaches that You are not your body. In order to be free, to experience samadhi, or union with the divine, you must let go. Surrender. And yes, even practice death.

I believe that fear and discomfort can only ever hold us back from the fullness of life. We are meant to be alive. We are meant to fully enjoy this beautiful world and to live abundantly. I hope that over time, this practice of yoga continues to mold me, body, mind and spirit until I can one day acknowledge death without fear. Until the practices of living and dying can peacefully coexist that I might move with greater ease through this experience of life. And I wish the same for you.

**This post was partly inspired by Contributing Writer, Monique Minahan’s piece When I’m Gone Please Don’t Have a Funeral on Huffington Post. Thank you Monique for always writing from your heart!

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.


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Instructor Spotlight: Robin Doten

Sparkling, shiny, sensitive, steely, steadfast, seaworthy, smiling, super…and these are just the adjectives that begin with “s” that can be used to describe the sensational and interesting, Robin Doten. She loves to explore and experience life and brings those receptive and friendly qualities to her teaching. You’ll have to wake up early for her 6:30am Flow class on Tuesdays, but you’ll be glad you did! Check out our full class schedule here.

photo credit: Simpatika

photo credit: Simpatika

1. What is your favorite style of yoga?

I really enjoy Vinyasa Flow. I love the heat and energy it creates in my body and I find the linking of my breath with the movements helps me to focus my mind, de-stress and feel balanced. Vinyasa feels like a smooth flowing dance which guides me through a moving meditation.

2. What first attracted you to yoga when you began your practice?

I was invited by a close friend to attend some of her yoga classes she was taking regularly and I loved how I felt after class. My fascination with yoga really grew as I was seeking an activity that could strengthen my body yet not cause damage to my joints. I realized yoga was a low impact exercise that I could do for the rest of my life.

As I started doing more yoga, I heard about Yoga One’s Teacher Training and decided to learn all I could by attending the training! Soon I was diving into a much deeper practice and a better understanding of Yogic teachings and principles. Yoga became an all-encompassing life perspective and I was hooked on its ability to bring me peace and happiness.

3. What is your favorite yoga pose right now?

Savasana (corpse pose) or final relaxation, is my favorite pose right now. It may sound like a joke, because I didn’t take it seriously or see its full benefits before, but now it means so much to me. I find it to be my reset button. After practicing yoga or taking a class, savasana is my time to fully surrender and be still. I feel the support of the Earth and an immense gratitude for my body and its ability to carry me through my yoga practice! While in corpse pose I am completely at ease and feel balanced, this makes me feel so clear, connected and open to the present moment.

4. What pose is still the most challenging?

Bakasana or crow pose is the most challenging for me. I can do it, but it doesn’t feel good in my body. It bruises the back of my arms and I tend to avoid it. I have been telling myself that if I practice crow pose it will start to feel better and in time I will be doing a jump back to chaturanga dandasana (which looks so cool!) but for now, it’s just a goal.

5. If you were an animal, you would be:

There are so many animals that I identify with but the characteristics of a dog seem the most suitable. They are loyal, intelligent companions, who can offer assistance, and are always excited to see the people they love. Dogs are easy to please and happiness moves through their entire body from the tip of their nose to their wagging tail. I love how dogs make people so happy, too!

Robin Doten by Simpatika

Robin Doten by Simpatika

6. Describe what yoga means in your life using just 6 words: Peacefulness, Openness, Balance, Connection, Unity and Joy

7. What might your students be surprised to learn about you?

That I’ve been bitten by the travel bug and have visited over 30 countries. I once wanted to live abroad and travel so much, I went to Europe in search of work. The only job I could get as a foreigner that would allow me to see more of the world was as a “yachtie” and crew on mega yachts all over the Mediterranean.

The Med was so beautiful, but soon the yachting season ended in that region, so I followed it over to the Bahamas where I continued to crew. Once, I was hired for a two week stay on a private island called Indigo Island with Johnny Depp, Vanessa Paradis and their children! Of all the people I encountered while on this adventure, they were the most gracious.

8. Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for new students?

The best advice I can give is something I remind myself of daily – to create a habit or practice of my own. Be open to learning and trying new poses. Let go of your ego, it will always hold you back and creates judgment of yourself and others. Be a positive influence for yourself and those around you and most of all, just have fun!

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Happy 4th Birthday, Yoga One Blog!

From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say thank you to all of our readers and supporters both online and at Yoga One’s studio!

We couldn’t offer this weekly blog without the entire community behind us. You inspire us with your dedication to this life-changing practice of yoga and healthy-living. Thank you for showing up, for reading, for living out your yoga both on and off the mat and sharing your experiences.

Let us know what you’d like to see more of and where you think we’re doing a good job or need to improve! We welcome all comments, questions and submissions.

We look forward to continuing to publish engaging interviews, book reviews, top quality yoga instruction, meditations for your everyday life and stories of personal transformation.

To celebrate, here’s a look back at some of our Top Posts this past year:

  1. Yogi Reads: Yoga Girl
  2. Top 10 Yoga Myths – Part One
  3. Top 10 Yoga Myths – Part Two
  4. Yoga Keeps Me Sane: My Post-Baby Practice
  5. The Power of Intention
  6. Are You Holding Yourself Back From Greatness?
  7. Eight Limbs of Yoga for a Whole Being
  8. 2015 Yoga One Teacher Training Perspectives
  9. Yes to You: A Yoga Teacher’s Poem
  10. Mantra Monday: Let the Light In


All of Us at Yoga One

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Yogi Reads: Yoga & Ayurveda

Yoga & Ayurvedaby Olivia Cecchettini

“Yoga & Ayurveda: Self-Healing and Self-Realization” 

by David Frawley

Summary: Yoga & Ayurveda is an excellent primer for those new to either topic. Known as the “sister sciences,” Yoga and Ayurveda have been practiced together for centuries to bring the whole person into a state of health and wellbeing. This book summarizes the most important tenets of each practice and gives intelligent ways to implement its teachings into your everyday life. It also contains enough pictures of yoga poses to support a beginning home practice.

Why I Love It: With the rising popularity of Yoga in the western world, I believe it’s important to show how Ayurveda is a necessary and hugely beneficial complementary practice. From the seasoned practitioner to the brand new beginner, both disciplines are relevant to contemporary spiritual practice and healthy living.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on chanting – finding my voice as a teacher has been a journey of constantly going deeper and accessing that true connection within. Using the techniques from Yoga & Ayurveda, I’ve learned so much more about my unique constitution and how I can best support this body from my diet to my skin care routine.

As they say, knowledge is power. Empower yourself to heal yourself.

Recommended For: Anyone wanting to know more about the harmonious interplay between Yoga and Ayurveda and their healing magic for the human body and experience. Even though the two practices are different and unique, it is their combination that will catapult growth and change into your life.

These practices may come and go or may become part of your routine – either way, this book is a good reminder to keep coming back to self-love and self-care. This “coming home” into our own hearts ripples out through our environment and the practice of healing oneself becomes the practice of healing the world. 


Olivia headshotOlivia Cecchettini
Contributing Writer

Olivia’s yoga journey began in 2003. She is certified in Vinyasa, Hatha, and Aerial Yoga and holds a Masters degree in Spiritual Psychology. She believes the mind, body, soul connection is sacred and encourages her students explore and expand within their own bodies and consciousnesses.

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Mantra Monday: Here and Now

by Laura McCorry

yoga for beginnersOne of my teachers used to begin class with two simple questions: Where are you?

At work, at home, at the grocery store. At yoga, waiting for class to begin. So many thoughts and plans running through my head. My body carried me to class, through the motions of walking, driving, talking, sitting, without any special notice or conscious direction.

Where are you?

His voice was clear and strong. The entire class answers back with one voice:


Then the next question: What time is it?

Morning, afternoon, after work. I’m in the middle of something, still working it out, making plans. Thinking about someone, wishing, worrying. Early with nothing to do then running late and feeling anxious. The day slips away hour by hour until I rush to make it before they close the door and hastily sit down on my mat.

What time is it?

The room has grown quiet and still. I’m aware of everyone in the room and how our disparate thoughts and experiences have all been submerged into this one experience, together. We answer:


Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.


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5 Easy Ways to Embrace Minimalism

by Laura McCorry

Have you always admired that person with the clutter-free, minimalist home but assumed it was a mythical ideal you’d never achieve? Minimalism doesn’t have to be a complete lifestyle change that has you throwing out all your stuff!

Increasing your awareness of how you interact with objects in everyday life can be hugely beneficial to your yoga practice, too. Minimalism is essentially the practice of Aparigraha – the yogic principle of non-hoarding, or non-possesiveness, and one of the five Yamas which describe a code of moral behavior.

Here are five easy steps you can take to make a minimalist impact on your day to day:

minimalist mantra1. Identify everyday chores and do them everyday. Make the bed. Do the dishes. These will be different for everyone, but choose no more than five chores that you consider essential to enjoying your time at home. Take the time to accomplish these tasks first and then allow yourself to enjoy their completion. Learning to appreciate the everyday maintenance work you do is an important step towards feeling content with what you already have.

2. Take note of your shopping and buying habits. When do you accumulate more items in your home? Write down or think about everything new to cross your threshold in the last two weeks and decide if these items were things that you needed or things that you wanted. Becoming aware of the accumulation process will help you reduce the number of new things you bring into your home in the first place, which goes a long way towards eliminating the need to sort and downsize.

3. Start a give-away box and actually give it away. One of the major tenets of minimalism is actually down-sizing and living with less (surprise!). Pick a room or a closet or even just a shelf and get rid of any object you haven’t used in the last year. You can even start this task by mentally sorting ahead of time and then moving quickly through the manual sorting into keep and giveaway. Anything you couldn’t remember being in that location should automatically be considered for giveaway.

Another technique is to take everything out of the space, clean it thoroughly and then only put back what you want to keep. At the end of the day, take the box to your local thrift store. Take the time to enjoy your newly refreshed space.

4. Identify and eliminate redundancies. It’s natural to desire change and to update items in your home with the newest or trendiest version. If this is important to you, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a minimalist! The trick is to let go of the older version or the excess of what you already have.

Pick a category of items and decide how many of those items you need for your household to function well. Some categories to consider: cleaning supplies, linens, clothing, mugs or dish ware, and entertainment items like books, CDs and DVDs. When you change your focus from trying to carefully re-organize a closet to fit all the things to identifying the function of each thing, it becomes easy to see duplicates (or even triplicates) that can be let go.

5. Use sorting as an opportunity to give a gift to a friend. Sometimes just giving away items can feel overwhelming, especially if they were a gift or have sentimental value. For example, I recently decided to significantly downsize my jewelry and only keep what I regularly wear. There were many pieces with meaning from an earlier time in my life which I didn’t wear anymore and a surprising number of pieces I’d never liked in the first place. Some went straight to giveaway but others I chose to send to close friends who might enjoy them, writing a short note to say hello at the same time. It was a great way to pass on the jewelry I didn’t want to give away as well as reaffirm old friendships.

If you’re just getting started on your minimalist journey, start small and feel proud when you attempt even one of these suggestions. It takes time and dedication to see all the ways our mainstream “more is better” culture influences daily life. If you get stuck along the way, repeat this minimalist mantra: have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.


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Instructor Spotlight: Kathi Diamant

From the first time you meet Kathi Diamant (or see her on KPBS TV) her sparkling eyes alert you to her intelligence and vibrant energy. That energy further manifests in an apparent and tangible eternal youthfulness. As Franz Kafka stated, “Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.”

Come to her Qigong class on Wednesdays at 9am to try this wonderfully vibrant practice. Check out our full class schedule here.

photo credit: Simpatika

1. Let’s start with the basics, what is Qigong?

Qigong translates as “energy” (qi or chi) and “work” (gong), but I prefer to think of it as “energy play.” It has been used for centuries as an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, prescribed both for the prevention and cure of chronic illnesses. Comprised of flowing movements designed to balance both hemispheres of the brain, Qigong is exercise that works from the inside out.

It truly is a practice available for everyone, at any age. It can be practiced sitting or standing, and no prior experience is required. We learn three things in Qigong: balance, letting go, and feeling our own energy. Through Qigong, we learn to differentiate between the Yin and Yang energy flowing in the body, and to integrate mind and body in a moving meditation.

2. What first attracted you to Qigong when you began your practice?

I took a Qigong class through the YMCA and I loved the experience of relaxation and focus at the same time. It was a perfect complement to my yoga practice, but also a different sort of workout. In Qigong, there is no effort, no force, you build strength and balance through letting go.

My real practice began in January 2000 when I started lessons in Tai Chi with Henry Cheng, a Fifth Generation Master in Wu-Style Tai Chi Chu’an at the YMCA Mind-Body Center. Master Henry specializes in developing, cultivating and increasing one’s own energy. Qigong is the concept, or idea, behind Tai Chi which is known as a form of Qigong.

Kathi Diamant by Simpatika3. What is your favorite place or time of day to practice?

My favorite places are outside, especially near old trees, which intensify the feeling of energy. But my absolute favorite is on the beach, at sunset. Sunrise is good, too, but it happens far less often!

4. What’s the most challenging aspect for you?

Focusing my mind. While my body has gotten much stronger and healthier, focusing my mind on my breath and movement is the real trick. New studies have shown that thinking about what you intend to think about produces higher levels of happiness, satisfaction and peacefulness. So the mind aspect of this mind/body exercise is the most challenging.

5. If you were an animal, you would be: a dolphin, definitely.

6. Describe what Qi Gong means in your life using just 6 words: playing with energy keeps me healthy.

7. What might your students be surprised to learn about you?

I have written a biography entitled “Kafka’s Last Love” which has been translated and published in ten countries, and since 1998 I have been the director of the Kafka Project at SDSU, where I lead the international search for Franz Kafka’s literary treasure, stolen by the Gestapo in 1933.

8. Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for new students?

By practicing Qigong, you can improve your health, your happiness, and the quality of your longevity. Without effort, without force, and without any special equipment!

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Postpartum Yoga Practice: A New Mom’s Journey

There are so many messages that our society sends women about their bodies and how they should look and perhaps one of the most vulnerable times to hear these messages is when you’ve just had a baby. Case in point, just recently a reviewer on Yoga One’s yelp page wrote about leaving class because the teacher was out of shape and therefore couldn’t be an experienced teacher. The reviewer had never been to the studio before. That teacher happens to have over a decade of experience and a beautiful six month old.

Help us share real stories like this one and support all individuals in their journey to lead happier and healthier lives. We want to hear your experiences with body image and/or postpartum recovery in the comments or by email ( If you’ve taken class at Yoga One, please consider posting your feedback online, Facebook, Yelp, Google, etc., we’d love to hear your thoughts! 

Part three in a series of reflections on pregnancy, childbirth and yoga from Missy DiDonato. Be sure to read her prenatal article and a just-after postpartum article.

Missy DiDonato ©YogaOne2015guest post by Missy DiDonato

One year later (damn, already?!) I can say this about postpartum recovery and overall wellness – it’s not for sissies! 

Before giving birth, I had expected that my body would go back to what I still considered “normal.” I wouldn’t have the aches and pains I’d experienced during pregnancy and I assumed that with some time and effort, I would eventually be the same size and weight as before. But I was naïve to how long it would actually take and I had to adjust my expectations.

I had a cesarean and they cut my stomach muscles to deliver my baby. Abrupt, I know, but I needed to say those words to myself in order to process the experience. The initial weeks of recovery and healing from the c-section were easier than I anticipated and I was able to get back on my mat practicing yoga after just six weeks. I took it slow and thought that by allowing myself enough time to heal, my body would go back to the way it was pre-baby. But a year later, I’m still struggling with both the expectation and physical experience of “getting my body back.”

My biggest setback physically is the ongoing work of mending and strengthening my abdominal muscles. Their lack of stability often causes acute low back pain. I’m constantly reminding myself to get up after sitting for too long (an epidemic really, among anyone who sits too long at their desk or in a car.) I’ve had a couple of debilitating moments where I had to seek medical treatment with acupuncture and massage. This, coupled with proper yoga asanas to strengthen my ab muscles and stretch my hips and hamstrings, has kept the pain at bay. But sometimes I feel as though this pain will be a consistent reminder of what my body miraculously performed.

Missy DiDonato ©YogaOne2015Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel bad about my body. It’s given me a healthy baby girl and for that, I am forever grateful. I do get bummed when I realize my belly is no longer the adorable object of affection.

Just as my body had to make space for the experience of carrying a life, my postprtum body needed time to adjust to a new version of life with different activities, patterns and eating habits. It’s been a challenge to fit healthy eating into a much busier day to day life. Making time for workouts and time for me often falls by the wayside simply because I miss her. So we take more walks and do yoga in the park. 

My priority is Olive and I remind myself that I have to be physically and spiritually strong to care for her like she deserves. My physical appearance is no longer my top concern, but the health of my body matters.

If I could say one thing to new moms, it’s that adjusting to your new schedule will be difficult, but remember that you gave birth, and that’s not for sissies! You got this!


Missy DiDonato

Missy DiDonato
Guest Writer

Missy began practicing yoga at home when she was fourteen, following along to a DVD in her living room. She has since completed two separate 200 hour Yoga Teacher Trainings with UCSD and Yoga One. Missy loves helping others find their own yogic path and students of all levels appreciate her warm and friendly teaching style.

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Yogi Reads: Light On Life

BKS Iyengarby Olivia Cecchettini

“Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wellness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom” 

by B. K. S. Iyengar

Summary: Known throughout the world as one of the great yoga teachers, B. K. S. Iyengar touched many lives through his teachings and writings. In Light on Life, Iyengar shares his insight into the body, mind and spirit connection acquired throughout his lifetime of practice and teaching yoga. Exploring the spiritual and mental aspects of yoga, this book is the perfect counterpoint to Iyengar’s Light on Yoga, which focused on the physical practice. Written in a conversational tone, I felt as though I were sitting in one of his classes, enjoying each anecdote as they were revealed in his mind and heart.

Why I Love It: Timing is everything! They say that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I had tried to read this book many times but it didn’t hold my attention. It sat next to my bed for months until the day I decided to give it another try. Suddenly, I couldn’t put it down. I soaked up every word like a sponge. I had been feeling a lull in my teaching at the time and this book re-sparked my passion and sense of purpose. That connection made me love this book – you never know just when you’re ready to receive the message intended for you.

Recommended For: I recommend this book for anyone who is looking to discover yoga beyond asana (the physical poses.) Oftentimes, it is the physical practice that draws people in, but the sense of connection to a wider community, the deep sense of wellbeing and peace obtained from the mental and spiritual side of yoga is what keeps me coming back. This month I invite you to go deeper with your practice and your life!

Olivia headshotOlivia Cecchettini
Contributing Writer

Olivia’s yoga journey began in 2003. She is certified in Vinyasa, Hatha, and Aerial Yoga and holds a Masters degree in Spiritual Psychology. She believes the mind, body, soul connection is sacred and encourages her students explore and expand within their own bodies and consciousnesses.

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