Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Onyyoga! My Journey into teaching

Fifteen years ago I found myself suffering from chronic hip pain, probably due to years of dancing in high heels while performing on stage in Las Vegas, Nevada. After X-rays showed no significant damage I looked for ways to relieve my pain. Physical Therapy seemed the next obvious treatment. During PT, my Therapist recommended I try taking Yoga classes and also recommended a teacher. I began studying at Lara Mazour's Yogablends in Las Vegas. It didnt take me long to discover that daily Yoga practice not only helped my pain but it gave me a sense of well-being Id never experienced before. Lara, a fantastic teacher, was the one who originally inspired me to consider teaching Yoga.

After I left Las Vegas for the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of New York in 2005, I began missing the wonderful teachings of my Guru, Lara. The rural area I moved to didnt have a nearby Yoga studio and many of the people I met weren't aware of the wonderful benefits of Yoga. It occurred to me that maybe I was the one who should bring this wonderful gift of Yoga to the people in my community. In 2008, I called Lara to discuss what skills I needed to become a teacher. Lara is a certified Yoga Alliance trainer and, to my delight, she invited me to come live with her and her family in their new home in Carlsbad, CA. She offered to take me under her wing and teach me the skills I needed to become a 200-hour, YA certified teacher. It was a fantastic gift that would change my life.

My training with Lara was amazing. Her family was warm and welcomed me as if I was a member of their family. I practiced Yoga daily beginning with early morning sadana and accompanying her to all of her classes. She took me to The Gardens of Paramahansa Yogananda to practice meditation. I studied anatomy, learned the Sanskrit names of poses, practiced sequencing, learned about yamas, niyamas, chakras. And, she taught me to chant.

We visited Deepak Chopras La Costa Resort and Spa, where we attended a world famous Yoga class. We selected some of my favorite Yoga music in the Resorts shop. I attended Singing Bowl Meditation on the beach, and shopped for Yoga items at street bazaars in Carlsbad where there is a Yoga studio on every corner. Lara introduced me to a lifestyle and experience that transformed my life. She didn't miss a thing. She inspired and encouraged me to be open to question and pursue all there is yet to learn. Her teaching influences me to this day.

When I returned to the ADK Mountains I returned as a Yoga Teacher. Fate then opened another door for me, I was offered a job at the Johnstown YMCA. With their support I was able to build a successful Yoga program. An experience that helped me develop my own personal teaching style.

It wasnt enough, I wanted to reach out to more people in my community. The area I live in has many retired people some of who suffer needlessly from ailments that keep them from enjoying an active outdoor life in the beautiful Adirondacks. That's when I discovered The Kripalu Center in Lennox, MA. At the Center there was an advertisement about a chair yoga class taught by Lakshmi Voelker. In 2009 I decided to attend thinking I may be able to find a way to help our Senior Citizens improve their strength and activity levels. Lakshmi was wonderful and she reminded me of my own Guru, Lara. I learned so much about the ways I could adapt Yoga for every age. I completed the program and became a certified LVCYT teacher.

As fates door continued to open, I was able to convince two local senior centers to offer Chair Yoga classes. The senior citizens who attended began to feel and look better after just a few classes. The classes have grown steadily and many of those original students remain dedicated to attending classes twice a week. They tell me of positive health changes-lowered blood pressure, improvement in their arthritis symptoms, lessening of pain in hips, knees, shoulders and joints. I see the postural improvement, better balance and increased strength in their poses. Best of all they smile more and have a better overall outlook on life. They are such a gift to me. I also completed the Silver Sneakers fitness program YogaStretch Part I, II, and III, adding more tools into my Yoga/wellness toolbox.

In 2012 the “Onyyoga” studio was opened in my home. I wanted to have a place where I could share my love of Yoga and offer classes, workshops and private lessons. A beautiful intimate setting that overlooks Lake Sacandaga. The present classes are filling up so Im adding new classes and workshops this year to allow more people to experience the benefit of Yoga.

Im always seeking to learn more and expand my knowledge of Yoga. I regularly attend classes at Kripalu. Ive been privileged to study with Lee Albert and Sara Meeks, both of whom have introduced me to therapeutic ways to help relieve pain and increase range of joint motion. I highly recommend both of their books. I've also attended Baron Baptistes Foundations in Action, an empowering experience taught by one of my favorite teachers. Baron Baptiste has an amazing ability to guide you deeper in asana (poses) then you imagined. Wow, talk about Power Yoga. These experiences continue to inspire me to learn, study and practice more.
In January of this year, 2014, I began the Kripalu, 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training. It's a 10-day, four (4) module training program designed to deepen my ability to guide others in their study of Yoga. After completing the first module, Ive already experienced a deeper understanding of my role as teacher. I enjoy being a student and learning how I can improve my teaching skills. Studying with all of the other amazing teachers and having an opportunity to share and learn from them has humbled me. I’ve learned many new ways to share Yoga with others. Im returning to Kripalu in March for the next module. I plan to finish the remaining two modules in the fall after enjoying the busy summer months on the lake practicing and sharing what Ive learned.

Speaking of summer! I can't wait for our classes on the beach to start. Yoga, as the sunrises, birds and chipmunks singing, dew covered plants and trees sparkling, breathing it all in. Its the perfect way to start a busy weekend. This summer Ill also be adding Yoga Hiking-an opportunity for each person to experience their warrior spirit by walking the paths created by the Mohawk Indians, warming up with gentle stretches, practicing balance among the trees, feeling the sun as you flow thru sun salutations. Ending the hike in meditation, your full attention focused on the natural beauty surrounding you.

Im on the journey of a lifetime. I invite you to join me on this wonderful journey. What a gift I have been given, a gift I want to share with you. No matter who you are or how you are feeling, Yoga will give you strength and confidence.

If you can breathe, you can do Yoga. I want to show you how.

Ony Antonucci

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