By Manduka Ambassador Maria Villella
January’s a great time to take stock and recommit to your practice, but even the best intentions can get waylaid by, well, the rest of life. That’s why we reached out to one of our favorite Manduka ambassadors, Maria Villella; her grounded, compassionate approach is exactly the sort of wisdom we’re celebrating in the new year.
Maria’s been a leading voice in the yoga world for over a decade. She’s a mom, accomplished teacher, and herbalist as well as the co-owner of Elysia Life Care wellness center in Santa Monica, where she incorporates yoga into holistic healing practices.
We sat down with Maria to discuss intentions and commitment (plus the inner gremlin we can all relate to) from a classic yogi’s perspective.
WHAT ARE YOUR INTENTIONS FOR 2019?
To find more ease. I intend to spend more time in meditation and without anything planned.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR PRACTICE?
I love how it quiets my mind and gives me a break from all the activity going on around me.
WHAT ROLE DOES COMMITMENT PLAY IN YOUR PRACTICE? HOW DO YOU STAY FOCUSED ON SHOWING UP ON THE MAT EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT?
Commitment is important for a practice. When I have time blocked out for my practice I go to my mat and just let my practice be whatever it is for the day. Because I allow my practice to meet me where I’m at and I don’t really impose any expectations on what it should be, I never have the feeling that I don’t want to show up on my mat. That doesn’t mean I don’t push myself, it just means I let it change and be what my inner doctor ordered for the day.
WHAT IS YOUR RECOMMENDATION TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO MAINTAIN A CONSISTENT PRACTICE?
Just start and start small. 10–20 minutes is enough. Slow change can become lasting change. Yoga can be sport and that’s fun and great but it can also be very practical. As long as it’s helping you take a pause from your day to check in, then it’s working.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU MISS A DAY?
I just pick up again when I can. I miss days a lot. There was a time when I was really just grumpy and so uncomfortable in my skin if I missed a day. That has changed. Now I’m okay with missing days and I don’t turn into a gremlin. That tells me that over time the practice is working because I’m becoming less dependent on it and hopefully it’s integrating. But when I miss too much time the gremlin definitely comes out.
WHAT IS YOUR DAY TO DAY ROUTINE AND HOW DID YOU BUILD IT?
My day to day routine varies. I have mom days when I’m at home with my daughter and my husband works and clinic days when I go to work and my husband stays home with our daughter.
On my mom days I wake up and drink tea then get my daughter when she wakes at 7 a.m. We eat breakfast, play, or go to a class or for a walk with our dog. Then lunch, then she naps, which is my time to catch up and practice. I usually get about 30-45 minutes in. Then she wakes and we play, have dinner, take a bath, and she goes to sleep around 6:30 p.m. I then catch up on cleaning, cook dinner for myself and my husband, and do my own work. When my husband gets home we eat and spend some time together and then I like to be in bed by 10 p.m. at the latest.
On my clinic days I wake up at 5am and drink tea then practice. Then I head to the clinic. I work until 7 or 8 p.m., then head home to have dinner and spend time with my husband.
The days are long and full. My routine has been built on my priorities. My daughter will never be this age again and I want to be sure I’m finding a balance to spend as much time with her as I can without completely letting go of all the things that support and keep me balanced. It’s tricky but it’s working for us all right now.