Yoga Interviews : Maria from Daily Downward Dog
Yoga Interviews : Maria from Daily Downward Dog
Today is the 6th week our 8 week yoga interviews series where we’re presenting interviews of 8 influential yoga bloggers. We ask 8 engaging questions and release an interview every Saturday at 8am US EST.
For this interview, we’re happy to learn more about Maria from the popular blog Daily Downward Dog. We originally connected with Maria on Twitter. Maria is one of the pioneers of yoga blogging, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to feature her. Enjoy the interview and leave a comment or question for Maria in the comments section.
1) When did you start practicing yoga?
Back in my early forties, I started having trouble getting out of bed in the morning due to back pain brought on by scoliosis and stress. I told myself I was way too young for that nonsense, and took the advice I’d been given about practicing yoga to relieve back pain. After I did my first few downward dogs, I was hooked and knew that yoga was the elixir I needed. Like most people, though, the daily grind of the corporate world kept me off the mat for extended periods of time. I took a deep dive back into the world of yoga five years ago, eventually traded in my black power suits for black stretchy yoga pants, and have been riding the waves of an incredible yoga high ever since. If you had told me five years ago that I would now be teaching yoga, I would have thought you were crazy.
2) What drove you to share your message & your practice with the world through a yoga blog?
My first blog MariaMedia was a place to share all the things I was passionate about, like yoga, travel, books, food, and strong female role models (aka Women Who Rock). On that blog I began chronicling my yoga journey with daily snippets on a page titled The Daily Downward Dog. As my yoga practice began to blossom the snippets turned into longer posts and it was a natural progression to spin The Daily Downward Dog off on its own in 2011.
Yoga has completely changed my life in many ways. I used to be a stressed out executive, and today I’m a blissed out yoga teacher. My back pain has gone away, and most of all, I just notice that I’m a happier person. I’m blessed to be doing work that I love and am passionate about. I smile more, I laugh more, I’m full of gratitude, and I wanted to share all of the benefits of yoga with anyone who would be willing to read my blog.
3) Talk a little bit about one of your top three yoga blog posts.
Wow, that is a really tough question because I have so many favorites. I will say that I started to notice in the summer of 2012 that I really began to come into my own voice in my yoga teaching, which was very exciting and fulfilling for me. It seems that I can find yogic inspiration everywhere and I take these experiences and weave them into my yoga class themes and also began sharing them on The Daily Downward Dog. Now I get requests all the time to post my class themes and I love it when people come up to me and tell me that they read one of my posts and it inspired them. A few of my favorites: Top Thrill Yoga about using the power of pranayama breathing in stressful situations, like right before taking off on one of the scariest roller coasters at Cedar Point with my niece, Plenty of Fast Out There about taking the time to slow down both on and off the yoga mat, and P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E about why it’s called yoga practice, not yoga perfect.
4) Music can be such a powerful tool in asana and/or meditation practice. How do you make music selections for your own personal practice and for practices you teach?
I’m not a fan of the harpy, Zen-like genre of yoga music. During portions of my playlist I like to include upbeat music. Sometimes that means a song has a little soul or maybe even a little rap (thank you, MC Yogi), and I always include a little reggae. Some of my favorite artists are Donna De Lory, C.C. White, DJ Drez, Girish, MC Yogi, Trevor Hall, Snatam Kaur, and Michael Franti. I have a whole page on the Daily Downward Dog devoted to posts about my yoga class playlists, yoga theme songs, awesome yoga musicians and new music releases.
When I first started teaching I used a lot of mainstream music with lyrics. As my teaching has evolved I’ve found myself turning to more instrumental and kirtan music. It is important to me that people can hear the cues and also that the music does not distract or take them away from their practice.
I have to say that the sounds of waves, wind, and birds chirping make up my favorite soundtrack while practicing and teaching yoga on the beach.
5) You’ve written about how yoga has healed your back pain. Let’s say someone comes to you having had 5 years of chronic back pain. They’ve never practiced yoga, but they’re at the point where they’re willing to try anything. What’s your advice?
I would encourage them to speak to their doctor first to make sure they are able to practice yoga. Then I would offer suggestions on which classes to take or private instruction, so they get a gentle approach that focuses on the asanas that will stretch and strengthen the back and core body.
Some back pain is brought on primarily by stress, so starting out with basic pranayama breathing exercises and meditation can be a huge help in reducing stress and alleviating back pain.
For those suffering from back pain brought on by scoliosis, I highly recommend Elise Browning Miller’s Yoga for Scoliosis DVD.
6) What yoga or wellness books have had the biggest impact on you?
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is my go to book and bible of yoga.
7) What style of yoga do you practice & why?
I practice several types of yoga, but my favorites are Hatha and Vinyasa. I like the classical approach to the asanas in Hatha and the flowing breath with movement of Vinyasa. When I take a Vinyasa yoga class I feel like I’m dancing on my yoga mat. My favorite kind of yoga class is when you start with a pranayama exercise to clear the mind and get centered, spirited Vinyasa flow, and then time after savasana for meditation.
I’ve been known to try different kinds of yoga to mix things up, so in the last year I’ve tried SUPYoga, Bikram, aerial, acro-yoga, and wall yoga. I love that there are so many different types of yoga, and enjoy trying them all.
8) On what form of social media do you connect with other yogis/yoginis most effectively?
Facebook is really effective for communicating upcoming classes and workshops with my local students. Twitter is a fantastic way to connect with yogis all around the world, and I’m beginning to use Instagram more as a tool for sharing pictures from my yoga retreats and beach yoga classes.
Bonus Question: What advice do you have for people who are 40 years or older and are just beginning to study & practice yoga?
It’s never too late! Come to the practice with an open mind and accept the fact that you won’t be able to do everything perfectly. Yoga is not a competition, and no one is going to judge you if you are not super flexible. We come to yoga to become flexible, not because we are flexible.
Take your time, learn to breathe, turn off your internal critic, turn up the corners of your mouth, smile, be curious, explore, and embrace this awesome practice of yoga. I think one of the most important things to remember as students of yoga is this simple fact – Yoga is a practice. You have the rest of your life to practice and grow in it. No need to beat yourself up if you can’t touch your toes or do a handstand. Instead, repeat this mantra: How cool is it that there’s still so much to learn about yoga? I have the rest of my life to go on this amazing yoga journey.
About Maria: Maria Santoferraro, E-RYT, is first and foremost a student of yoga and hails from the beautiful shores of Lake Erie, Ohio. A former marketing executive with a ‘Crackberry’ addiction, she now enjoys spending her time teaching yoga on the beach, building yoga brands, and creating meditation videos forHangTen Meditation.
Her playful, heart-opening teaching combines meditation, breath, alignment, and asana in flowing Hatha yoga classes that encourage students to reconnect to their bodies and breath and to fill up with joy. Maria incorporates uplifting class themes, music, poetry, laughter, and the spiritual teachings of yoga to create a peaceful environment where students can quiet their minds, let go, and experience a deep sense of calm and well-being.
In 2011, she was able to combine two of her greatest passions – yoga and the beach – to start her own beach yoga “studio” on the beautiful shores of Lake Erie, Ohio, where she has shared yoga with hundreds of students. She has added her passion for travel and adventure to the mix with her second beach yoga retreat on the idyllic Caribbean white sand beaches of Aruba from April 22-27. This beach yoga bliss retreat will include daily inspirational yoga and meditation classes led by Maria and the opportunity to bust out some yoga moves on a standup paddle board (SUP yoga).
Go from stressed out to blissed out on her blog The Daily Downward Dog, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Join Maria this coming April for Beach Yoga Bliss in Aruba on Eagle Beach at Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa or for one of her yoga workshops.
8 weeks, 8 yoga bloggers, 8 questions, posted each Saturday at 8am.
Hope you’ve enjoyed our yoga interviews series and that you’ll join us next Saturday AM for our next interview! Check out our previous five interviews:
- Meredith LeBlanc of The Pondering Yogini
- Tonya of The Yoga Deck and Ultima Healing
- Jen and Liz of The Travel Yogi
- Brandon and Anne of The Yoga Nomads
- Roseanne from It’s All Yoga, Baby
Please leave a comment or question for Maria in the comments section!