Welcome to my traveling yoga teacher interview series!
Each month, I interview a traveling yoga teacher I meet along my travels.
This Month Features:
Mariko Jana Azis
What type of yoga do you teach & how long have you been teaching?
I teach a full range of yoga styles from active, energizing Ashtanga-inspired vinyasa to meditative, Hatha-based slow flow. One of my favorite classes to teach is a super relaxing restorative yoga class set to live music (sometimes we’ll even invite a massage therapist in to give massages while people are in their restorative poses!). 2019 marks my third year of being a yoga teacher!
Current favorite yoga pose or pose you’re working on?
Double pigeon / firelog pose is a yummy go-to for me right now!
What called you to want to join in leading our Cambodia Women’s Retreat?
I decided to join because I knew it was time for me to embark on a service-oriented phase in my yoga teaching career. As a participant, I’ve attended many women’s circles and found empowerment and healing in being a part of these communities. As a teacher, I love leading retreats and trainings because I have the opportunity to guide students through their exploration of yoga in a much more intimate and profound setting than I might be able to with 90 minutes in a studio setting. With this retreat, I’m excited to take my personal knowledge and traumas as an opportunity to help other women explore their own healing journeys.
This retreat focuses on healing from trauma. How do you think the yoga practice can contribute to that and how can you as an instructor hold space for healing moments and journeys?
As one of the retreat leaders, my top priority for students who are healing from trauma is emphasizing their sense of safety. This can mean making sure they completely consent to any gentle touch I offer, listening more than talking, allowing space to express emotions productively in whatever form they take, and making sure they feel they have the flexibility to have alone time or time to connect with others as much as they need throughout the course of the retreat.
What is your background in working with women?
I’ve had a passion for working with women since I was young. I spent most of my high school years tutoring women at a community center for Spanish-speaking female immigrants in a low-income neighborhood of Boston, and went on to participate and co-host women’s circles and women’s yoga teacher trainings in New York and Massachusetts. As I’ve mentioned, I find that immersing myself in women-only environments that cultivate empowerment and healing can be one of the most transformative experiences as a women healing through trauma myself.
What are you most excited for during our retreat?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from hosting and going on retreats, it’s that it’s all about the people and the lifelong friendships and connections you make on a journey like this! I’m immeasurably excited to meet all the powerful women who will already have such a shared language, empathy, and understanding of one another because of our own traumas and healing journeys.
How has yoga helped heal moments of your life for you?
I started diving deep into yoga after a sexual assault that happened while I was abroad ~ an event so traumatic and unspeakable that I didn’t have the strength to tell anyone about it until recently. I completely hid my trauma from every single person in my life ~ while to the outside world, it may have seemed like I was immersing myself in this practice for my own fitness and physical health, I was actually doing yoga because it was the only space I could start to feel like my body was a safe and sacred space again. I could breathe into my belly again and be fully in the present moment ~ both things that trauma survivors and people with PTSD can seriously struggle with. In moments of anxiety or flashbacks, I continue to return to my breath, mantras, mindfulness, and all the other tools my practice has taught me. Yoga continues to be my primary method of self-healing on a day-to-day basis.
What meditation or mantra are you currently living by?
What happens to me always happens for me!
What does your dream yoga position or career look like?
I dream of someday running my own retreat center and hosting yoga retreats and trainings. I’d love to find a place where I can cultivate my own organic garden and produce… somewhere beautiful, hot, and magical like Costa Rica or Indonesia (my home country)!
Mari was born in Indonesia and raised between New York and Japan. She’s currently based in upstate New York and travels from there. She recently made the move to being fully nomadic, so she’s focusing her teaching to hosting retreats and workshops in different communities, including upstate New York, Cape Cod, Costa Rica, and (soon!) Cambodia.