My Yoga Journey : An Interview with Unjay Markiewicz of Shala Om Yoga
- Please tell us briefly the story behind Shala Om Yoga. When and how did you start your yoga journey? Where can people find your classes?
I've flirted with yoga since I was a teenager, but only during the past four years have we been going steady.
It happened through an unplanned sequence of events. Initially I just wanted to get fit and my son Sasha persuaded me to join his gym. Then the young personal trainer who inducted us asked me to join his group fitness class. It was boxing, and I liked the social aspect, so I tried out all the classes. The one that stuck was called Body and Mind, and it wasn't really yoga, it was "yogalates", yoga and Pilates mixed together. It was taught by Elisa Morris, who is a fantastic personal trainer, but not a yogini. But it was enough yoga to reawaken my yen for yoga. I started studying yoga at home, watching YouTube yoga tutorials, reading about the more philosophical aspects of yoga, and starting a daily practice with the help of an iPad app, Gaiam's "Yoga Studio".
I would still recommend it highly for anybody wanting to start a home practice. Elisa left, and our new teacher was an actual registered yoga teacher, Tiffany (now running Adelaide Beach Yoga at Henley), and I became even more convinced that yoga was my path. Although I lived Tiffany's classes, I knew I wanted more than gym style yoga. I wanted the whole spiritual aspect as well, and I began to think how I would teach a class. Then one day, Tiffany was not available and the other students for some reason asked me to take the class! I just dived in and led them through a 45 minute class with a 10 minute savasana guided meditation at the end. The next thing I knew, I was taking a term off from my Education Department job and heading to Byron Bay for my 200 hour yoga teacher training!
- Which type of yoga do you teach? Who / what inspires you to teach?
I teach Hatha yoga, with a yin influence, and this year I have begun teaching pure yin as well. I avoid fast flowing vinyasas, as I believe we need time to feel into each pose. I think the whole practice needs to be meditative, not just the savasana. At the same time I try to make the students feel comfortable about practising at their own level and not take class seriously at an ego level. So it is super serious in intention as well as fun in experience.
The two things that inspire me to teach are the power of yoga itself, the inner calm and uplift it brings me, and the idea of building community here in Semaphore. I've lived here since I was ten and I think it is a special community already. I feel honoured to be able to contribute something in the form of affordable yoga classes which are welcoming to local people of any age and ability.
- What is the most rewarding part of being a yoga teacher?
You know, it's seeing the relaxation as people get up from śavasana at the end of class, the beautiful feedback they offer, and knowing that I am providing something they really love and maybe even need in their lives. I also like it that class never really starts on time because we have developed such a friendly atmosphere. I actually have to interrupt the conversations so we can begin practice! I've been to some studios where everyone is deathly quiet before class and you can get shushed for whispering to your friend on the next mat.
In the bigger picture perspective, it's knowing that I am doing exactly what I should be doing. I knew, I should become a yoga teacher and start my own classes independent of any studio's or gym's expectations because I knew the type of class I myself longed to go to. And the feedback from my regulars and the feel of the classes confirms this.
- What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of yoga?
There was a time when yoga classes at the gym were the only place I felt safe outside of the house. This was a time of clinical anxiety and depression, and during yoga practice was the only time I could feel relief for an hour.
- Any particular mantra you recite before you start the class?
No not really, I just ask for guidance to present the best class I can. I do use some chanted mantras at the end of class, accompanied by my singing bowls.
The favourite is Ham Sa Shiva So Ham, which I learned from Madhuriji, who now runs The Yoga Centre in town. I also like the Tibetan Green Tara Mantra and the Heart Sutra Mantra, also a Tibetan favourite.
It was a pleasure to have interviewed Unjay. He is a good yoga teacher with a sense of humor. I normally attend the 6:30 PM class on Thursdays. regular classes run every Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 PM ( Semaphore Uniting Church, 146 Semapore Road) , and if weather permits, Outdoor classes, 9 am Saturdays at the Timeball Tower, Semaphore.