Mary Denmead, local West Branch resident and yoga teacher, holds classes at Little Lights on Main each Monday and Wednesday night. I had the pleasure of interviewing her about her class and why she loves and teaches the practice.
When did you start teaching yoga? I’ve been teaching for 20 years but started dabbling in it about 21 years ago.
What kind of yoga do you teach? I teach an alignment-based practice that has a lot of creativity in it. I always kind of adjust to fit the needs of my class. If I have a pregnant student, I’ll weave in some prenatal yoga; if my class is looking for a challenge, I’ll do more vinyasa practice. My classes are really kind of eclectic and geared towards who is in the class, but always focused on the alignment and the breath. Having people move in the best possible way with their breath and with all the muscles and bones and joints aligned in a way that they get a surge of energy in their bodies and they feel good. Yoga does what yoga does. It makes people feel good in their brains and hearts and bodies. I love what I do.
How long are your classes? Classes are about an hour, sometimes a bit longer. Sometimes we do a little meditation at the end or pranayama (breath extension) and that might run us a little over.
What kind of training did you take to become a yoga teacher? I’ve done numerous trainings over the years. I completed one year of training in anusara yoga which is more alignment-based. I am always taking additional trainings whenever I can, always reading and learning for my own practice and adding the things I’ve learned to my teaching. It’s an ever-evolving practice in teaching and in doing. My first training was in white lotus, a more vinyasa based program. I started teaching my sister and friends in New York and eventually moved to California where I started consistently teaching several classes a week. At one point I taught 13 classes a week, and now I teach a solid four per week. The middle school teachers in West Branch have asked me to bring in a class for the teachers, so I have started this, and I also do private classes. Classes expand and then shrink, it is ever-changing.
What got you started in yoga? I was living in New York for many years and taking 12 aerobics classes a week and was finding some things in my own heart spiritually that didn’t align with what I was doing with my body. I felt like I was moving very forcefully, and I thought I needed to align my exercise with my heart. I started taking yoga, and it just felt like coming home to me. I just melted into the practice and loved it so much. Then, I was working in Las Vegas and met an amazing yoga teacher there who encouraged the practice and teaching. By the end of the year she had gotten sick and needed someone to stand in for her and asked me to do it. I was thrown into the deep end then, and had had no training yet. I had learned so much from her, though, that I did it and then decided after that to get certified to become a yoga teacher.
Erin tells me that one of your classes was over a bagel shop in New York. What was that like? (laughs) I took a class over a deli shop. At the end of class my teacher would open the windows and we would smell all the breads baking, it smelled like bagels and it was noisy. At the busy corner of 23rd Street and 3rd Ave, where we were, there was always loud honking and things outside. He (my teacher) said, “This noise is what you take into the meditation of your life. You’re never going to shut that noise off. You take that in and let it become the music of your life.” It was such a lesson in not being distracted by the honking or smells and to find that place inside. It had such an influence on me learning how to do that while I was there. It changed my life in a lot of ways. I left the business I was in then, and let life soften around me a little bit. I did teach in a beautiful church in New York, it was just a beautiful place.
What would you tell people who are thinking about doing yoga, and why do you love it so much? In West Branch it really helps to build community. We have such a beautiful group that comes to this class. We support one another, we laugh a lot in this class. If you think of a pebble in a pond, it starts at the center and radiates outward. That’s what we feel like this class is for us. We start at the center and then go out and try to use what we’ve learned in our lives. Be more patient with our children, use our breath in our life. Namaste, the greeting in yoga, which means “The light in me acknowledges the light in you”. When we find the light in ourselves, we are able to find the light in the world. More people should come join us because it’s a beautiful circle to come into. The space is so beautiful, I love teaching at Little Lights. It’s such a magical place and we welcome everybody. It makes life better. Yoga makes life better. It’s a map to yourself. If I find myself in a situation where I can’t quite find myself, I think, “What if I breathe a little, or stretch my body? Now I feel more grounded and am able to take things on.” It shows me what I need. It’s good for everybody no matter what you’re dealing with. I think it’s helpful for all things.
Yoga classes with Mary are at 6:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday. Drop-in for $12 per class or purchase a 10-class card for $100.
Ready to join us? Contact Mary be email at email@example.com or by phone at 319-594-9484.