Each month we will present an in-depth look at one of our Jaya teachers/practitioners. This month we are shining our spotlight on Cindy Condella.
Cindy is another local Jaya teacher, growing up not far from our studio in Clark Summit on Grove Street. She teaches Slow Flow, Open Level Flow, and Yin. When I asked Cindy which was her favorite, she told me she likes each one in a different way. “Yin and Slow Flow are more meditative and methodical, while Open Level Flow is more physically challenging with increased stamina and energy. All are equally enjoyable to teach. It’s the students that make the class.”
Active and energetic all of her life, Cindy started dance lessons as a little girl, in a studio conveniently located across the street from her house. Over the years, she studied ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop. As she got older, Cindy started to look for a more rigorous and organized option to dance classes, but in the 90’s there weren’t opportunities for a dance troupe in this area. She dabbled in various sports, but found cheerleading gave her the organized athletic outlet she craved as it integrated dance.
Unlike me, Gym was Cindy’s favorite class in school. When she found herself with two Study Hall periods, she asked to be put into a second Gym class. For her, quiet time was best spent choreographing routines, and to this day she is best centered and focused when she is practicing yoga. She takes classes at various studios and practices yoga at home daily. “Physical activity helps to calm my mind. Through the physical practice of yoga, we exert our bodies so our minds can be still. That’s how we get to that meditative state.”
Although she was encouraged for years to try yoga, it wasn’t until 2011 that her friend Mary took her to her first class - Candlelight at Jaya. For Cindy it was not love at first try. “I had no idea what I was doing! The whole time I had my feet turned out, as if I were in ballet.”
The first two years of her yoga practice were sporadic, with Cindy attending class once every two months. It was “a slow process, a one-step-at-a-time” kind of thing, she told me. As 2013 rolled around, Cindy found herself committing to two classes each week. By the time 2014 was in in swing, Cindy was hooked, “110%.”
“I began feeling better, sleeping better and found I was more accepting. I was a better person when I practiced yoga, and people around me could see the difference.”
As I hear from many regular yoga practitioners, there was a correlation between Cindy’s evolving commitment to yoga and how things began to play out in her personal life.
When Cindy graduated from Marywood University, she continued her career in the hospitality industry, and eventually found herself working as a wedding specialist with a local historic hotel. While she enjoyed her work, she knew it wasn’t what she wanted in the long run. She had ideas; dreams of something more, and on her own terms.
In her early 30’s, Cindy found her personal and professional life at a crossroads. She began to question every decision she made, and eventually this led to an anxiety attack than landed her in the hospital. “I was physically and mentally unhealthy. Yoga helped me realize I had to let go, that I can’t control everything. Our past mistakes are in the past and worrying about our future is futile. We learn through our practice to be present in the moment and observers of both our physical and mental state, taking the necessary adjustments to be the best versions of ourselves.”
In 2014, Cindy made an important decision. She left her corporate job and started her own business as a wedding planner. 2016 brought more positive changes and happiness. It was the year she started Teacher Training at Jaya and it was the year she and her long-time love, Gerard, were married.
When asked what made her decide to commit to Teacher Training, Cindy responded, “ I don’t remember exactly, but I had no expectation outside of the desire to deepen my practice and learn about the philosophy and discipline of yoga.”
Cindy shared that it took her a year of teaching regularly to find her voice and style as a teacher. “It will take years to really develop as a teacher, but that’s exciting. With yoga there is no end. It’s sustainable. I can teach and practice forever.”
I asked what was the best part of Teacher Training, and Cindy was quick to respond, “It was the relationships we forged. It was intense. Many of us came up together, started to practice together. Through the teacher training, we got to know each other in a significant way.”
The worst aspect? “When it was over, I wanted to keep learning. I love to learn! And I missed the connection with the people I went through the process with.”
Cindy’s favorite pose? “Half moon. It exemplifies flexibility, balance, and stability. I’m also really into inversions right now, handstand variations in particular.”
Least favorite pose? “It changes, but right now it is back bends, camel.”
Cindy’s favorite way to unwind after a long day is yoga, but she also enjoys a glass of wine and luxuriating in a warm bath. “I always enjoy taking a walk with my husband and our dog, and any other dog we decide to bring along with us.” (Cindy and Gerard are known to take other peoples’ dogs out with them on their walks around their neighborhood. Nice neighbors to have!)
Biggest pet peeve? “Negative self-talk.”
When asked what her health and wellness philosophy was, Cindy told me, “It’s simple. Make time for your own physical and mental health. Stop making excuses and make a commitment to yourself.” Can't argue with that!
I asked Cindy where she saw herself in five years. “Well, I’ve actually been thinking about the next phase of my career. I don’t really know, but I will be doing what I love. Yoga is my passion.”
While both Cindy and I assumed our interview would be short and sweet, we ended up talking longer than expected with a few of my questions leading us astray. And, it seems, it’s often in those moments of going off road that I find the sweetest take-away. I’d like to close by sharing one of those with you.
In talking about the influences Cindy feels she brings to her classes, she shared these thoughts with me. “My practice is still advancing. I’m not sure what I bring to my classes other than the notion that as we age, we don’t need to think limiting thoughts. We are always growing, learning, and developing. That’s why yoga is so vital. You know, the flow in yoga is about transitioning; flowing/transitioning from one pose to the next, just as in life. I find the energy in my classes amazing. I love being able to step back and see people in their practice. As a teacher that’s what’s fulfilling. Yoga is just you and your mat - - you vs. you and not you vs. another person. There is no competition. Yoga teaches us to keep our egos in check while continuing to challenge ourselves. We learn to celebrate and support each other; we learn to care for our physical bodies, which will alleviate issues as we age; and we learn to care for our spiritual needs. In turn, we are better able to serve others and achieve personal happiness. ”