Interview with Maura Manzo Yoga Teacher, Instigator, Health coach, Agent of Change, Wanderer
In this conversation series I wanted to talk to teachers who are doing this differently in the field.
Maura Manzo specifically struck my interest because she is involved in so many aspects of the yoga community, yet seems so grounded. I wanted to find out how she maintains such a calm cool demeanor while staying so busy.
Let’s hear what she had to say.
You are so busy! What would you say are your three main realms of focus?
Yoga – In addition to my regular teaching schedule I am also the co-founder of Beyond Asana Teacher Training in Philadelphia. I joined forces with Brittany Policastro in 2012. We lead this training over a series of ten weekends throughout the year. Students not only receive a 200 hr. teacher training certification, but they are also asked to raise $5000 in which they participate in a service trip through our partnership with buildOn, an organization focused on eradicating poverty and illiteracy by empowering through the means of education. In February 2013 students from 2012 (who raised close to $60,000) went to Nepal where we started the building of a school. Members of the community and buildOn will then continue the work. Next year the 2013 students will go to Nicaragua to break ground on another school. We are on track to raise over $100,000 and actually build 2 schools!
Service – I am deeply committed to engaging in communities on a local and global level. I completed Off the Mat Into the World Leadership Training and the Advanced Leadership Training. In 2010 I raised $20,000 for their Seva Project in which I traveled to South Africa to work on projects with HIV and AIDS populations as well as learn more about Apartheid. I am now a senior leader with OTM and currently serve as the Philadelphia/South Jersey Community Leader.
Travel– I love to travel! My favorite place is Mexico. I just spent 5 weeks there by myself in December and it was an amazing experience. I’ll be heading back to Tulum in September leading a retreat called The Art of Letting Go.
Do you have a day off?
Well…I try! Ideally Sunday or Monday is my day to chill, cook, relax…just do whatever I want, but it doesn’t always work out like that. I am trying to instill that practice back into my life.
Do you have long-term goals or a five-year plan?
For the last three years I was very driven and very goal oriented as far as my career is concerned. I would say my goals these days are more personal. I’d like to create more time and space….for anything that may come along, including a relationship.
What were you doing before you started teaching Yoga?
I was actually managing a Yoga studio. I was a restaurant manager before that. I decided to change some things around and really take control of my life. I enrolled in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. During that time, a wellness studio opened up close to me so I started working there. A few months later, my home burnt down, and I lost everything. Everything except the clothes on my back. It was a defining moment in my life and in my future. Three days later, I walked into my first yoga class. Two years later, I did a Yoga Teacher training so I could learn more about Yoga and deepen my own personal practice. I figured if I’m going to run a studio I ought to know as much as I can! Of course from there I started teaching. Actually, before I was even finished with my YTT, I was on the schedule. Four months after graduation, I led my first retreat to Mexico.
Tell me more about being the Community Leader with OTM. What exactly does that mean?
This is a local gathering of the OTM organization. Those who are interested in conscious activism get together and identify needs right here within our own community. We develop plans and take action. We recently held a Yoga Gangsters Outreach Certification, there’s a Women’s Circle Project…there’s always something going on. Basically, I am the leader of this group, but just from an organizational standpoint. There are other people are heading up the actual projects. I am not necessarily involved in all of the projects, but host the forum where these projects are born. It’s like a catalyst.
As if this wasn’t enough, what else are you involved in?
I am an Ambassador for Lululemon, Vitacoco and Luna Bar, which is great because I receive products for events, fundraisers and reps from the companies are often at the larger events which makes for an overall community feel.
I am also a health coach and graduated from the Integrative Institute of Nutrition so I lead wellness and detox retreats and have private clients that I work with.
Wow, that’s a lot, you must practice a lot of Yoga yourself in order to stay grounded and sane?
Ha ha…not as much as I should…I need to work on that! My home practice has definitely developed over the last few years, as well as meditation. Lately, I haven’t needed asana as much; meditation seems to be more beneficial for me at this time.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My Dad said “You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t make you happy.”
From my Mom “Trust your gut and follow your intuition.”
Which to this day is advice I remember and follow regularly.
Tell me something fun about yourself?
I am a die hard Michael Jackson fan and have been all my life! I even learned the whole entire Billie Jean dance for an acting class in college. Then, on a whim (champagne may have had something to do with it), I performed it at my sister’s wedding. I was just playing around, but to this day if I am out and Billie Jean comes on…if I am with someone who knows this…they will beg me to perform it…and YES I still know it!
Maura is a Yoga Teacher, Instigator, Health Coach, Agent of Change and Wanderer based out of Conshohocken, PA outside of Philadelphia. She came to Yoga and learned to breathe after a fire destroyed her home in 2006. She’s been on the mat ever since! Read more about her at www.MauraManzo.com