Welcome to the 360i #SideHustle blog series, where we showcase the totally awesome side projects, start-up businesses and other ventures created by the always-curious and entrepreneurial crew of employees here at 360i.
Maria Loida is the Associate Director of Influence and Social Marketing Strategy at 360i… she’s also the agency’s resident Yoga instructor. Every Wednesday her class gathers in the Training Room or on our roof with stellar TriBeCa to Midtown views to unwind from the week and take an hour to just relax. We caught up with Maria recently to find out more about how she became a yoga instructor, her favorite studios around the city and the challenges that come with being a yoga instructor in New York City.
360i: So, let’s start off with the beginning, how did you get started in yoga?
Maria Loida: “From a really young age I did gymnastics, studio dancing, jazz, ballet, tap… all of it. I’ve always loved movement and specifically found what felt like home in dance class. As a kid, I tried a little bit of everything… joining the volleyball or basketball teams in addition to dance. I always had some activity built into my schedule that it never felt like exercise to me. I did that for years and even through college. It was only until I was an adult and moved to New York that I had realized I needed to proactively think about exercise and wellness.
It was around then, about seven years ago, that I first came to yoga. There were a lot of elements about it that spoke to me, but I really loved shavasana. I thought, “Oh this is awesome, we get to lay down at the end, this is so luxurious.” It was so different from something like running, where my body personally doesn’t feel that great during or afterwards. Soon after, I committed to practicing all the time.”
360i: How did you go from practicing to teaching?
ML: “Teacher training is a 200-hour requirement. They offer a weekend program that’s 20 hours a weekend, essentially a part time job for ten weeks. I tend to have a lot going on, travel and otherwise, but at one point the seas kind of parted and I realized I had the time to do it without missing several sessions and so I signed up without thinking, not even really sure that I wanted to be a teacher. But by the end of training I knew that I did.
After I finished, I worked with a teacher that I highly, highly respect in New York City. He’s amazing and I still take his class every week. I started teaching for my friends for free, and for my now fiancée’s company, doing a little bit of corporate yoga there. Last fall I picked up my first teaching job at a studio in Chelsea. And now I teach at Yoga Vida where I did my training. I also teach for 360i’s corporate program as well as retreats, most recently for Campowerment, a sleepaway weekend camp for adult women.”
360i: How did you decide on a home studio?
ML: “Most studios offer two weeks for a discounted rate when you’re a new student. So, I planned to try all the studios in the perimeter of my apartment. I did that until I found Yoga Vida, which had a good selection of classes that fit my schedule and several teachers and style that resonates with me.
Yoga can feel a little intimidating if you’re new to it. It’s an ancient practice and teachers often call the poses in Sanskrit, which is a classical Indian language used in yoga to define poses and practices. There’s much more to yoga than most initially realize. It’s not just about exercise, it’s about breathing and meditation too, which sometimes includes chanting and singing. Yoga Vida’s mentality is that yoga is for everyone, and everyone should have access to a practice if they want one. I loved this about the studio and still do, although part of my personal practice is to broaden my horizons and take class and trainings with teachers from different yoga lineages. Just like pretty much everything, NYC has some of the best teachers in the country, so I try to soak that up as much as possible. I consider myself much more of a student than a teacher.”
360i: What do you get out of teaching that you don’t get out of your personal practice?
ML: “Teaching and practicing are so different. Experiencing yoga in my own body is one thing, but getting to give someone else that experience is the coolest. When everyone lays down at the end of class in shavasana, the energy mellows and you can feel people let go and relax. Especially in New York, it’s so easy to feel the high intense energy, and we’ve all had ‘those days’ where it feels unbearable, so to see that dissipate a little is so nice and feels really nurturing, like my own small way to reverse some of the craziness. To help people, sometimes those I barely know, feel strong, but calm and grounded in their body… It’s really rewarding.”
360i: How have you managed doing both – being a full-time employee and a dedicated yoga instructor?
ML: “Teaching yoga is almost opposite from working at a digital advertising agency, but it’s really helped me here. It gives me more perspective, focus and who knew, relaxing is known to unlock our best creativity, so all in, it’s a win, win. Being part of the yoga community gives me really great balance and helps me stay level headed, centered and calm whenever things here get stressful. It’s funny… I tell my students to do all these things to find peace, so it’d be ridiculous if I didn’t subscribe myself.”
360i: As you’ve pursued teaching have you had any moments of doubt?
ML: “Teaching yoga is intimidating as hell. Like anything in New York, you can’t go get your 200-hour certification and then just walk into a yoga class and teach. It’s just not how things work in the city. You have to have legit experience and poise. People in New York are not that forgiving. They’ve come to spend 60 to 75 minutes of their time with you, you better make it worth it. I remember for my first class, I probably spent two or three weeks preparing for it. It’s different than giving a presentation to a client. In most work presentation settings, you’re not talking non-stop for a full hour. To teach a class that runs smoothly and effectively, you really have to home in on very specific clear cues that anyone can understand. Just like a presentation, rambling isn’t the best solution.”
360i: What’s next on the horizon for you?
ML: “My short-term goals are to keep pursuing teaching opportunities in the city and reaching out to the community of people who really like my class, making sure they can find me easily, whether on social media or my website. For the long-term though, I want to set up my life in a way that I can continue practicing, learning and teaching until I’m an old, old woman. More specifically, I’d like to build a large enough community so that I can start planning and hosting retreats with good traction. I love travel and I want to mix yoga and adventure. Exploring a new place takes some courage and curiosity, which are the things you need in yoga, ultimately a practice of self-exploration. It’s a nice analogy, and I want to share that with people.”