The way through this sensitive time is to do it together. This is particularly important as we navigate the uncharted territory of a global pandemic. Reflect on what is happening and intentionally create new ways to connect with others as we practice social distancing.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Opielowski, Master Trainer on the CorePower Yoga Team. She earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology with a specialization in Fitness, Nutrition, and Health in 2005 from San Diego State University and completed her yoga teacher training with CorePower Yoga in 2007. She completed her 300-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in 2017 under the tutelage of Jason Crandell. Her heartfelt desire as a teacher is to create a space where her students feel grounded, valued, and safe to embrace their true abiding nature. Amy lives in San Diego with her wife Beth O’Reilly and leads online teacher training and classes.
Thank you for joining us! Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Love was the vehicle that guided me from my competitive ego-driven fitness career to my current 13-year service-driven yoga career. My heart woke to the wisdom of detachment and boundless love during my first CorePower Yoga class in 2007. This class was co-taught by Heather Peterson, the Chief Yoga Officer, and Trevor Tice, the Founder of CorePower Yoga and held at the Point Loma studio in San Diego, California. I recall being in final rest, savasana, after class and feeling my wholeness and a deep sense of surrender. This experience planted a seed that has stemmed and grown over the past decade into a radiant sense of wonder that continues to shape who I am today as a grounded teacher, mindful leader and open-hearted human.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I love to share my coming out story as a prayer that it may empower others to embrace their wholeness. My path as a student and teacher with CorePower Yoga allowed me to nourish my passion for self-study, for truthfulness — rooted in the heart of ahimsa (non-harming) and contentment. An aspect of “non-harming” is “healing,” and as we heal, we experience our innate wholeness and truth. The CorePower Yoga community held space for me as I bravely, healed, dissolved outdated beliefs about myself, and discovered my Sankalpa (heartfelt purpose): to be a grounded presence and to serve from a place of inclusion, unconditional love, and acceptance. In 2012, after twenty plus years of pretending to be straight, I came out to my family and friends. On July 7th, 2017, I married my wife, Beth, and on that day, I was surrounded by an ocean of boundless love as our friends and family witnessed and celebrated our special day. With the support and inspiration of my CorePower Yoga family, I learned the importance of being vulnerable and unapologetically real and the value of constantly showing up and being loved through conscious action.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Identify and define clear values with your team. CorePower Yoga’s culture is rooted in four core values that serve as a compass for how we individually and collectively engage and grow as teachers and mindful leaders.
The CorePower Yoga core values are:
- Attitude of Gratitude
- Team Player
- Deliver Results
- Living Our Mission
These values shape the CorePower Yoga culture and create a harmonious work environment. Be the change you wish to see in your professional and personal life. Identify your gift as a leader and embody the values you wish to experience in the workspace. Reflect on a few questions daily, “how can I serve?” and “where can I be more supportive?” Connect your personal values with the values you experience at work to create a ripple of impact.
Culture is about nourishing a conscious and collaborative work environment. Spend time getting to know your team. Ask open-ended questions about their passions and empathetically listen. Discover and highlight everyone’s unique talents. Culture is created and lived by blending the unique gifts of each team member with service to your students or clients. As a team, aim always to deliver “perfection in action,” as Sri Swami Satchidananda expresses in, A Message to Yoga Teachers, “Whatever you do in thought, word, and deed, let there be perfection. What is a perfect act? It is an act that brings some benefit to someone and harm to no one. The reward of service is the joy of having served.”
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing Your Soul by Melody Beattie. This book lives on my nightstand. It consists of 365 daily reflections and I love the simple and profound nature of each one. My yoga sister, Dee Hayes, introduced this book to me in 2007 by reading a passage titled, “Learn to Live with Ambiguity.” This passage has been a lighthouse for me ever since.
From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
From my experience, the practice of mindfulness is the process of being aware of your thoughts, words, and actions. It is the opposite of reacting out of habit or unconscious programming. Practice mindfulness by observing yourself from the perspective of an outsider without attachment to what you notice. In the process of discerning your tendencies, you gain increased self-awareness and peace that are not your thoughts.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Some of the benefits I have experienced from my mindfulness practice include conscious choice-making, increased inner peace, expanded awareness, creativity, a deeper connection to myself, others, and nature, in addition to an increased sense of well-being.
The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Intentionally connect: The way through this sensitive time is to do it together. This is particularly important as we navigate the uncharted territory of a global pandemic. Reflect on what is happening and intentionally create new ways to connect with others as we practice social distancing. Some great ideas include gratitude letters, texts, download the House Party app, FaceTime/Zoom for quarantine chats, and have dance parties. Show gratitude to others and yourself. Take the time to do the things you didn’t have time to do before.
- Look to heroes: There are heroes all around us. Direct your attention to the heroes that inspire you during this time. Allow their heroic efforts to be a beacon of hope and faith. Participate in a gratitude prayer or reach out and thank them via a letter, text, or phone call.
- Bask in nature: Spend time appreciating the wonder of nature. Listen to the birds, sit with a tree, feel the sunlight on your skin, observe the phases of the moon.
- Stay calm and yoga on: Create a new routine in this new normal. Nourish your home practice by creating a sacred space. Find a room with natural light, light a candle, use essential oils, bring your journal, and use a space heater to create your own unique yoga space. Listen to the soundtrack of your breath or play your favorite playlist. Join online classes to connect to the community. To keep up your practice, check out CorePower Yoga On Demand or CorePower Yoga’s Livestream videos on YouTube.
- Surrender to uncertainty: Utilize the S.T.O.P acronym, a well-known mindfulness practice. S.T.O.P. is a 5-step mental checklist to surrender to the present moment. It is a simple, yet effective strategy to accept, breathe and mindfully choose reflection overreaction. Stop and pause with compassion. Take three slow breaths. Observe your body. What physical sensations are you experiencing? How are you feeling emotionally? Write a list of what you are feeling. Observe your mind. How is your mind contributing to future-based thinking? Proceed with conscious action. Reflect on what will support you best at that moment. This mindfulness practice gives you space to co-author each moment with clarity and non-reactivity. It gives you the tools to embrace uncertainty with trust.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
- A daily meditation practice
- Mindful breathing
- Water intake
- Eat a rainbow of fresh veggies and fruits
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“When love awakens in your life, in the night of your heart, it is like the dawn breaking within you. Where before there was anonymity, now there is intimacy; where before there was fear, now there is courage; where before in your life there was awkwardness, now there is a rhythm of grace and gracefulness; where before you used to be jagged, now you are elegant and in rhythm with yourself. When love awakens in your life, it is like a rebirth, a new beginning.”
― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom
This poem describes how love was the answer to all my healing prayers.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would start a movement of world peace. As each person learns how to peacefully accept their current form and the form of all living beings, the formless within us is revealed and all phases of life become a lesson to realizing our true eternal nature.
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