We spoke with Samantha Merkur, director of Yogabodii. Her intimate yoga studio in mid-town Toronto is perfect for the novice, the athlete, the young and the old to increase strength, endurance, and mobility. We found out what you need to achieve balance, the most helpful yoga prop, and how much you need to meditate to be perfectly calm.
What does a Yogabodii look like? Can we all get one?
A Yogabodii is not something we necessarily look like, it is something that we can strive to be…a full complete being that approaches life with a yogic path. Be it our philosophies, our exercise routine, or how we interpret right from wrong and what we do with it. That’s a Yogabodii!
What does a Yogabodii feel like?
A Yogabodii feels peaceful, has the ability to find quietude within, the ability to practice calm, and reflects on oneself regularly. A Yogabodii comes from the core, and evolves from the inside out. When we feel good and clean on the inside, then our mind will be healthy too.
It’s so great to have yoga studios in every neighborhood these days. How do you stand out?
My studio is a private hide-a-way, nestled in a park like setting. All the materials are eco-friendly, bringing my love for the outdoors in. It is intimate, and boutique-like with tons of natural sunlight. My studio is your space when you come to use it. It transforms with the client and class into what is needed. It is a lovely space to see all four seasons, enjoy a streaming downpour of vitamin D, and a place to take you away from the daily routine. The soft bamboo floors, and wall to ceiling windows allow you to mentally escape and focus inward.
You say you’re a modern day Iyengar trained yogi. What does that mean?
I live in the everyday average life. Which means, as much as I love yoga, I also have many other responsibilities to manage that keeps me from dedicating my life to yoga the way BKS Iyengar has for 95 years. I pursue many other interests as well, and ultimately, my yoga gets infused into my garden, my singing, my parenting, etc. My modern day practice takes place on and off my mat, figuratively and practically. There are days my backbends are practiced with my counter top as my prop, and others where it’s just me and my mat.
You make difficult poses look effortless. Is it because you’re naturally flexible and stretchy?
HA! Thanks!! Mr. Iyengar says the success to any pose is to experience the effortless effort involved. When I started my practice 16 years ago, I couldn’t even touch my toes, bend backwards, or invert with any stability or confidence. All the poses are difficult if you engage fully, regardless of what level your practice.
Other than increasing strength and flexibility, what does yoga offer you personally?
I get so much physical strength and flexibility from my asana practice, but it also makes my mind and heart feel emotions to their fullest, so I can practice feeling the same strength and flexibility in my mind as well.
Which challenges you more – finding balance in your practice, or finding balance in your life? And is there even really such thing as balance?
Balance is a personal definition. I think there must be a certain balance in your life to keep you waking up and falling asleep. That being said, I often find it hard to do it “all” with balance. My balance includes surrendering, removing self-judgment, stretching on the go, and doing all with integrity. If we are just going through the motions, the authenticity is lost. And without honesty, balance is not achievable.
If you could only have one yoga prop, what would it be?
I use a variety of props, but my favourite is blocks! You don’t need a mat to practice, but a block provides reminders, helps raise your floor when necessary, and penetrates those harder areas for you so you can return to it later with memory of the block for improvement and depth.
How long should we meditate to be perfectly calm? (Ha!)
Ha, exactly!!! Meditation is a personal practice, not a formula. Sure there are ways to clear the mind and practice being still and focused in the moment, but that is not for everyone. There is no perfectly calm, or at least I have yet to experience it. The practice of calmity is a daily commitment and refinement. Yoga certainly helps!!!
Your favourite body part?
I am most fascinated with the entire muscular system and how it is all interconnected with ligaments and tendons. I study it all the time. If I wasn’t teaching yoga, I think I might be a massage therapist!