Yogi of the Month

Lisa Keenan - October 2020

I started my yoga journey in the spring of 2015. It was at the suggestion of my oldest daughter who had attended a hot yoga class and thought I might like it. I was drawn initially to the physical practice. I already had a regular exercise regiment and had been consistent for most of my life. I thought yoga might make a nice addition.

I spent the first two years of my journey working on perfecting my poses but not giving much though as to why I always felt so good after a class. I started attending two classes per week but quickly progressed to five plus. I found that I enjoyed more then just vinyasa as I incorporated hatha, restorative, and yin into my weekly plans. My husband, daughters, and extended family noticed a shift in my being, a calmness, a happiness.

At the end of 2016 my foundation was shaken with the sudden death of my daughters’ oldest friend when the girls were 15. She was one of our neighbors and had been an integral part of our lives since the girls were in preschool. Yoga, was where I turned with my grief. It was the only place that I could go to rest my mind. It gave me clarity which allowed me to support my daughter, the girl’s family, and the rest of my daughters’ friend community.

This was the major turning point for me in my practice. The realization that there was so much more to yoga then just the physical movements. It became a spiritual moving meditation. It was the place that I could go to clear my mind and leave renewed. It gave me a new way to look at life’s challenges and the value of community energy. Every dharma seemed to be intended specifically for me and could always be applied to my life if I just listen to the message. I began to wonder how I had ever existed without it.

I was brought to Onyx by a woman that had done her training here. She thought that this might be the right community for me, and the right time for me to make a change. She was right!! After five years of practice I have finally found the right place, with the right people delivering a message. The message that I am now ready to receive. I need to learn more.

It’s time for yoga teacher training!!

Ashley DeNegre - September 2020

I started practicing yoga nearly 20 years ago while under treatment for panic attacks. At first, I wasn’t a fan; I struggled to concentrate on breathing, meditation and was not used to a slower pace than my usual strenuous exercise. What I didn’t realize at the time is that yoga is a lifelong journey – we show up differently every time we come to our mats, but the practice always meets us where we are (even if where we are is flat on the floor in a permanent savasana).

Having a mindfulness practice helped me manage my panic attacks all those years ago, and, I’m hopeful that maybe in another 20 years, my road rage will have improved, too. Until then, I’m looking forward to being part of this year’s teacher training here at Onyx. For me, it’s an important next step to take with a community that has been such a huge part of my life since I joined 8 years ago – and a potential way to exact revenge on some of my own teachers for all of those planks! (You know who you are.)

Joy Provenzano - August 2020

Joy started her yoga journey around 1995 casually popping into classes at a gym when she thought that she needed to “decompress” but still wanted to exercise. Around 2009 a friend introduced her to hot yoga, and she became obsessed with that for a long time before having her son in 2013. After a break with her practice, she was called back in 2015 when she began a long period of personal growth and transition in her life but at the time, she didn’t know it. Yoga was there, a calm constant, where she could work on her breath, clear her mind, and be with her thoughts without distraction.

During that time, her practice became less focused on the physical practice and provided her with the tools she needed to work through what was happening internally. It was at that time that Joy recognized how special the gift of a Yoga practice was to her and how powerful it could be. That period helped her grow and piqued her curiosity to dig deeper.

In 2019, Joy decided to jump further into her practice by completing her 200hr Yoga Teaching Training at Onyx in Warren, NJ.

I love the Onyx Community, it’s my Yoga home away from home!! I love the different styles and personalities of the teachers. There is something for everyone. They say that “Yoga meets you where you are” and you can find that at Onyx. I am so grateful for this community and the friendships that I have here.

Christina Amato - July 2020

I live in Central NJ and have lived in NJ my entire life. I love spending time with my fiancé and Shih Tzu, Bronx. I enjoy cooking….everything from scratch if I can (and have the time). I love watching the Yankees…either on TV or in person (hence our puppy’s name 😊) ! I also enjoy going on long walks while listening to audio books and reading in my spare time. I work retail and have for the last 20 years. While my work life is always busy, I need yoga in my life to help balance and keep me grounded.

I started my yoga journey over fifteen years ago when I belonged to a dance company. We started taking yoga classes for strength and flexibility. I immediately fell in love with the practice. It challenged me in physical ways I never thought I was capable of. Over the years, it was hard for me to find a yoga ‘home’ that I truly felt comfortable in. After joining many different yoga studios, I came across Onyx. I immediately fell in love with the atmosphere, sense of community and staff. I started taking classes multiple times a week, challenging myself with all types of class. I found a true love for the hot room! The 200 Hour YTT program was starting a few months after I joined. This intrigued me tremendously as I was diving deep into my current practice. I went to the information session and joined right after it was over! The 200 Hour YTT was a life-changing experience, which everyone who took this program before had told me it was going to be!

Yoga has been a huge part of my life for many years. It has truly shaped me into who I am today and I am honored to have the ability now to share that experience with others through teaching. I am always thankful that Onyx came into my life and all of the friendships I have made at Onyx throughout the way.

Namaste,

Christina

Michael Orrick - June 2020

“Yoga is the practice I depend upon to stay flexible and agile; Yoga is my sanctuary, where I find inner peace and life balance”

We each have our story, the events that make us who are we today. Growing up in Australia, we were always outdoors, swimming or surfing at the local beach. High School was also sport-heavy: basketball, rugby and volleyball, and out of school I was a local rugby player, surfer, mid-distance runner and a Championship surf rower, collecting various injuries along on the way. I drove taxis at night for money through a Bio-Sciences degree and was hit in several car accidents, including one stormy night when a new, unlicensed truck left me with a permanent whiplash. This all seemed a normal life, but I layered on work pressures, and then at 25 it all stopped, when I split two discs in my lower back in a basketball incident and the ER told me that my spine had to be fused.

This would be a great time to awake and discover Yoga; but at that age, I was moving too fast to hear solutions. Instead, I left the hospital, and found chiropractors, Chinese massage and alternative therapies to get my back restarted and resumed normal life: my own business, two children, tech start-ups, and a major lifestyle move to the US after 9/11, when I saw an opportunity in the Mid-West, and exchanged sun and surf for prairie and lakes. The transition gave me the opportunity to move into and across a Fortune 50 company, but my marriage ended in a hard divorce when I left my job to spend time with my dying mother, battling cancer in a remote location. You can never replace that time with a dying family member and I regret none of those decisions, but this conspiracy of circumstance left me without my career job, alone and emotionally vulnerable. Over that decade, I had found peace and inner strength at my local gym, and built a stronger physical strength, but I had no spiritual grounding to fall back on when everything went wrong at one time, only self.

As I began to process next steps in life, I signed up for yoga classes at my local Lifetime gym. Lots of classes! To offset the emotional pain of a life in ashes but in reconstruction, I averaged 40 classes a month in the first 2-3 months. I hit one Yoga Basics class 3 x a week, for many months, until I had the form down cold. I attended so many different Yoga classes in that first year, I could ‘Wayne Groetsky’ the teachers: I intuitively knew where they were going next. Despite a life in athletic sports, this was the first sport that I had developed true empathy for. And that’s the only place in life where I found inner peace – the front right mat in Yoga class, where I could focus and go deep within, leaving my troubles in my shoes outside the door.

Life did not slow down when I left the gym each day however. I still had two children to support through High School, College and into careers, and I needed permanent work and money. But I had learned a meditative calm through Yoga that gave me a foundation to fall back on and to build from. The next job took me to Boston then Princeton, and I met Pam, a wonderful woman in Central Jersey, who offered me the love and support to allow me to rebuild the big planks of life. But it was hard to find the spiritual elements that I needed to be healthy again. I tried several Yoga studios, none of which had the breadth of teachers, or range of class times I needed, until I discovered Onyx 3 years ago. I didn’t know Warren, but at Onyx I found a community, a practice and peace that has lasted to this day …..I love Jeff’s Ashtanga-styled sessions from home, because he teaches with such clarity; I love Csilla’s Kundalini yoga because she does each set with such abandon you have to feel the life force moving; I love Emily’s Yin because she pushes us relentlessly to find our limits; I love Reena’s inner calm; I love Michael’s philosophical tangents. I love the whole Onyx family; it’s a Sanctuary that offers rhythm, peace and a calm, steady heartbeat.

They say if we don’t learn the right lessons in life, the first time, we are destined to repeat those lessons until we evolve. Princeton, NJ local, Albert Einstein is credited with saying ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting to get a different result’….so we have to change the way we operate. A virus can’t change our lives permanently….or can it? Covid is a new challenge for all of us, but every day I hear people say they are waiting for life to get ‘back to normal’…..when in fact, this time is the beginning of a new normal; it’s a novel situation that opens up huge challenges and new opportunities for our community.

Bottom-line today: I do yoga because it makes me a better me. I am happier, calmer and heathier when I do yoga. Only 90 days ago, I was an asthmatic, living and working in the middle of Manhattan, so today’s pictures come to you from the Colorado mountains; from Breckenridge, a deserted town, normally alive with skiers and snowboarders. Now, everything is shut down here. My day to day personal and work life, as I know it, have been changed dramatically and irreparably by Covid 19, but its healthy up here at 10,000 feet and, until I can get home, Onyx still comes to me live every day via Zoom classes (a Covid-inspired innovation for Onyx). So, from the calm of my own retreat and, with greater peace of mind, I can tackle my next steps in life with confidence.

The Mountain and the Moose will still be here for a long time, but the way we interact with life has to change, and this novel Virus challenges us all and gives us the chance to live differently. To live a better life if we adapt. To become ill, if we don’t. For me, that will be a more compassionate and appreciative life, and Yoga will continue to be my go-to, until science can bring us a public health answer that works and buys us time to adapt, until the next mutant virus challenges us again.

Elizabeth Ard - May 2020

The way I found Onyx was a gift from God, a true miracle.

I come from a family of boys and they were all athletic, very athletic to the point of professional football and college swimming. All I would hear about is sports. I was the opposite of athletic, no sports, no exercise, nothing. I was fortunate to have good genes so I didn’t have to… so I thought.

As years and years passed I realized my body was not as fit as it once was. So I tried different gyms in the area and actually enjoyed it. Body fit, feeling good but the problem was this led to hurting all over. Injuries started to occur to the point of needing a hip replacement and being in a lot of pain.

I’ve always been hyper, full of anxiety and just stressed out to put it frankly.

So after my hip replacement that was the end of my athletic career. I became depressed because at 60 years old, if you don’t continue to move your body takes a whole new shape and I did not like it. So between my flabby legs, low energy and being depressed I had hit a bottom.

One night before bed, I prayed that I might find something to get my heart rate up and get my body stronger. I felt like I was falling apart. I went to bed.

I woke up like it was any other day with my coffee, I opened my phone and a text came in “You have been chosen for 10 days of free classes at Onyx Yoga Studio.” I kid you not! OMG Yoga! I can do yoga! I was on my phone calling them the next minute. A miracle!

Well, all I can say is I felt good after my first class. Onyx welcomed me with all of their love and support. They made me feel a part of the community. So after the 10 days, because I can’t do things slowly, I joined for the year. I am not the best, I have some issues, my wrist has a dead bone so I can’t put a lot of weight on it but I get by. I can keep up with the classes.

Onyx has helped me get into shape but more than just that, I feel calmer. I am not as fidgety as one of the teachers brought to my attention. My mind is as calm as it ever will be. I prefer more active classes, Jeff’s ashtanga class is one of my favorites. I also love hatha and vinyasa. All of the teachers are caring, knowledgable and sincere.

With this coronavirus nightmare going on, I’m so grateful they have zoom classes every day at 12 PM. I tune in and I do my class.

I recently went on the trip of a lifetime. The yoga retreat in Dominica was an experience I’ll always cherish. The friends I made, the laughs I will never forget.

It has been a year and I have to admit, Onyx has changed my life. I feel in shape, happier and I have a peace I’ve  never had before.

Thank you everyone, the staff, the clients, everyone for helping me get it together.

Maryann Mancuso - April 2020

Yoga has enriched my life. 

It was my cousin Melanie who introduced me to yoga. She is responsible for my introduction to this wonderful enriching practice. 

I have always exercised but yoga is now my favorite way to stay fit. In the past cardio was my exercise of choice. After I retired, I took a few chair yoga classes but it was never enough of a workout for me. It was a nice introduction to Yoga, but it was not what I was looking for in a stimulating practice. 

It’s been six months since I joined Onyx and I cannot believe how much the practice of yoga has changed me.  I joined for the exercise I just didn’t realize how much this teaching would change my life. 

The truth is that yoga has been keeping me physically and mentally fit. I cannot believe how this type of exercise and moving my body into various positions has made me more fit and flexible. After only six months of classes the change in my mind and body is incredible. I remember after my first few classes telling the instructor that someday I would be able to do all the positions offered during any of the various classes at Onyx. I have tried them all, Hatha, Ying Yang, Restorative, Gentle, Open Flow, Warm Open Flow and Kundalini. Slowly but surely my flexibility and spirit are increasing more than I ever imagined it could. I have Onyx to thank for introducing me to this wonderful practice called Yoga.  I could be having a bad day and during my practice the instructor shares something spiritual or uplifting and somehow everything is put into perspective. That part of yoga is not something I was expecting when I joined the yoga community. Being more flexible and the improvement in my breathing and spiritual enlightenment are just some of the benefits I have experienced.  Sharing the classes with other “yogis” is one of the best advantages of practicing in a studio setting. 

How lucky are we that during this social distancing and the “Shelter in Place” due to COVID 19, Onyx is offering us live yoga classes. At this stressful time these classes are helping me, and others navigate through this horrible experience. Thank you, Shannon, so much for this opportunity. Just another example of how great Onyx is with sharing.  

Yoga is a gift to yourself and I cherish my gift. 

My cousin Melanie brought me to yoga, but Onyx brought me to Nirvana! 

Positive thoughts always. 

Thank you Shannon and the entire Onyx Staff. 

Namaste, 

Maryann Mancuso   

Laura Casey - March 2020

I started coming to Onyx in October 2018 as I was recovering from an illness.  I was weak and felt vulnerable and isolated.  I had lost a significant amount of weight over the course of the prior year and a half and had accomplished it in a less than ideal way; strict caloric restriction with no consideration paid to food’s nutritional value. I hadn’t had an exercise routine in years and while I felt better for having lost weight, I certainly did not feel good about myself.  I always had thought that if I achieved my goal weight, I’d be happy, instead I was stressed out, anxious, and generally unpleasant to be around.  Just ask my kids.

When I finally took the suggestion to incorporate yoga into my life, I began with restorative and gentle Hatha stress reduction classes with some foundation classes mixed in.  Gradually as I began to attend classes regularly, I started to regain my strength (both physical and mental).  Eventually, over time, I started to regain my confidence and expand my repertoire to attend other types of classes from different instructors such as Open Flow, Warm Flow, Yin and Yin Yang.  I started to get more grounded and better able to stay in the present moment.   I regained the ability to laugh at myself and not take myself so seriously.  Now when I fall out of a balance position, I can laugh to myself (okay yeah, sometimes I actually laugh out loud) and then get back into the position (or at least try).  Even better, when I fall out of a balance position, I don’t beat myself up and tell myself that I’m not doing it right.  I have gotten to the point where I treat it as a gentle reminder that maybe, just maybe, I am not present and my mind has wandered. 

 

In focusing on something as simple and basic as my breath and being in an asana, I am better able to inhabit my body, be in the moment and feel connected.  Not a day goes by without thinking of something I’ve heard or visualized in the Onyx Studio.  When I am having a bad time of things, I can hear Ranjitha’s voice saying– “breath in love” and “breath out into kindness”.  I can remember the instructor who began a foundations class by asking even the most advanced students to keep an open mind.  I literally turned around that night and went grudgingly to an event and heard something that I’d probably heard a hundred times as if I was hearing it for the very first time.  When I feel my body tense up and my back begin to ache, I can scan my body and send yoga breath to that area.  Even my daughter now uses the expression “yoga breath”. 

 

I understand for the first time how disconnected I was from my body and from people around me.  Yoga is a way to connect with and to feel compassion and gratitude for myself, my friends and family, and life in general. Yoga keeps me active and helps me find balance. There are a lot of distractions in day to day life, there are challenges, and struggles, and practicing yoga is helping me navigate them.

Robert Epstein - February 2020

2019 – my first full year of yoga! Also the year I turned 70, switched from full to part-time employment, and embarked on what I call my “period of maturity”, a time to continue learning and developing new interests.

I started yoga in 2018 at the urging of my daughter, Rosette, and her friend, Jessica Ray. Though I enjoyed the first few classes and it seemed like a friendly, positive environment, I wasn’t sure if it was “me”. However, I went with my trust in Rosette and Jessica and kept at it. In one of the first “basics” classes, the teacher walked by me and said, “Are you breathing?” That itself was a revelation, and an introduction to a healing practice that I now work on every day. My neck and shoulder aches and bad posture were apparent right away, but gradually I saw that my whole body was “stuck” and needed to have “space” opened. Sometimes I wondered if I should go ahead with a pose, with risk of injury and an unsure payback, but that is where trusting the guidance of the teachers came in. They always gave me confidence in what I was doing and, through the narratives that they kindly interweave with the poses, I realized that what I want to focus on is inner movement, letting the outer movement follow. While all the teachers have been great, I credit Sandy, Emily, Ranjitha and Jules with being especially helpful for me. It’s fun to see the results unfold, since the “me” in class now feels and, I think, looks different than before.

Since I started at Onyx, I have wondered where yoga is located in the framework of people’s beliefs. Is the philosophy soft-pedaled and mixed into the self-help stew, not seriously considering that oneness entails a view of life that extends beyond the limitations of our dualistic view, superseding it? For me, yoga is a Buddhist practice. I have been engaged in a daily practice of Buddhism for almost 50 years, and I have been amazed that yoga not only fits into my practice, but strengthens the syncing of actions with thoughts, in and out of class.

“Set an intention for the class” – concentrate the mind on the Buddha in your heart.

With sincere appreciation to Onyx Yoga Studio, an oasis in the suburban landscape, practicing true self 75 minutes at a time, I am reaching in 2020 for trust in my own ability to challenge myself every day, to communicate at a different level, to do as much good as I can for the sake of others.

Robyn Seif - January 2020

I was recently asked to write something about my yoga journey for Yogi of the Month. When I got the call from Michelle, I was excited and shocked at the same time! I just recently started practicing yoga. I joined Onyx Yoga Studio in September of this year, using a trial membership. I remember thinking there was no way I can do yoga because of a recent lower back injury and the fact that I couldn’t even touch my toes! I also have a hard time being “still”. I am a very active individual and only sit or relax at the end of the day. I was extremely frustrated with my back, which was causing sciatic pain down both legs and pain in my hips. I had to modify a lot of what I did physically, especially at the gym, in order to accommodate my herniated disc issue. After two rounds of physical therapy I decided I needed to try something else.

I had heard that yoga could help not only with my back but also with getting myself to relax. I had always wanted to try yoga so I thought I would give it a shot. Since I started taking classes, I have become more calm, and I am learning to let go of unnecessary things. I really enjoy practicing yoga and have learned so much from all of the teachers. I love the fact that there is a place that I can go to leave the outside world behind, and just be.

I am finally at a point in my life where I can spend some time focusing on myself and finding out what makes me happy. I’ve been married to my husband for over 20 years and have two boys who are in their twenties. I love being a wife and mother and having a full-time job. However, I think it is important to have hobbies and other interests that you enjoy outside of your everyday life. Some of the things that make me smile, are reading, spending time at the beach and having fun with my girlfriends. I like to go hiking with my husband, attend rock concerts and have great conversations with my kids.

Many of my friends and family have noticed a change in me in the past few months. They say I am more calm and at peace. I can thank my experience at Onyx for helping with that. I came in not knowing what to expect and how it would help me.  Little did I know, it was exactly what I needed and I wish I tried it years ago!

Lucy Parker - December 2019

Yoga has taught me to be gentle. Gentle with the earth, gentle with others, and most importantly, gentle with myself.

Similar to the way that I, as a human, am impacted by the earth, I too impact the earth.  The word “impact” here is significant because I think it accurately depicts the relationship —the way that I interact with the earth changes it in some way, either positive or negative.  Am I kind to the earth? Do I take only what I need?  Yoga has a word for this – asteya; it means non-stealing, non-excess.  For example, if I turn the shower on minutes before I plan to get in, or don’t reuse bottles and silverware, I am stealing from the earth—I am taking something that doesn’t belong to me, that I don’t even need. It is both a practice on the mat and off of the mat that is teaching me to tread lightly, and take only what I really need from the earth, to be gentle with her as she is with me.

Gentleness with others. In my personal vocabulary, I often equate this idea with compassion.  Though, yoga has taught me another word for this and has provided me with a new understanding for the gravity of such practice. Ahimsa, or nonviolence, which means exactly what it sounds like, an absence of violence.  I find it really challenging to go through my life saying “Lucy, don’t be violent.” It’s much easier to tell myself what to do as opposed to what not to do. So, I think of ahimsa this way: what am I doing that is protecting life?  Thinking in terms of gentleness and others, what am I doing to protect the lives of others?  Well, it doesn’t really pain me too much to smile at the cashier in the grocery store. And, maybe I can protect life for others by choosing to bite my tongue rather than saying something that is unproductive, or potentially hurtful.

Finally, I have begun to explore the idea of gentleness when it comes to myself.  For some reason, it always feels like these practices are much harder when it comes to me.  I think it’s because we are constantly told how we need to look, how we should act, what we should think, what we can and can’t eat, and even how we should feel. However, we don’t ever fully live up to these “expectations.”  We don’t always look how society tells us to look or feel how it tells us to feel.  So, we get frustrated with ourselves.  “How come they can do it, but I can’t?” Or, “gee, if they can do it then I’m a failure.” But here’s the truth: no one’s really doing all of that.  Seriously, no one is.  If we can grasp onto even a tiny piece of this we can realize that our frustration is not productive in any way.  Our constant telling ourselves we don’t measure up isn’t based on any truth. So, what truth can we tell ourselves?  “Today was really hard, but I tried my best.”  “I didn’t finish this today, but I worked hard and made a lot of progress.”  As the stories we tell ourselves change in these moments, this act, though seemingly small, has the potential to change our whole selves.  Purnatva is the idea that imperfection is perfection, that we are perfect because we are imperfect.  All of our “mistakes” and so called “failures,” the things that we see as “imperfect” are really the things that make us perfect.  I can’t yet comprehend the vastness of this idea.  But if everyday, I can change the story I tell myself a little bit, be just a tad more gentle with myself, then maybe one day, I’ll catch a glimpse.

Sharon Bloom-Sigmund - November 2019

It has taken me months at yoga to realize that “the only thing that is constant is change”.  I have a demanding career as a Project Manager.  I am a mom \ chauffeur to very active 13-year-old boy girl twins.  I volunteer for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop in addition to her Cheer Team.  I had constantly thrived under pressure and lived a fast-paced lifestyle.  I previously enjoyed travel and trying new things.  I was always able to manage this plus a whole lot more.

Unfortunately, I had to travel to a client in Europe last year.  In route, I developed ETD Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.  Doctors in France and the US tried unsuccessfully to cure it with medicine.  I delayed having surgery due to the low success rate.  Also, I had stapedectomies several years earlier since I suffer from Otosclerosis.  The ETD led me to have further health complications around appetite and digestion.  I became incapable of eating solid foods.  I couldn’t maintain my weight. I had difficulty concentrating on simple tasks like reading a book.  After enduring appointments with countless doctors with very callous bedside mannerisms, one friend recommended a different doctor.  Another friend recommended Onyx.

I tried a few yoga classes at Onyx.  Now I need it in my life.  Yoga helps me in numerous ways.  My yoga practice permits me to slow down and just breathe.  When I am at Onyx, I am focusing on my practice.  I can even block out the ear discomfort most days.  I am not only relaxed when I leave but, I sometimes even have an appetite.  I have learned to meditate, and I try to do so daily.  I will even grab a few minutes at my desk on a particularly awful day.

I really enjoy being at Onyx for countless reasons.  Everyone in the Onyx family has made me feel welcome from the very beginning.  The environment is calming.  The instructors offer their wisdom and guidance.  I have realized many things while at Onyx.  When I come to yoga after a stressful teen moment at home, I have grasped the concept of leaving it all on the mat.

I am always looking forward to comprehending new concepts or mastering new skills at Onyx.  I did not know how I would manage my health situation.  Now, I take one day at a time (or one yoga class a day).  Sometimes, I feel that I need a Gentle class or Yin.  Other days I need Ashtanga or even Warm Open Flow.  I know that some days my body can do really cool things.  Other days I can do less.  That is okay too.  Namaste

Jamie Rusignuolo — October 2019

In 2011, I decided to train for a marathon to escape an abusive relationship and an unhealthy lifestyle. My life changed drastically with that commitment, and I began to compete in endurance events all over the world, some really amazing places like Antarctica, South Africa, and Greece. I then learned to swim from YouTube videos, and began competing in triathlons. I was always pushing myself to do more, train harder, win; it was never enough. The further the distance, the further I wanted to push myself to go.

In 2016, 3 weeks before an Ironman race, I was hit by a car on my bike. I was very lucky to walk away from it, but left with a shattered elbow and a torn shoulder; also in shock over how fragile life is and realizing the world can change in an instant, beyond our control. In rehab many of the exercises were based on yoga asanas, so I decided to try a yoga class and rehab myself without feeling like I was “injured” or “broken”. I took my first yoga class at Onyx in October 2016.

When I started my yoga practice, it was the first time I felt like I was “enough”. I showed up, I didn’t judge my practice or analyze what I could have done better. I was grateful for my health mentally and physically and I stopped thinking of any limitations that I may have. I accepted that what my best is today can vary from tomorrow but I am grateful for having the willingness to always try my best. Any type of arm balance is a psychological challenge for me, but when I can balance on one arm in any asana, I feel this rush of emotion and huge sense of gratitude for being alive and for showing up for that first yoga class.

Onyx has been such a welcoming community for me to grow In my practice; my activities were always solo-events. To come to class and always be greeted by my name, and to have teachers and students who have become friends is really special to me. It’s happiness. My Yoga practice has encouraged me to slow down and savor everything I do. I continue to enjoy racing and training but with a healthier approach and more balance. I have some events in the upcoming few months that I am looking forward to, and keeping an open mind to where life takes me.

Never be afraid to be a beginner, you don’t need permission to change, and you ARE enough. Those are my most valuable yoga lessons on and off the mat.

Steve Katz — September 2019

I was honored to be asked to write my yoga experience 2 years ago and again so here is my updated version: 30 years ago my wife says to me “hey let’s try yoga”. I said no way it’s weird, its wimpy, its people in robes chanting like the crazy Hare Krishna at the TWA terminal at Kennedy Airport. Plus it’s all chicks. Having no backbone I went. There wasn’t a studio on every corner like there is now so we had to drive 45 minutes to get to this place called Studio Yoga (which still exists) on top of a deli in Madison NJ. It was a struggle just to cross my legs they were so tight. Then we start to chant Om. And all I’m thinking is how did I get myself into this, how do I get out of here and WHO IS THIS OM GUY ANYWAY?

It was Iyengar yoga using all kinds of straps and props. Sometimes we were more tied up than Houdini. Back then all the poses were taught in Sanskrit. So not only was I tied up and chanting I had no Idea what the instructor was talking about. So after about an hour it was time for savasana. The gongs come out. The guided meditation starts: “Relax your face, relax your cheeks, relax your back, feel your legs becoming heavy…. very heavy, and very relaxed.” And I’m thinking this is nuts these gongs are giving me a headache…I NEED TO GET HOME I HAVE STUFF TO DO!

Don’t ask me why but I continued. Maybe it was be cause I enjoyed the exercise and I felt great when I got home. After a few months of practicing one day during savasana the dreaded guided meditation starts “Relax your face” and OMG… it did. “Relax your back” and to my amazement it flattens to the floor. It actually startled me. And during meditation I saw lots of fluid colors. At that moment, I realized there really is something to this…..I can control my body with my mind and this is more than just a good workout and chanting like a madman.

So my wife quit yoga. Over the years I continued- but inconsistently various yoga variations at different studios the Y and even at Bikram. I stopped completely for a few years. One day I’m driving past this place in Far Hills that had a sandwich board sign up that says “ One Month Unlimited Yoga $79”. So not one to pass up a good deal and in walk-able distance from my house I signed up.

I started doing Yoga consistently again. I met 2 teachers at this place (Jane and Mukunda) that took me to another level of yoga. This was spirituality component and the meaning and importance of lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. This was a part of yoga I never experienced. I try to live my life through this mantra and try to make a positive impact whenever I can.

So now 30 years later I have strength from my yoga practice at levels I could never have imagined. I humbly thank everyone who helped me achieve this and all the special people I have met at Onyx. And BTW I look forward to savasana and guided meditation.

Michelle Berger — August 2019

Hi! For those who do not know me, I am Michelle. I grew up in a judeo-christian house. I always considered myself spiritual but never affiliated to a specific religion. When it came to fitness, I tried every fad you could think of: you name it, I tried it. I was never over weight but like religion, I never found one method that stuck. Following each of my pregnancies I got back to pre-baby a different way. Each time I started to find myself, guilt from my family set in telling me I was being selfish and gradually my fitness would fade and my happiness along with it.

I first came to Onyx to attend a complimentary anniversary event. I arrived late, borrowed a mat and had little clue what I was doing, but by the time savasana was over I laid in stillness with tears wetting my eyes and not wanting to leave. A year later, a few friends gave me a gift certificate to purchase the $39 one month intro special. July 8, 2019 I took my first official class. I was unhappy in my marriage and on the fast track to 40. Driving home, I knew life would never be the same. I went to class 26 out of the 30 days. This time I had found it: the routine I knew I would stick with and the spirituality that resonated with me to the core.

Each class I learned a little more, grew a little stronger and left a little happier. Alex knew my name when I walked through the door, Nancy Fischer read from the sutras, Joshua Ansley played the guitar, John Cotone gave dharma talks, and Michael Kohan played the harmonium, chanted mantras, and tweaked EVERY position I held. It was INCREDIBLE! As with previous attempts family guilt set in, but this time I knew there was no turning back. Onyx became my sanctuary. The staff and members became my family.

Fast forward a year: Shannon gave this stay-at-home mom a chance to prove her worth at work. I am now a certified kids yoga instructor and on track to complete my 200 RYT training in October. My yoga mat has become a metaphor for life. The time I spend on the mat, is where I learn the lessons that carry me through life off of the mat. I have learned to face my fears and find forgiveness. I found the confidence to let go of the aspects and people that did not have a positive influence on my life and embrace vulnerability to deepen relationships with those who do. I learned that everything we go through both positive and negative has a lesson to offer. When we discover that lesson it turns the experience into a blessing.

When I am not on the mat or at the desk, you can find me engaging in shenanigans with my 4 children, on adventures with my yoga soul family, cooking food for friends or enjoying time in nature.

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