IYCWM September 2020 Student Spotlight

By Published On: September 2nd, 2020

The Summer flew by so fast and now we find ourselves at the start of Fall. Fall is traditionally that back to school time, so I thought it was appropriate to bring to the spotlight one of our special teachers. We are so fortunate to have a diverse community with students from many different walks of life. Each student brings their uniqueness to the mix. As a result we have a beautiful blend, and a community that truly supports one another.

I am so delighted to shine the spotlight on Mary Orisich. At the studio, Mary could be found tucked away in the corner of the “kitchen.” Even though Mary’s quiet demeanor does not seek the spotlight, her inquisitive nature and sweet smile always light up the room. Her thoughtful approach and willingness to be open and question inspire to her fellow students to reach higher. Enjoy getting to know Mary, a very dedicated practitioner of yoga and   joyful, adventurer of life. Say hello to Mary online Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings.


Tell us a bit about yourself – I am originally from the Midwest (Indiana), and moved to the area for graduate school. I have lived in various locations throughout the Valley for nearly 30 years. And, for the last 14 years, I’ve been a professor of economics at Holyoke Community College.


What is a little known or surprising fact about you or your work? Maybe not so “little known” but my work of late is focused on carceral education. I’ve been teaching at the Women’s Regional Correctional Facility in Chicopee (shout out to great students!!) and pre-coronavirus, my fellow HCC colleague Nicole Hendricks and I were set to open a program (called Western Mass CORE) at HCC to develop and maintain academic pathways for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students.


What led you to Iyengar yoga?
I started yoga for rehabilitation after tearing my ACL during judo class. At the time, I did not know it was an Iyengar class! After my teacher moved from the Valley, I attended a few different studios and eventually found my way back to an Iyengar practice with Susan Elena (smiley face here). The Iyengar focus on the structural and spiritual integrity of the body (and how they are related) resonates with me.


How long have you been practicing yoga?
Not long enough!! In some way, shape or form, maybe 20 years.


What keeps you on the mat?
I appreciate the challenge of yoga: the physical and intellectual stimulation. And, I feel much much better all-around when I am practicing yoga.


What keeps you off the mat?
Work, work, work…….


What poses do you love?
Not that I can execute these poses, but I do enjoy them: Parivrtta Trikonasana, Ardha Chandrasana, Salamba Sarvangasana


What poses do you find challenging?
Padmasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, did I mention Padmasana?


What do you like to do when you are not doing yoga?
I have a very full and active life! Studying judo, reading, gardening, keeping bees, playing and hanging with my dogs, traveling, studying Spanish and enjoying life with my husband, friends and family.


How has practicing yoga impacted your life?
Practicing yoga provides a map for how to live off the mat and a pathway to what comes next. Yoga has made me stronger, more resilient and more accepting of where I am at this moment.


How does our yoga community contribute to your practice?
A community provides an opportunity to be a part of something larger than yourself; it can provide the support when you need it, whether it’s a hug, a smile, or an assist. I feel privileged to be a part of a community which actively enriches my yoga practice through our shared experiences.


How has the switch to online classes during the pandemic affected your sense of community? How does it help stay connected? How does it fall short?
The switch to online classes during the pandemic has changed my sense of community. Prior to the pandemic I relied on the space/place and Susan Elena, our teacher, to facilitate a connection. The pandemic has prompted me to take more responsibility to be active in the communities I value and to “show up” and be supportive when and where I can; it’s made my practice more intentional. Additionally, the pandemic has enlarged my idea of a yoga community; we often have people from all over the country and the globe teaching and practicing with us. As a student, I am more aware of the resources available for me to further my practice. The downside of online classes has been the absence of assists! I miss the feedback – often subtle – that I cannot receive because of the online interface.


Any advice for beginners?
Recently, when Susan Elena returned from India, she commented that Prashant Iyengar said, “Be humble” – this phrase has stayed with me and I’d offer that as advice.

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