OM Movement Studio
Sun Warrior Yoga, Founder
I have been teaching yoga and doing energy work and spiritual counseling for over 10 years. I am currently teaching the Yoga Teacher Trainings as OM Movement Studio and I have participated and taught 13 other teacher trainings at various other studios. I earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Miami. I trained extensively under Tate Mahinto Wi, a Sioux medicine women, I have continued my education in the areas of Body Talk, Thai Massage, many different forms of yoga and various other healing modalities such as Akashic Reading and Chakra balancing.
Introduction: Tell us about yourself, your story, where you are from, practice, etc.
I am originally from Connecticut. I come from Mormon Italian parents. I have always been a very spiritual person but I discovered at an early age that organized religion was not my path but I felt a strong spiritual connection to nature. I’ve always been an avid hiker and lover of the outdoors and that became my foundation for creating my own spiritual path. In my early 20’s I was led to study with a Sioux Medicine Women. Her teachings and ability to see my inner strength greatly influenced my life’s path and although she passed from her physical body in 2012 I still feel her teaching me and guiding me. I was drawn to yoga for the mental and physical discipline and it’s ability to heal on a cellular level. My own practice is a mix of many spiritual paths and I encourage my students to listen to their inner self as their guide to uncovering their dharma and what brings them peace and joy. Although my main form of physical exercise is yoga I regularly do weight bearing exercises, I love to swim, hike paddle board and jog and I embrace any opportunity to dance and move my body in unique and challenging ways.
How long have you been practicing yoga? I’ve been meditating and studying yogic philosophy for 25 years and engaged in a regular physical yoga practice for 15 years. I am also the mother of a powerful and unique 18 year old daughter. And my experience as a single mother to my daughter and soul mate has been a strong motivating factor in making me want to be a better human being.
How did you get started?
I have always been a spiritual seeker interested in all philosophical points of view and spiritual systems but it wasn’t until I took my first in studio yoga class with my first teacher, Rina Jakubowicz, that I felt the pull to dedicate my life to the study and practice of the yogic path. In that first class I took with her, I experienced an emotional release that was unlike any healing I had ever experienced. It felt like I was letting go of trauma from a cellular level. Yoga also taught me mental and physical discipline. Because yoga is not a religion or dogmatic in any way, It has become my foundation, my baseline from which I am able to explore all of the other spiritual modalities that sing to my heart.
What type of yoga do you teach? (Please Explain)
I primarily teach Vinyasa yoga.
What do you prefer/enjoy about this particular form of yoga?
I believe the focus on learning how to feel and harness our energy body is key to mental and physical transformation. One way to do this is through observing and controlling the breath. Vinyasa yoga emphasizes the connection between breath and fluid movement. I also love how versatile this form of yoga is, and I frequently find myself incorporating other forms of movement in to my Vinyasa sequencing. I believe full range of motion is key to a healthy body and open mind. The way you move directly influences the way you think. I also adore the fluid dance-like feel of Vinyasa.
Do you feel anyone can enjoy and gain from yoga?
Absolutely! My private clients come from a vast range of body types, ages and physical abilities. I truly believe yoga is for everyone. A knowledgeable and compassionate yoga teacher will be able to create a curriculum to suite anyone. I’ve worked with cancer patients, a patient with ALS, cross-fit athletes and triathletes, the elderly, children, teens, pre and post natal mothers, patients with sever anxiety and depression all kinds of injuries, basically I’ve worked with an extensive array of mental and physical conditions and yoga has helped every single one.
What has yoga done for you as person?
As much as I don’t identify with the image and belief system of a stereotypical yogi, although there is no such thing, yoga is my life. Yoga is the science of self realization and with every living breath I am striving to surrender to my authentic self and connect to the source of all things. And I try to create a safe nonjudgmental space for my students and clients to do the same.
Do you feel yoga is more mental or physical?
I think yoga is spiritual first. The need for more of a mental or physical practice varies on an individual basis and it fluctuates based on the needs of our current lives. But ultimately the physical and mental practices of yoga are there to create the discipline to be able to observe oneself honestly and realize the true self.
Do you believe it is an alternative form of healing and medicine?
Definitely. Besides yoga’s vast therapeutic uses, people who meditate regularly, breath consciously and move with a full range of motion will be less susceptible to the illnesses associated with stress, one of the most common causes of illness today. An honest yogic mindset, that of true self reflection, will lend itself to healthier lifestyle choices. Lastly, we know we are energy beings experiencing a physical reality. Our thoughts directly affect our physical experience. The power of mindfulness, compassionate living and positive thinking have been proven to have a profound impact on healing and maintaining mental and physical health.
Do you associate yoga with Hinduism? If yes, in what ways?
I know yoga and Hinduism come from India and there is cross over in the philosophy but Hinduism is a religion and yoga is a science. Hinduism tells you how to experience god, yoga gives you the tools so that you can have your own personal experience with creation and spirituality.
Is yoga a way of life or a way to exercise or meditate?
Yoga is whatever the practitioner wants to make of it, it’s that open and versatile.
What is your dharma, your life mission?
I don’t pretend to be any kind of enlightened or even a more wise individual, I just seem to have the ability to be a vessel for transmitting information. I’ve tried to step away from being a teacher many times. I’m an introvert, an artist but I seem to keep being pushed into the position of teacher and a leader of sorts but I think it’s just because I know how to hold space. I know how to create a nonjudgmental and safe environment for people to give themselves permission to accept all that they are. I try to teach from an honest space. I am just as flawed a human as anyone else, maybe even more so. I’ve experienced childhood trauma, severe depression, hardship, addiction, chronic loneliness, I’ve felt like a wanderer most of my life, never quite feeling like I’ll ever really feel at home anywhere but I think it’s my life experience and my ability to find a bridge between another’s suffering and the guidance of their soul that makes me effective at what I do. And the truth is, I’m not even sure if there is a clear label for what I do. But I know that I am called to help people realize that we are all doing our best and we are not alone in our desire to feel whole and loved and that peace and prosperity are possible in this lifetime.
How important is living a healthy lifestyle (clean eating/eating healthy for example) important to the yogi lifestyle?
I think a healthy lifestyle is central to the yogi lifestyle but what that looks like is an individual choice. What is healthy for one person may not be right for another. And ultimately is your relationship with your choices that makes them healthy or not. If you are in a fear based or judgmental mind set, no matter what kind of food or energy you put into your body, you will not feel the same sense of health and vitality that someone who appreciates all that they have and experiences life with joyous gratitude with every lifestyle choice they make.
Any natural ingredients and/or vitamins (example: chlorophyll, Vitamin b12) that you recommend? And why?
I enjoy taking whole food vitamins, blue green algae, chlorophyll, on a regular basis because it helps to supplement what our food is lacking. And when I feel run down, I take Vit. C, Elderberry and zinc to boost my immune system.
How important is hydrating/drinking water to the yoga lifestyle/your practice?
Water is life. Of course hydration is necessary for physical healthy but it is also a way of keeping your mind and body joyous and juicy. The nature of existence is constant change and expansion, staying hydrated is a crucial way to maintain this flow within our bodies and within our mind and emotions.
When and where do you currently teach?
I teach Monday, Wednesday, at 6:30 pm and Sat. and Sun. at 10:30 am at OM Movement Studio in Coconut Grove.
Where can our readers find you? (Instagram, Facebook, etc).
You can find me @JoanVarini on both IG and FB and my web site is sunwarrioryoga.com