Meet the Members

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Leina Masek

Yogi of the Month

1. What drew you to the mat?

I had been curious about yoga for a while and had dabbled in it occasionally but thought I was too rigid in body and mind to really practice it.  A couple years ago I needed some mental clarity and decided to really give yoga a go and this time it stuck!  A friend of mine did Ashtanga so I was curious about it but was overwhelmed by all the information about it online.  Over the summer I took MYC’s Intro to Ashtanga course and have been practicing it ever since! 


2. How does it feel to be a part of the Mala Yoga community?

Ashtanga can come across as incredibly intimidating and inaccessible - everyone is so serious and focused on their practice that it doesn’t seem like there would be a welcoming or fun community.  Everyone at MYC has been so kind and so helpful, the community here completely blew away all my fears and negative assumptions.  I’ve never felt like an outsider by other students or Kat because I’m practicing online.  There are always plenty of laughs early in the morning and Sunday Led classes are so much fun.  Even though everyone is doing their own practice at their own pace I never feel like I’m on my own.


3. Outside of the yoga studio, what do you like to do?

Outside of yoga I enjoy crocheting amigurumi (small, stuffed toys) and knitting.  I’ve mostly been making things for my friend’s children but I recently started working on the Bernie's Mittens crochet doll and I would love to knit a sweater for myself this year. I also enjoy reading and VR, much to my surprise and my boyfriend's endless amusement. 


4. What are your favorite yoga poses, your least favorite?

Marichyasana D is neither the easiest pose for me nor is it the one that feels the best but it’s a pose that puts the whole practice into perspective for me.  There are days when it comes slightly easier and days when it’s a real struggle but it’s always a reminder that progress isn’t linear and it’s not about mastering poses, if that’s even possible.  If I start panicking or getting too into my head then there’s no way I can get into it so it forces me to calm my mind through the physical struggle. 

My least favorite pose is Navasana.  I know it’s good for me but I go through the five stages of grief every time I do it.


5. What do you do to help stay motivated to come back to the mat?

There are some mornings when I just don’t feel motivated to move at all.  I’m tired, my body hurts, my brain feels foggy, but I try to do at least Sun Salutations A & B and see how I feel. More often than not by the time I’m done with them I feel better and keep going.  Even on days when my physical practice is disappointing I still feel so much better mentally.  It also helps that Ashtanga is a daily practice so it just becomes a part of daily routine.  When I was practicing yoga weekly I had a much harder time motivating myself to go, especially at the end of the day. 

Lauren van Ommeren

Teacher of the Month

1. How long have you been practicing? What brought you to the mat? 


My first yoga class was a Bikram 90 minute Hot Yoga class in the summer of 2010. After graduating from college, I was a disillusioned young adult who quickly discovered that the real world is not quite what college prepares us for. 

Outwardly, my life looked impressive—I was physically fit, had graduated towards the top of my class, was involved in a long list of extra curricular activities, and lived in a fancy suburb of Chicago. But inwardly, I had no idea who I was. I’d spent all of my undergraduate degree trying to be the perfect student, denying myself necessary rest and quiet in an effort to impress my family and the students around me. When I graduated in the recession and didn’t land the corporate job I had “dreamed” about, I had no idea what to do with myself because I had no idea who I was. 

Almost on accident, I decided to check out this hot yoga studio that was above the Walgreens I shopped at. People were always milling in and out of the studio, looking very attractive going in, and completely disheveled coming out. I wanted to understand what they were getting into, and what the weird smell was about. 

My first class was a complete mess. Luckily my first instructor was a wonderful and slightly overweight man named Chris. He told me that my only goal was to stay on the mat for the duration of class, and to breathe through my nose so as not to break the meditation. Seamed easy enough.

Even with those simple instructions, I thought I was going to die, or at least pass out. I was shaking from the physical effort, uncomfortable at having to look at my body in a room with mirrors on all four walls, and my mind railed against everything the instructor asked me to do. By the time we finished and ended in savasana, my body and mind were so exhausted that nothing moved at all. It was perhaps the first time since I started going through puberty that I’d felt my mind fully calm down. In that exact instant, I realized that this was medicine, and something I can carry with me for my entire life. I’ve never looked back. 


2. What is yoga/what does yoga mean to you?


To me, yoga is medicine. It’s the integration of our body, mind, emotions, wisdom, and spirit. Yoga is an experiential scientific journey into ourselves, to experience not only our truest forms of consciousness, but our divine connection to everything in the universe. Yoga helps us trust and love ourselves, therefore creating a more honest and compassionate environment in the world around us. 


3. What impact has yoga has on your life? How have you been changed, evolved, &/or transformed?


The better question might be, what hasn’t yoga affected? I eat and sleep better, and speak to myself more gently. I’ve learned to prioritize relationships and experiences over material comforts. Yoga has taught me to remain true to myself and my values in the face of great ethical dilemmas. I’m a better person because of my experience with yoga.

4. What is your favorite style of yoga to teach? What is your favorite style of yoga to practice?


My favorite yoga to teach is Beginner’s Yoga. I absolutely love explaining the concepts and philosophy of yoga to people who haven’t encountered it before and watch them become more and more intrigued. It feels like reliving my own personal experience over and over again and I love it. 

My favorite style to practice is traditional Ashtanga as well as 90-minute Hot Yoga 26-and-2. These traditions were my first love, and the militancy of consistent repetition is good for my day-dreamy personality as it brings me back down to earth and helps keep me grounded. I also LOVE a good Inversion class. 



5. What has been your biggest challenge on the mat? What has been your biggest milestone?


My biggest challenge has always been to not judge myself—how my mind wanders during class; how my movement, poses, and body look different than other yogis; how some days I feel so spiritual and connected to source and others I don’t feel anything. It’s easy for me to make large allowances for everyone else, yet it’s been hard for me to learn to go easy on myself. It’s been a huge lesson for me to accept where I am today, everyday, and be okay with that.

My biggest milestone was noticing that other people were interested in hearing about why I loved yoga so much, and discovering that I was able to explain basic concepts and poses in ways that people could easily understand. The more I allowed others to share in my passion for yoga through impromptu classes or philosophical discussion, the more my confidence grew in deciding to pursue teaching professionally.