The Beach-bound Yogi
If Playa del Carmen has more of a reputation for hedonism than for health, Arielle Newman is trying to change that. In 2001, Newman moved to the region after years of working as a professional dancer and yoga instructor (she started teaching in 1982). One of the first yoga instructors in Playa del Carmen, Newman opened her own outfit, Yoga by the Sea, which links the practice to the area’s natural beauty. What could be more calming than maneuvering into a downward-dog while listening to the waves lap the shore? Below, Newman describes her path to opening the studio, what makes a great yoga instructor, and why you should take one (or more!) of her classes.
Describe how you initially became interested in yoga, and then decided to open your own studio.
Before I became a yoga teacher, I was a professional dancer. Early in my career, when I lived in Sydney, Australia, performing with the modern dance company Kinetic Energy, I wandered into a yoga class and loved how it made me feel.
Time becomes very fluid when you’re performing on stage. Minutes can speed by in a flash, or a dance may seem to last an hour, when actually it’s only a few minutes long.
When I was dancing, I was thinking about the steps, the music, the other performers, the audience, the stage, the lights—there are so many things going on at once when you’re up there!
With yoga, your concentration is much more internal. You’re focused on your body in the pose, your breath, and the energy of the asana or posture.
For instance, back-bending poses open you up, literally and energetically. They’re perfect to do on a cloudy day when you want to rev up your energy. Conversely, if you’re agitated, there’s nothing better than a seated forward-bending pose. It will calm your nervous system and, when you combine it with mindful breathing and meditation, allow you to return to your life more balanced and prepared to gracefully take on whatever comes your way.
Dance and yoga have been part of my life journey for a long while now. Yoga helped to extend my dance career as it proved a wonderful aide for injury prevention. And now that I’m more yoga-based, I bring elements of dance into my classes to liven them up. I use movement to get people out of their heads and into their bodies with fun warm ups we do to music.
After Australia, when I moved back to the U.S., I opened one of Kansas City, Missouri’s first yoga centers. Then, when my husband and I moved to Playa del Carmen in 2001, it seemed natural to open a yoga school here: Yoga by the Sea. In fact, I was one of the very first yoga teachers in Playa.
I’ve been fortunate to have worked with and trained a number of prominent teachers in Playa, as well as others successfully teaching in the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia, and other parts of Mexico.
What makes Playa del Carmen an ideal spot to practice yoga and run a yoga-related business?
Yoga and the Caribbean are a natural fit. You know how relaxed you feel after a day at the beach? You can get a similar feeling—expansive, peaceful, and connected to the natural elements by doing yoga. Practiced close to the sea, yoga can become an even more powerful antidote to modern day stress.
Can you tell us any stories about how yoga has affected your students?
Yoga can transform a person’s body, mind, and attitude towards life. I’ve witnessed how people looking for something to elevate their existence will turn to yoga, and if they keep with it on a consistent basis—even if it’s only once or twice a week—reap large benefits.
I’ve seen substance abusers change their daily habits so that yoga becomes the central core of their life. Which is another way of saying that health and well-being become the focus of their life instead of drugs and alcohol.
For those who take my month-long Yoga by the Sea Teacher Training Course*, there are a lot of breakthroughs. It’s hard to take yoga on a daily basis for four weeks without something shifting to make way for something better!
It’s never too late to start yoga. There’s a style of yoga that suits everyone. Our Yoga For EveryBody® classes are filled with students new to yoga, those returning to yoga after an absence, and people recommitting to a healthier life style.
I just rolled out my new Slow Motion Yoga workshops when I was back in Kansas City this June teaching. There’s something very appealing and rejuvenating when you slow down enough to become present with what is happening in the moment. It takes competition out of the picture and places your attention on what’s happening inside, which paradoxically, puts you in contact with all there is.
What makes a great yoga instructor?
What makes a great yoga teacher great is like what makes a great meal: you want to begin with quality ingredients. A sense of humor certainly helps. As does coming in prepared. Even after 30 years of teaching, I still plan out what I want to teach that day. I also think that having a good eye for alignment, and being able to guide individuals into the poses correctly is invaluable.
In the end, it’s about sensitivity to what your students need on any particular day and having enough tools in your toolbox to draw from to make the class satisfying for them and for yourself as the teacher.
*Arielle’s next Yoga by the Sea Teacher Training Course is November 6th–December 2nd, 2017 in Playa del Carmen. For more information: http://www.morethanyoga.com/yoga-teachers-training-fall-2017.html