Yoga’s Creative Light: Maryam Ovissi
Maryam Ovissi is the owner of BelovedYoga studios in northern Virginia and founder and developer of the BelovedYoga Teacher Training Programs. I met Maryam about a year ago through a dear friend, and when I learned she would be in Nice next weekend to teach her Flow-Based Yoga method, I jumped at the chance to interview her for The Wheel of Creativity. These are the highlights of that interview.
KRP: How do you define yoga, Maryam?
MO: Yoga is a journey of coming home. Yesterday I was working with a client who’s been diagnosed with cancer and I asked him, “What do you think the meaning of life is? What is your purpose here?” I have a lot of clients who have cancer, and they go through an amazing process of grief: a journey of being profoundly sad, then angry, then guilty and self-blaming. All these things take you further and further away from yourself.
It’s not an easy path, but yoga is about connecting back to yourself. The journey of coming home is to get to know your soul; and then the unveiling, the blossoming of the full potential that you are, can begin to occur.
KRP: Tell me about flow-based yoga.
MO: The essence of flow-based yoga is vinyasa – a term that the yogi Krisnhamacharya brought into modern yoga. In fact, the term vinyasa means an arrangement that creates a flow and a harmony. In fact, it is used in all art forms: in music as well as in visual arts. In yoga the arrangement is a connection with a form (posture) guided by the breath. Part of this word vinyasa is this beautiful word nya, which means to place in a specific way.
There is an intelligence to how we flow, how we are guided by our breath; it is a process of becoming conscious. Flow-based yoga is designed to flow through the practice with intention, with consciousness and guided by the breath; and there are different ways to play with that energy.
KRP: Was there a defining moment, experience or process that led you to make yoga your path?
MO: Usually the things that you love find you. You don’t have to push the door open, you can appear at the door and walk through. My first teacher in California laid the spark. I always knew the experience was sacred and special – I’ve always been a mystic at heart. But I had no idea what I was getting into. Then when I moved to Virginia I met another teacher who led me to become a teacher.
But in all honesty, the tool that has served me most is becoming more and more silent: taking time to hear my soul’s song. The universe communicates in many ways. And there are no mistakes. Without being able to get quiet, I wouldn’t have been able to see and hear what’s really going on.
KRP: You’ve said your mission is to give people access to tools that allow self-healing, self-empowerment and self-realization. What kinds of tools?
MO: That’s a big question. Yoga is one of the most incredible, intelligent systems I have seen. But we’re all individuals – one tool will not serve everyone. What’s going to have someone connect to themselves is very individual.
In the States, there is a new field emerging called yoga therapy. All yoga is therapeutic, but yoga therapy is its own category within yoga. The practice is based on Krisnhamacharya’s Four Pillars of Wellness, as taught by AG Mohan. They are:
- How you’re moving your body
- Your breath and your mind
- What you eat – your nutrition
- Your lifestyle – the actual rhythm of your life, your patterns and choices
I attended a medical yoga conference that brings together leaders in integrative medicine who use yoga. A physician from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston said that the real secret is getting it individualized. He said that for each person, there is one thing can turn off their genetic cancer marker. They might take a walk and all the sudden feel more connected to themselves. That one thing can shift things enough to turn off the marker that’s creating the cancer in their body.
But until we can see each other, we can’t get to that. Systems are important – like the Wheel of Creativity is a system – but they have to be adaptable – to really serve someone.
KRP: Yes, exactly. Being deeply witnessed – seen and heard – allows a person to open and change to occur. What do you most resonate with in The Wheel of Creativity?
MO: Yoga is my world, so I see many things through the lens of yoga, and the yoga systems I’ve been exposed to. I see an intelligence in your system: of the energetic (chakra) system, and of the Panchamaya model.
Panchamaya recognizes that our soul is longing for freedom; but as human beings we have layers around us through which we experience life, and these layers are where we get stuck. They are:
- Physical (Annamaya) – what makes up the body
- Energetic (Pranamaya) – the vital principle of the breath
- Mental (Manomaya) – sensing and processing information
- Radiance – (Vijnanamaya) – higher intelligence, wisdom, knowing
- Bliss – (Anandamaya) – integration of truth and beauty
The circle can move inwards or outwards. You can journey from the body toward the soul or your soul can be so uncontainable that you just free yourself layer by layer.
The Wheel of Creativity shows how there are many layers within each of these layers. When you recognize that you begin to realize and appreciate how wonderfully intricate we human beings are.
KRP: I love what you’ve written that we are “all trying to get back home” and that “Yoga is a school of remembering our true self.” What does this take?
MO: There are many practices that can help you be more conscious. I don’t think yoga is the only one. Remembering your true self can be very simple: to just sit or stand or walk. Every day get your feet on Mother Earth, look at her, and breathe consciously.
You know, in our bodies the very first thing that gets created in our mother’s womb is our spinal cord. It’s what is called, “The primitive streak.” This streak comes about from a dance we do in our mother’s womb in the process of creation. The spine is formed to protect the spinal cord, which is the carrier of life in our body. So we’ve got to move.
Your spinal cord is mostly light; it’s photons or light particles. We are made of light. Everything in the body has been formed to make that light sacred and to protect it. The spine is the first of those things. Nourish it. Take care of it. Move it every day with your breath and with consciousness.
KRP: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
MO: I am very, very devoted to the path of yoga. I am a yogi and that is my path of service. I don’t believe yoga is everybody’s path. But I want every being on this planet to find out what lights them up, what brings them home, what allows them the experience of joy and love and wonder – that’s my deepest desire. Yoga’s not for everyone, but coming home, seeing yourself, feeling whole, that is for everyone.
And I couldn’t agree more.
Maryam Ovissi will be offering a weekend of flow yoga workshops at ArtYoga Studio in Nice, France March 7-9. She will offer her unique yoga teacher training course there this summer. For more information, click here. Contact Maryam: firstname.lastname@example.org.