Focus On: Mia Ferreira
The Focus On series is where we celebrate the beauty and diversity of meditation journeys .. gathering to share stories, practices and insights, to listen and learn from each other.
Last Summer I participated in a wonderful local community initiative .. the Sandy Twilight Series. Over the course of nine weeks, every Wednesday late afternoon, I would offer a meditation practice down on my local beach foreshore.
Think: palm trees, sweet sunsets, ocean breezes and the occasional pod of local pelicans flying above us.
It was a great offering from the local Sandy Village Traders, supported by the Bayside Council and sponsored by the Victorian State Government .. an initiative to support the local community and local businesses after/during/because of, the ongoing pandemic challenges.
I first heard about the Twilight Series from a local yoga teacher, and over the course of the Summer, finally met Mia who had started yoga classes on the foreshore! Over the next few months we kept in touch, shared our passion for yoga and meditation, and our journey back to offering these ‘life skills’ to the local community .. after a year of solely online classes. What a delight to be teaching outdoors in view of the setting summer sun.
Then, Mia found the most magical location for her NEW YOGA CLASSES .. nestled into the beach cliffs, with newly sanded wood floors, and a giant door opening to a potential outside yoga deck .. at the Sandringham Life Saving Club. A beautiful space for yoga and taking a breath.
Here is my recent interview with Mia for our Focus On Series.
Oh My Yoga
Email: email@example.com Website:www.ohmyyoga.com.au
Hi, I’m Mia.. and while I’m a certified Iyengar yoga teacher and dedicated practitioner, I wasn’t always or naturally this flexible. In fact, I couldn’t even touch my toes when I first started!
I’ve now been practicing Iyengar yoga for over 12 years and became a certified Iyengar yoga teacher in 2019. I have more than 6-years of experience, teaching corporate and group yoga classes around Melbourne.
At the moment I’m teaching yoga classes at the Sandringham Life Saving Club – there’s a range of different types of classes (energising, slow and steady or restorative) and they’re all suitable for all levels of experience. Visit – https://www.ohmyyoga.com.au/sandylsc for more info.
1. Mia, could you share a little about your meditation ‘journey’
I first came to yoga and meditation to help manage my stress and anxiety. I was working in a demanding PR role at the time, but I think I’ve always experienced anxiety to some degree.
At first, the physical practice of yoga just helped me reconnect my mind with my body, but with continued practice, it also helped to soothe my nervous system, calm and focus my brain and find an overall sense of inner peace.
Like many people, I suffer from bouts of self-doubt and have beliefs, stories, fears and habits that I’m looking to improve or change. Practicing yoga allows me to come face-to-face with all parts of myself and as I work with them on the mat, I have the opportunity to take the lessons and insights off the mat, and into my life.
2. How did you find meditation, the when/where/how?
I jumped in the deep end with my first meditation experience, signing up for a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat back in 2008. I was working a stressful job in PR and was desperate to find some peace and alleviate my anxiety. To say it was challenging would be an understatement, but luckily, it was just what I wanted and needed at the time.
After some days (about 7 actually!), I found the simple rhythm and routine of each day comforting rather than restrictive and sitting quietly with myself became less of a struggle and more peaceful. I went from feeling irritated and frustrated to feeling calm and settled. I felt grounded and more connected to myself and the world around me than I had ever felt before.
I found it so beneficial that I went back three years in a row, did numerous shorter weekend retreats and even ‘served’ as a volunteer a few times.
In the end, I found it too difficult to maintain the strict Vipassana practice on my own at home, and I began looking for something I could integrate into everyday life. That’s when I discovered a little Iyengar yoga studio, hidden in plain sight, just a few doors down from my home.
I didn’t love yoga at first as I couldn’t do a lot of the poses, but I stuck with it and saw slow and steady progress. After about 2.5 – 3 years, I suddenly found myself doing teacher training. I really just wanted to deepen my practice, so the first day I was asked to stand in front of the group and teach, I was shocked – for some reason I had not connected the idea of teacher training with actually teaching!
It was a long hard road and I doubted myself many times – Iyengar yoga teacher training is a rigorous and demanding program that takes many years and requires you to go through a daunting assessment process.
I actually failed my first attempt, still being quite a young practitioner. It was difficult to deal with – as all failures are, but I took the feedback, applied it to my practice and my life and then I tried again a few years later. I was finally successful after about 8 years in training, and I don’t regret a single moment!
3. Do you have a particular technique(s) that resonates with you?
I really like Vipassana meditation, which is a bit like a strict and intense body-scan technique.
I feel like I have lost a lot of the sensitivity and awareness that came with my regular Vipassana practice – which only shows me how distracted and disconnected we can get with the busyness of life! Because you do need to be quite steady and focused, I find it hard to practice Vipassana in everyday life. It would require a pretty massive lifestyle change – and I’m not sure I’m ready for that!
So, Pranayama has become an important and essential part of my yoga practice in recent years, in particular over the past year. ‘Prana’ translates as breath, respiration or energy. ‘Ayama’ means to stretch, extend, expand, regulate, restrict or control. Therefore, Pranayama is the practice of working with the breath. While yoga poses or asana work with the physical body to removed blockages the prevent the smooth flow of energy through the body, Pranayama works with the energy itself – the breath. There are many Pranayama techniques, ranging from simple to more advanced and complex.
While I practice basic Pranayama regularly, I still find it difficult to be disciplined enough to practice all the different and more advanced techniques on my own. Luckily, one of my teachers regularly runs week-long Pranayama courses with a 45-minute class each day. Classes are online early in the morning, and I find this to be the most wonderful way to set up my day.
4. Do you have a regular practice and what does that look like: daily, weekly, other?
Nowadays, I like to keep it simple with a short morning sitting – no instructions or rules, just sitting quietly with myself before I go out into the world. This can be anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes depending on how I feel or how much time I have. The best sittings are when the chime goes off and I don’t want to get up. I turn it off and go freestyle, until I feel ready to get up. I usually sit on a couple of thick tri-fold yoga blankets or a bolster with a blanket on top to keep my spine nice and tall. I wear warm, comfortable clothes and wrap myself in a blanket (winter) or sarong (summer) to keep warm.
If I am feeling particularly wound up or stressed in the evening, I will also lay down on my yoga mat with support under my head (a folded blanket) and place an eye-pillow over my eyes to calm and soften my thoughts. There’s something about the weight and darkness over the eyes and the ground beneath me, that helps to bring me back to neutral.
5. What is it that inspires you to keep meditation .. returning to your practice? because this is a key challenge for almost everyone
There’s been lots of starting and stopping with meditation over the years, and initially I would beat myself up for it. But I’ve come to realise that habits take time to create, and I can’t go from 0 to 100 overnight. Also, life is not a linear journey, we move forwards, sideways, backwards and loop-de-loop around. Things happen to either support and disrupt our practice and we just have to make the best choices based on our situation at the time.
I just do what I can, whenever I can. When it’s good I keep going. When it’s not good, I try to laugh it off and not to give up too soon (although I still get frustrated and annoyed sometimes) – but I also know that there’s always tomorrow and meditation is not about achieving perfection, but to meet yourself wherever you’re at on that particular day.
6. Could you share what personal benefits you have observed from your practice?
Both my yoga and meditation practice give me a feeling of space and clarity in my life, which I think it super important in today’s fast-pace and cluttered world. Yoga and meditation have also helped me develop greater self-awareness and acceptance as well as acceptance and compassion for others. They also help manage my stress and anxiety.
Yoga and meditation practice give me a feeling of space and clarity in my life …
7. Do you have a dedicated space for your practice or elements that support you?
When I moved into my small one-bedroom unit last December, I had the choice of setting up a yoga and meditation space or buying a couch and TV. Guess which one I picked?
8. Have you attended a meditation retreat or undertaken any additional learning opportunities? If so, could you share some of your experience and insights?
See my answer to Q2. – and in addition to my Vipassana retreats, Iyengar yoga training and daily practices – I have also completed an Introductory course in Ayurvedic Medicine with the intention of completing the Diploma one day.
9. Any favorite inspirational books or resources that others might enjoy?
Light on Life by BKS Iyengar is full of wisdom and inspiration, not just about the physical practice of yoga but about following a yogic path in life. I often open it up and randomly read a paragraph or two – there’s so much content you’ll always find something interesting to inspire and contemplate.
The other book I highly recommend is The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a self-guided 12-week creativity course that’s full of wonderful spiritual development tools and exercises. Whether you’re a writer, artist, photographer AND even if you’re not creative at all – this book/ course aims to help unlock your imagination and find a sense of playfulness. One of the exercises is called ‘the morning pages’ – a daily practice where you write 3 full pages in stream of consciousness, as soon as you get up. It’s another form of meditation and a great way to get things off your chest first thing in the morning.
10. Any wise words to share with those who are new to meditation or have ‘fallen off the wagon’?
See my answer to Q5. and don’t worry. Just keep trying and you’ll eventually find ‘your thing’ – something that supports and works for you.
7 Wonderfully random things about you?
* My favourite food is Nasi Goreng (perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner)
* I’m obsessed with loose leaf tea – especially Chai
* I’m learning to swim at age 42!
* I speak Portuguese (from Madeira – not Brazilian Portuguese)
* I dream of writing and publishing a novel (or a few) one day and am currently studying a Professional Writing and Editing course at RMIT
* I haven’t owned a car in almost 5 years and don’t miss it because I love walking (also a mindful/ meditation practice) and reading books on public transport.
* I’m actually an introvert who learned to be an extrovert
Mia has a beautiful warm and engaging energy, always with a big friendly smile.
Are you local to Bayside, Melbourne?
Looking for a sublime space by the water for yoga?
Spring classes begin Mon. 2 August, 2021
SPRING TIMETABLE WITH MIA : SANDRINGHAM
Thank you Mia for sharing your meditation journey with the Quiet Mind Meditation community. xSarah