This month’s Yogi of the Month is Carol Domanko. A beautiful bright energy with an infectious smile and sweet heart. The frist thing you might notice is her genuine care and interest in how you are. Her presence to hear and see you and her ability to connect with you like you are the only one in the room even if she is speaking to the room full of people. What a great lady, meet Carol.
1.) What does yoga mean to you?
I’ve read that the meaning of yoga is “to yoke”. That definition never resonated with me; the word “yoke” has connotations of binding, or servitude. To me, yoga means the opposite. It means freedom – a way to rise above the everyday life stuff that gets me down and clouds my vision. It’s freedom from pain, both physical and mental. Yoga also means connection: to myself, my body, my students, and my community.
I took my first yoga class when I was a university student at UBC in Vancouver, majoring in film production. It was a class offered through the Bird Coop, a student gym on campus. The room wasn’t fancy, and honestly what I remember most about the class was the music – I still have the CD that the teacher burned me after I told her how much I loved her yoga tunes! After that, I didn’t start taking yoga “seriously” until I moved to Kelowna and took classes at Oranj Fitness. I was never super athletic, but I’d jogged and cycled since high school. I remember the first time I came out of Laura Martini (then Thompson’s) class, my hips literally felt like they had been broken open! With practice, yoga began to heal my chronic low back pain from being a stooped-over student. I was amazed at how much my body needed yoga. It wasn’t until later that yoga began to heal my mind and my life.
3.) Where and with whom did you study with?
I did my 200-hour YTT with Nicki Doane at Oranj Fitness. She’s amazing, and her style is perfect for beginning teachers. Although I’m not certified yet, I have a lot of influence from Baptiste Power Yoga via Pam Rader, owner of Shift Power Yoga in West Kelowna. She has been a mentor and a friend to me since we met teaching together at The Hot Box Yoga.
4.) What kept you coming back to the mat and has that changed over time?
At first yoga was what kept me healthy, fit, and limber. I kept returning to the mat for the physical benefits. Lately I’ve been more apt to practice yin or restorative yoga, because I’ve needed the soothing, introspective elements that more gentle postures offer. I guess that’s how my practice has changed. Now, for me, to limit yoga to a physical workout misses the point. Yoga keeps me accountable to my true self, helps me to re-align with my path, and grounds me when life makes unexpected shifts.
Yoga busts me open. Yoga doesn’t let me get away with bullshit. Yoga has added years to my life and life to my years. It’s made me stronger, physically and mentally. I met the man of my dreams and my best friends through yoga. Yoga is a powerful agent of change that has seeped into all areas of my life. Sometimes it pushes, sometimes it whispers. Sometimes I resist it. But as I’ve learned over time, if I surrender to my practice on and off the mat, yoga always moves me in the right direction!
6.) How has your practice evolved?
I used to hate yin and restorative yoga. I thought it was a waste of time! I used to get bored easily because my mind was restless. I needed loud music and physically challenging asanas to distract me. I still enjoy a good yoga beating, though, and love to play with more challenging poses that make me stronger. But I definitely have a better appreciation for a more mindful practice now. I realize that health is defined not only as physical prowess but also in who we are – how we show up for our loved ones, how we talk to ourselves, and what we’re up to on the planet. And I also love arm balances now! Crow used to be my “bathroom pose” (the one where I suddenly had to leave the room because of an overwhelming urge to pee.) I hated it with a passion! I think I disliked it because I couldn’t do it, and I felt like a fool. Then as soon as I let go of my ego and the heaviness that surrounded the pose, one day it just came. I also learned to use my core, which is integral to arm balances! I still can’t jump back to plank from crow, but that will come.
Oh, I’d probably be living the starving artist life in some seedy New York apartment smoking cigarettes and reading Camus. Just kidding. I’m not sure; all I know is that Yoga found me, and it’s the only way my life could have possibly panned out, because it’s real now. It’s like asking a flower how its life would have been different if it hadn’t found the sun. I can’t imagine my life without yoga. It’s who I am, and who I’ve always been underneath.
8.) What is your “can’t do without” favorite pose?
There’s so many, but I’d probably have to say uttanasana (forward fold). It feels amazing on my back and legs, and I imagine all the shit and negativity draining out of my head when I do it. It’s an immense release for my mind and body.
9.) Tell us about an asana you struggle with!!
Headstand! I get so mad that I still can’t do it without a wall behind me. The last time I was in a class where we were practicing headstand I left the class in anger, and ended up balling my face off in the bathroom. I feel like there’s something in my life that is congruent with headstand, and once I let that go, the pose will be easy. Sometimes I clear blockages through mastering a pose, and sometimes I master a pose through clearing a blockage. It will come.
10.) You inspire so many, who inspires you?
Anyone who shows courage. Anyone who chases his or her dreams. I’m inspired by those who are willing to come apart and drop what they know in order to become better human beings. Pam Rader has held a light to my path for several years and her spirit continues to ignite mine. Also, my students inspire me. Sometimes I feel like crawling under a rock and hiding, but I have a responsibility to them. It’s impossible to hide from your own light when you have a room full of faces beaming at you. It’s an incredible gift.
11.) What tips can you offer beginning students for a safe practice?
In a society where we so often try hard, I recommend trying easy. Use blocks and props. Don’t do anything that feels painful in your body. Don’t compare yourself to others. And don’t try to do a handstand against a tree unless you know for sure you can hit the tree. (I did this last weekend and missed…)
12.) How about guidance for beginning teachers?
Your teaching is only as strong as your practice. Don’t forget to make time to hit your mat. Develop a home practice, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. This is something I’m not a champ at, yet, and it’s one of my goals. Don’t use Sanskrit unless you are comfortable with the pronunciations. Be authentic. Students will appreciate when they get to see YOU, not who you are trying to be. Relax, take a deep breath, and remember that you are an expert in your field!
13.) What few steps do you think a yogi can take today to tremendously improve their practice?
Do the poses you don’t like. These asanas hold the key to your freedom. What we resist persists! Also, the way we do one thing is the way we do everything. Watch how you react on the mat; notice where resistance manifests for you. If you are willing to own your resistance, it will have less power over you, and in turn yoga will start to heal your life.
14.) Where are you teaching now and how can we find out more about you?
I just began teaching yoga and Bellyfit at The Woman’s Place in Kelowna, BC. I also have some exciting workshops in the planning stages that will take place at Shift Power Yoga this summer. Please feel free to find me on Facebook (Carol Ann Domanko or business page Chasing Santosha with Carol Domanko), Instagram (@caroldomanko) email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit my blog at http://chasingsantosha.wordpress.com/ or my website at http://caroldomanko.wix.com/chasingsantosha
Carol Domanko was born in Calgary, AB and raised in the Okanagan Valley. She discovered yoga while working on her film degree at UBC in Vancouver. Yoga was the perfect compliment to her active lifestyle as a runner and cyclist, and helped her stay sane with all the pressures and stresses of school and everyday life. When she moved back to the Okanagan after graduation, she signed up for as many yoga classes as she could fit into her schedule. No matter what was going on in her life, Carol could always find her happy place on the mat. When she released stored energy in her hips, found the courage to stand on her head, and opened up her heart, the impossible became possible and her life began to fall into place. She knew that it was her calling to share yoga with others, so in January 2011, Carol signed up for a yoga teacher training course with the incredible Nicki Doane at Oranj and became certified in Maya yoga. She’ll never forget the first day she watched a group waking up from savasana, knowing that she was a channel for people to awaken and heal through the magic of yoga the same way she had. Since then, Carol has made yoga a way of life, a means for self-expression, and a way to connect with something beyond herself – a place where we are all one.
Carol is beyond grateful for the opportunity to teach yoga as well as to keep learning and challenging her limits. She looks forward to seeing you in her classes! Om Shanti, Namaste!