Angel Papadakis — yoga instructor, studio owner

Mind, body, spirit — yoga is a holistic experience for many. But did one element or another first draw you to the practice? That is, were you seeking to settle your mind? Have greater physical flexibility? Explore your true, spiritual nature?

definitely to settle my mind — I picked up a steady yoga practice during law school to deal with the stress of it, I continued through my legal career to deal with the toll it took on me, and I turned to it in a desperate time for mental clarity and balance after my kids were born

How about now: does yoga feed your mind or your body or your spirit more, or are those elements more in balance than when you started?

both! the mindfulness and connection with how I’m feeling provide equilibrium in my life

How long have you been practicing yoga?

since 2003

How frequently do you practice now?


How long did you practice yoga before you started teaching it?

about fifteen years

Do you have a preferred yoga style?

Vinyasa — I grew up dancing and choreographing concert dance so the flow of vinyasa definitely appeals to my affinity for moving bodies in harmony individually and as a group

When you first took up yoga, what came easiest and what was more challenging?

keeping conscious awareness on the breath always was and still is the most challenging thing for me to do

From your experience teaching yoga to children, can you generalize about what comes easiest for young people and what is more challenging?

for children, certain pranayama work is not recommended such as holding the breath and other control techniques — children’s lung capacities are smaller and their hearts are beating faster than an adults so in general, yes, it’s difficult to teach them how to utilize the breath in conjunction with their asana practice — settling their busy minds is also a challenge — their minds are full of humming birds darting from one place to another without stopping for very long in any one spot!

What have been the greatest benefits of yoga for you?

there are so many benefits I’ve felt — I would have to say the most valuable for me was less anxiety and better sleep — after my second child was born, yoga pulled me out of an abyss of post-partum anxiety and insomnia — it has helped me in every aspect of my life and my relationships at home and at work

Apart from yoga, do you practice other techniques of mindfulness or meditation?

every night before I go to sleep, I meditate with simple breathing exercises and a focus on executing an asana sequence in my mind — it calms me down, keeps me grounded, and sets me off to sleep — I also do body-scans daily prior to my physical practice and I listen to guided positive affirmations while driving

outside of a yoga session, do you ever just strike a pose and stretch? If so, which poses and where?

absolutely — in front of the TV I like to do legs up the wall (or couch), or supine pigeon pose, happy baby, supine twist or supported bridge — also, whenever I go with my kids to a ball game, I’m always the weird mom doing stretches on the fence or playground — we have such a sedentary slouching culture; I take every opportunity to take backbends big and small wherever I am

You have a choice: lead a yoga class (1) outdoors on a beautiful day, overlooking the ocean, or (2) in a well-designed, very comfortable minimalist indoor space. Which do you pick?

I guess my answer is “it depends” — if that small comfortable indoor space is heated to 100 degrees, I want to do it there — if it’s 90 degrees or higher outside, let’s go to the outdoor spot — in other words, I like it hot for yoga — helps open the physical body, presents cardiovascular benefits and lung capacity expansion, and purges toxins through the system — for me, distractions are a part of practice — there will always be something — the challenge is staying present, no matter what!

—interview © Marshal Zeringue