A peaceful mind is a happy mind. It may be hard to find that balance in today's fast-paced society, but Monique Alvarez has discovered the secret - yoga.
Her new business, Cortez Yoga and Meditation located at 1430 E. Main, opened on Feb. 4. The quaint and quiet space was perfect for Alvarez' new line of work as a yoga instructor.
Alvarez, a Cortez native and Montezuma-Cortez High School graduate, is a traveler and an online entrepreneur. After graduation, she booked a flight overseas to become a volunteer in orphanages all across Europe and Asia.
Nine years ago, a car accident had left Alvarez with constant shoulder pain and discomfort. She was often limited in movement, even with the simple task of lifting her arms. Curious to try the popularly rising phenomenon of yoga, she took her first class here in her hometown of Cortez while visiting family. One class and she was hooked.
"I've never considered myself an athletic person," Alvarez said. "This is the first physical activity that I fell in love with because you don't have to be an athletic person to enjoy it."
When Alvarez returned to the states, she experienced a heavy bout of culture shock. She had not lived in the U.S. since 1996. The stress from her move back home, the cultural shift and her lingering injuries were hard to deal with. Alvarez turned to yoga for the solution.
"My first instructor really helped me in those areas," she explained. "I felt strong and healthy immediately. The main thing that improved was my range of motion. I went from not being able to raise my hands over my head to teaching classes everyday. It hasn't caused me any additional pain."
Alvarez decided her passion for yoga needed to be shared with her community. In 2012, she obtained her instructing certificate in Phoenix. After one more year of traveling to Albania and Greece, this time with her husband, she returned to Cortez in October. This time with a more permanent plan.
"I went the route of becoming certified because it was perfect for teaching a general population," she said. "My focus is people who are like me. Not athletic, who are afraid of or intimidated by exercise classes. Home practice doesn't produce the same energy as group classes do. Everyone in a class is there wanting to accomplish the same thing."
The important thing for Alvarez is to educate others about the benefits of yoga. And they are extensive. Improved balance, mood, strength, focus and breathing are just a few benefits of yoga.
Beginners need not worry because they will not be met with difficult poses, splits or headstands. Instead, Alvarez offers nothing but beginning courses. From chair yoga for seniors and prenatal yoga for expecting mothers to guided meditation and yoga on your lunch break, Alvarez has something for everyone. As long as you are new.
"With the exception of one evening class, everything is done at a beginner's level because I want people to know they won't be met with a leg behind the head. As we go, more classes will be introduced for intermediate levels because people who came and are consistent will improve. There's no doubt about that."
Alvarez is still acclimating to life back in the states. Only just returning last year, she has found that being in other countries helped find her inner self.
"The places I visited, in particularly Kenya, I found that everyone does yoga," she said with amazement. "Kids, from the time they could walk were practicing yoga and mediation."
Alvarez considers this fact to be the main reason behind their slower lifestyles.
"Every culture I went to emphasized this slow pace of life. They focused on family time, down time and everyone took naps. In Albania, every business closes from three to six so people can go home, relax and nap."
The fast pace world of the society she once left behind was a hard element to come home to. And a harsh reality to accustom to. Now, Alvarez says she builds her schedules around her nap hour. She makes sure she finds time to rest in the day. Her lunch hour express yoga class, offered twice a week, was created for that specific reason.
"If this is the one hour that someone gets to come in and slow down, it's rewarding for me, because it helps their mental, physical and spiritual state," she explained. "They can come, take a break and regroup before the second part of their day begins."
Other classes Alvarez offers are weekend yoga, kids are in school classes for mom and after work classes. She also introduced family yoga this month for parents and kids, ages six to 12, who want to get moving. This class combines yoga poses and games that will get the kids up and stretching so it doesn't feel like exercise.
"I feel like everything these days is centered around screens; iPods, iPads, televisions, computers. This is for parents and kids to do something together where they aren't staring at a screen."
Alvarez is a proponent for yoga. She has reaped the benefits herself both physically and mentally. But yoga can go further than improving the mind and the body. It can also improve daily routines by forcing a person to focus on the present moment rather than past events or future anticipation. It can also improve sleep, relieve stress and decrease minor aches and pains.
"You are never too old to start practicing yoga," Alvarez pointed out. "We are never too old to improve our health and take of ourselves."
Alvarez teaches around 22 classes a week. Schedules can be picked up at her studio. For information on her classes or costs, visit her website at cortezyogaandmeditation.com or call her studio at 560-6238.