Heal Your Mind, Body and Soul with Yoga
Yoga is beneficial for both body and mind, restoring your energy levels, reducing stress, improving muscle tone, balance, sleep and general outlook all while bringing a sense of calm into your life. It teaches you techniques for focus and gives you the tools to step back and bring things down a notch whenever the need arises. In fact, if you practice it long enough, feeling stressed out is seldom a factor in your day-to-day inner workings.
All of these benefits, and then some, is what drew Stephanie Testa, owner of Infinity Yoga and Ayurveda of Cocoa Beach, to take it up in the first place. With a background in medicine—which, with a healthy dose of irony brought on ill health—she managed to find a place and a profession for herself in life that is exactly where she wants to be.
Originally from Kentucky, Stephanie moved to Florida after visiting her parents who already resided here. She was looking to make a change anyway, but with her folks getting on in life and the lure of the balmy weather, she pulled the plug on her life in Kentucky and made the leap. Before leaving Kentucky, however, she’d gotten her degrees at St. Catharine College in Bardstown, where she received her AS degree as a surgical technologist, her BHS and her masters in healthcare leadership. Without knowing yet that she’d eventually end up owning her own yoga studio someday, she actually did her thesis on the subject, discussing how yoga can change your life.
It was during her managerial career in the operating room that the stress began to get to her and she had a probable heart attack at age 40. Obviously, some changes were in order. Years earlier, she had toyed with hot yoga and liked it but admits she was a bit wishy-washy as to dedication and attendance. She kept at it off and on for about five years, but when Vinyasa hit the scene in her area, she went all in, even going so far as to purchase an unlimited pass and putting her gym rat days of lifting weights behind her. During this time, she saw a difference in her own physical and mental health, but not her co-workers, which got her thinking.
That’s when she decided to go back to her alma mater and became the director and faculty chair for the surgical program at the college. She eventually started teaching yoga to her colleagues and then the school’s basketball team, all while retaining her professorship. On a trip to Louisville, a friend who worked as the director of one of the largest hospital chains in the city encouraged Stephanie to take a position at the Foundation Center and actually publish her thesis on yoga and health workers. It was an opportunity for her to help those in healthcare get healthier and the community as well.
Fast forward to the trip to Florida to visit her folks, and the rest is history. She began instructing at a local studio here in Brevard and gained a following. With her classes growing steadily, it was decided—at the nudging of her then boyfriend/now husband—to open her own place. Between her years of yoga and the introduction of Ayurveda, something she discovered years earlier during a prolonged illness, she was able to offer clients not only a comfortable yoga studio with a number of classes encompassing different disciplines but also an opportunity to learn about “the science of life,” which is what Ayurveda means.
Described as a holistic tradition from India that uses a systemic and highly complex model of health and disease restoration, Ayurveda aims to provide guidance regarding diet and lifestyle so that healthy individuals can stay healthy and those with health challenges can improve their overall well-being. Ayurveda also stresses the usefulness of natural therapies, such as massage, herbal medicines, yoga and other exercises as well as psychological and meditative counseling.
“Ayurveda changed my life. When I first discovered it, after turning to holistic medicine when nothing else was working, I couldn’t even spell it. But in the end, it truly changed my life,” Stephanie says.
The yoga mistress was also trained in power yoga by none other than Bryan Kest, a who’s who in the yoga world. When asked what message she wanted to bring, she says:
“I want to cultivate health and wellness to the mind, body and soul and to encourage people to live a life of kindness and compassion. I want to bring this awareness to the masses.”
She puts her money where here mouth is and practices what she preaches. During the holidays she sets up a Christmas tree at the studio with tags on it reminiscent of the Salvation Army’s Christmas Angel program where people can remove a paper ornament with the name of a child who might otherwise not receive a gift for Christmas. Stephanie’s tree included the name of an orphanage in Haiti where people could donate in order to aid its young residents.
If you’re looking for a simple routine to try at home in order to get a feel for what you can expect when practicing yoga, Stephanie suggests trying out a routine known as the Sun Salutation. We’ve provided a breakdown for beginners that most anyone should be able to successfully participate in. Remember, as with all forms of exercise, it’s advised you consult your physician before embarking on a fitness program—even one as gentle as yoga.
Sun Salutations, known in Sanskrit as Surya Namaskar (pronounced Sir-yah Namah-skar), are a series of movements that flow with the breath. They help strengthen the heart, improve circulation, and lengthen and strengthen all major muscles in the body. Sun Salutations have been described as the most complete exercise available. Even if you don’t have time to work out on a regular basis, performing Sun Salutations every day will bring vitality and aliveness into your life. The poses included in the “A Series” are designed to awaken the connection between the sun and your agni, or inner fire, kindling your inner fire and radiating your innate love and happiness out into the world.
Performing Sun Salutations helps us to celebrate the sun and life in general as well as our inner life and our connection with the universe. The celebration of life in the poses represent the full experience of life, with all its highs and lows and beginnings and endings. By celebrating our inner life, we are acknowledging that we are ultimately beings of light, like the sun, and performing Sun Salutations rejoices in this aspect of our being. We celebrate our connection with the universe because the sun is the source of all life on this planet.
157 N. Orlando Ave., Suite 102, Cocoa Beach, 321.785.3232, InfinityYogaAndWellness.com