This post is sponsored by adidas. All thoughts and opinions are my own! Thank you for supporting the brands that keep CWS up and brewing.
Who inspires you? Who inspires your personal style? Who inspires you to stay physically and mentally fit?
When I read these questions, one person popped into my head right away – my former dancer teacher, Gina Mandella. I first met Gina when I was in the 4th grade after transferring to a new dance studio to further my studies. I was put in one of the beginner level classes because of my age and because I was new there. Gina was the first teacher that I had at that studio and my first class there was ballet. A day or so after my first ballet class, I remember being told that Gina wanted to move me up to the intermediate level classes because my technique and potential were great. Not long after starting the intermediate level classes, she pushed to work with me as a soloist.
I remember feeling so excited and even relieved about all of this, even at a young age. It’s never easy to make a big transition, even switching dance studios, so the fact that someone not only saw my potential with dance but they also saw my love for dance… that truly meant the world to me.
Gina immediately became my top role model. I loved working with her, especially one-on-one during my solo rehearsals. Something I always struggled with in my early years of dance was my arms. I didn’t always fully extend them and my elbows would droop. I remember her always encouraging me to keep focusing on them and sometimes she gave me some tough love, but I needed it all! It made me a better dancer and even more importantly, a better person.
She taught me to practice thoroughly and to always work hard. If I wanted to achieve something, I had to work for it. I took everything she said to me and put it into practice – again, even at such a young age. If I wasn’t at school or at the dance studio, you bet I was upstairs in my room practicing my technique and running through my solo. If it wasn’t for her constant encouragement and for her being a devoted, loving teacher, I would never have been the dancer I became… and I never would have received a gold medal for my first ever competition as a soloist!
Gina still teaches dance but over the years, she has really opened herself up to yoga. She’s now a yoga instructor and she’s the main reason why I decided to start getting into yoga myself.
Q&A WITH GINA MANDELLA:
How did you first get into yoga?
“A loss in my life led me to yoga. I was always passionate about movement, but the spiritual and meditative aspects truly sparked my curiosity. I knew there was a way I could feel more whole. The loss I experienced brought a new-found appreciation for life and living in the moment, and I knew yoga could help me find a deeper connection to myself, and it truly has.”
How has yoga helped you overcome life challenges?
“I wasn’t able to truly accept myself before I started practicing yoga. I would judge myself, self-destruct, and the continue to live chaotically. Yoga has given me the tools to fully accept who I am. And then there is the breathing… the clarity… the space in stillness. Yoga has taught me to pause and breath, and to understand before losing my cool when faced with a challenge. In those tricky run or stay moments, I come back to allow the breath to carry me.”
What is your most favorite part of yoga?
“It’s infinite. Just like our journey’s and the growth we experience in life. There will always be another yoga pose to master. I will always be able to grow in my practice. The same is said for life. There will always be challenges and I will always be able to grow from them. Yoga transcends to life. You become better at life.”
What are some tips you would give for someone wanting to start yoga?
“Yoga is for everybody! You don’t need to be flexible. It will most likely give you space and length in your body, but it’s not about being flexible. Try not to be intimidated by trying yoga. Yoga’s core is acceptance and non-judgment. Start your practice by accepting who and where you are and don’t get overwhelmed. Instead, take it slow and enjoy the ride.”
Gina was a huge part of me becoming a hard worker at such a young age and even to this day, now that I’m exploring yoga for myself.
I started practicing yoga towards the beginning of the summer. I struggle with anxiety and everyone I knew who practiced yoga said that it really helped them cope with it. I have added yoga into my everyday routine and it’s been life-changing for me. I’ll typically take a quick yoga break during the mid part of my workday and I practice it again before bedtime.
Over the past 8 years, I started having some lower back pain issues and I lost a lot of my back flexibility that I used to have. It was very discouraging. I realized that the reason why I was experiencing all of that was that my body was out of practice. After training so hard my entire life and then slowing stopping as I eased into college, it took a toll on my body.
When I first started getting into yoga, I was nervous that it’d hurt my back more but it hasn’t at all. It’s given me the ability to push myself a bit further, in a healthy way. My back flexibility is slowly coming back and my back pain has eased up so much already. Here’s a little video snippet of a very quick practice of mine. Definitely not perfect at all! But it’s immense progress from where I started.
While this is all exciting to me, I’m really so grateful that yoga has helped me cope with my anxiety more than I thought it was going to. Practicing yoga doesn’t just help me keep physically fit but it also helps me stay mentally fit. I feel more centered than I have in a long time and I do believe that yoga has been a huge contributor to that.
WHAT I’M WEARING:
I’m wearing my new adidas Believe This High-Rise 7/8 Wanderlust Tights in Night Red. They run true to size and are so comfortable to wear. They’re also sweat resistant to truly keep you comfortable throughout your entire yoga practice. I’m also wearing the Team Issue Pullover Hoodie! It’s super soft inside and also runs true to size.
Who’s someone that inspires you to live a healthy mental & physical life? Are you into yoga? Let’s chat!