MaryEllenHanley

I was born, raised, and educated in Brooklyn, NY. I studied social science at Fordham University, NYC and 35 years ago married my husband Jay. We have two sons, Ian and Ryan. Jay and I lived in NYC, Long Island, and Boston before purchasing our home in Punta Gorda in 2011.

Once I retired in 2007 after 32 years in the telecommunications industry, I eagerly awaited the opening of a new yoga studio, Healing Tree Yoga, in Quincy, MA. I began a Hatha Yoga practice there once they opened. Yoga was a perfect fit for me. I wanted to develop a sense of calm and peacefulness in my life and reduce some of the noise and clutter in my life by learning to live more simply. I looked forward to an activity that was personal and non-competitive.

Like many of my colleagues, the pressure of the corporate culture, commuting long hours, and raising a family left me with chronic tension in my jaw and neck. My posture was poor due to hours spent compiling reports and spreadsheets, slumped over my desk with little or no daily exercise.

Slowly but surely, through yoga I learned to focus on breathing to keep my mind present. I have to admit that it took some time for my A type personality to let go of the ever present to-do list. I am ashamed to admit that there were times when I would lie on my mat thinking about what salad to serve that evening while my classmates were in downward dog.

Stretching, twisting, and strength-building postures began to transform my body into a more nimble, relaxed, and graceful version of myself. I could see that my posture improved; I became more aware of my sitting and standing, now mindful of keeping my spine straight, my shoulders back, my heart forward, and my neck relaxed.

I try to take at least two yoga classes per week. I am most comfortable with Level 1 classes, but I also love to attend Sunrise Yoga. Some days, Gentle Yoga suits me just fine. I also developed a mini-yoga practice that I do at home.

Yoga has given me the wonderful gift of appreciating quiet. I love to sit and focus on breathing. This brings me to such a peaceful place. I have become less tolerant of loud music, action films, and noisy, crowded public places. While I am tolerant of friends and family who enjoy loud music and animated conversation, I have learned that quiet is very important to my well-being.

I have also learned to be more focused on whatever task is at hand, trying to not succumb to distraction. And I am trying to lead a life of moderation. Do I need 12 handbags? Of course not. Well, I am still working on this.

I still find balance poses challenging and inconsistent. Some days I feel I can stand in tree pose all day and other days I can’t get started without falling out of the pose. I do not have great upper body strength, and I have some knee sensitivity and wrist issues—all minor concerns that make my yoga practice a bit challenging some days. Surely not showstoppers, however!

Outside of The Yoga Sanctuary, I play golf (yet another challenge). I am on the Board of Directors at Twin Isles Country Club here in Punta Gorda. I love to read, and when I can, I paint with watercolors.

My favorite yoga postures are the Sun Salutations. What a beautiful way to honor a new day.

Yoga contributes so much to my sense of well-being. I could not live without it. When I sit quietly, it is easy to be reminded of how much I have to be grateful for. I enjoy trying new poses and continually strive to do better with the fundamentals. I am inspired by the dedication of the yoga instructors at The Yoga Sanctuary and my fellow yogis practicing by my side. I am awed that yoga has been practiced all over the world for many, many years.

My favorite quote:

“It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who has been swimming naked.”

—Warren Buffet