On Most Days, With Practice, I Feel Blessed: An Interview with Anita Matalia

Anita is so fun and personable. She always makes everyone around her feel at ease and like they can be themselves. She is always up for a good adventure, and her courageous spirt is both inspiring and contagious! She is a breath of fresh air.

When and how did you first come to yoga?

I first came to yoga at a young age. Funny thing. I didn’t know it was yoga! My mom would encourage my sister and I to stay active. She would challenge us both to do all different asanas, including headstands and padmasana, and then reward us with a balanced snack: fruit, nuts, potato chips and sometimes chocolate. My sister and I still revisit those memories and laugh. All this time, we have been yoginis.

You are a senior director of marketing at a large digital media company…how does yoga influence your career and vice versa?

Patanjali’s 8­ Limbs of Yoga have profoundly influenced me and my career. The Yamas and Niyamas have been woven into my daily life. Yoga has been a catalyst in developing not just as an employee but as a manager. It has helped my shape how I invest day to day into a project and organization as a whole but it has also made me aware and mindful of what type of organization and management I’m willing to work for. The ever-changing, fast-­paced digital industry, surrounded by the hustle & bustle of New York, while working in a sales­marketing role is the perfect trifecta for stress – which is why yoga is an absolutely perfect counterbalance to this all. Now, I have been given the blessed opportunity to influence a mindfulness program at work which will include building a meditation room. I look forward sharing more about this experience.

When and why did you decide to do the mang’Oh Teacher Training?

Erica announced Teacher Training in March 2011. It was that moment, that very instance, where I said to myself “I need this! I want this! I am doing this!” The reason I felt this way was for a few reasons.

One, is that I loved and still love the asana practice. At that time I was practicing at Mang’Oh 5 to 7 times a week. I would leave work at lunch to catch a class or even sneak out of the office early for the Happy Hour class. Passion drew me, if you will.

Secondly, I wanted more in life. Every day was starting to become monotonous and I knew I wanted to dig deeper within. What better way than with a group of ladies (we had no male students nor teachers that year) to further my journey? I recently came across an African proverb that read: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together. So very true! Those few weeks, with a wonderful, loving and trusting group, moved me very far mentally, physically and spiritually.

Last, I was at a point in my asana practice where I was just starting to connect postures to emotions. This was the tip of the iceberg for me to say the least! I craved to learn and feel more so I jump into the Teacher Training to see if that would help uncover and discover. It did! It was my opportunity for self­-study, Svadhyay (one of the Niyamas) Four and a half years later I cannot even begin to explain how much I have learned about my body. Inside and out. Thank you, Mang’Oh, for guiding me down the path of knowledge.


Describe your Teacher Training experience at mang’Oh:

My Teacher Training experience shed a ton of light onto what I was looking to uncover and discover. I have struggled with my weight since my 20s, but have had challenges connected to that in my reflection. I wouldn’t necessarily call it body dysmorphia but perhaps it’s the best way to describe it. Having no idea that I was reaching 180+ pounds, I was in disbelief! I felt thin. I even “looked” thin. Finally, it started to come to the surface and I have a sense of realization that something was not right.

This battle continued to teeter­totter for years. It is still a challenge on occasion. When on my mat, I was feeling things that were allowing me to connect the physical and the internal. Both mind and spirit. Understanding that feeling is where I couldn’t completely fill in the gaps. The dive into the asanas, the reading… the full curriculum of Teacher Training started to fill in these gaps for me.

There was one wonderful moment at Life Bridge where Randi led a guided meditation. She instructed us to think about our yoga practice and allow it to lead us to wherever it was meant to go, in that moment, in our minds. That evening it occurred to me that I not only have challenges connecting my internal to my external but I also attract these individuals into my life. My closest friends tend to have similar challenges as I do. What an “a­ha” moment that was. This realization has helped me be much more mindful of how I address myself, my body, while continuing to explore feeling and connect the dots.

Another profound experience was during meditation after our morning practice. We were practicing Samatha that morning. Erica had given me mala beads with the mantra, tied to it, that read: Om Namah Shivaya. This mantra was my “go ­to” to help with concentration. Although Samatha focuses on mindfulness of breathing I would recite my mantra in my head to come back to my focus and breath. For a moment, during meditation, an image of Shiva came onto my mat. An auspicious sight, or darshan, in Sanskrit. It felt like minutes which could have been seconds. To this day I hold that experience close to my heart.

Tell us about your journey post-mang’Oh TT…
Since Teacher Training, much has changed. Committing to a practice – any kind of
practice, like a diet – has not been easy. My asana practice suffered a few times due to life or maybe it was lack of commitment. It probably was the latter. Getting on my mat
became a chore but until I had awareness of this I was unable to address and overcome it. Now I’m back on mat 5 to 6 times a week and have continued my yoga studies with many workshops, including Reiki attainment, Justin Ritchie’s 50­hour Energy & Subtle Anatomy training, and Sanskrit learning. Four and a half years later I am proud to say that I have felt things connect! I’m revisiting asanas since teacher training and know things are shifting for the better. I now have a committed daily morning puja practice that include Sanskrit hymns, mantra, and meditation that sets the tone for every day.
Who has influenced you, both in and out of the yoga world?
My mom has been a huge influence in my yoga practice. No discredit to my dad however. Both my parents have been supportive of yoga on and off the mat. My mom is more involved with my asana pranayam, and dhyan practice where my dad has really taken interest to sharing Sanskrit studies. The last few years has been a wonderful chain of events in growing my practice with my parents involvement.
Both my parents were born and raised in India. They both have had the opportunity to learn a lot related to yoga and scripture thus have been able to help me understand the roots of yoga and it’s influences within our family tree. I find that strangers influence me the most, out of the yoga world. I enjoy people watching. The subway is sometimes the best place to be in stillness and observe the energy around me. It’s interesting to see what makes people tick and then relate it to yourself and see if it’s possibly a reflection. If not, then I take it into account and be mindful not to repeat what I’ve witnessed.

When you are not at work or yoga, where can we find you and what are you doing?

I’m either out for a long walk discovering the nooks and crannies of NYC or, where I live, Jersey City. Or I’m home cleaning and/ or cooking. I have a new found passion for cleaning. For the last few years I have a great appreciation for tidiness. I find that a clean environment spills into other aspects in my life. Clean diet. Clean mind.

Describe your perfect day in NYC…

My perfect day in NYC is sleeping in. The first thing I would do is brush my teeth and make my morning “tea” (recipe below) that helps me with digestion throughout the day. Then I would take a quick shower and sit down for my morning prayers. After I would make a bite to eat. Likely a piece of toast, greens, grated raw cheddar cheese, with a fried organic egg on top. I’d head over to an afternoon yoga class at Laughing Lotus or Mang’Oh. Then get a bite to eat alone at one of my favorite spots: Joseph Leonard or Spoon & Tbsp.

Since it’s a perfect day, the weather is beautiful and I’d go for a long walk. Stop into some new shops and explore the city. My day would end with picking up fresh groceries to make a great meal at home and a bold glass of red wine.

Tea Recipe:

1. Boil a cup of water, squeeze half an organic lemon into the water and grate in fresh organic ginger (to taste). Let boil.

4. Put a tsp of organic raw honey into your mug and add 2 tbsp raw organic apple vinegar.

5. Pour the boiling lemon­-ginger water over a strainer into the mug.

6. Stir the honey till it melts and blends into the tea.

7. Enjoy the magic!

*mostly applicable to late spring/summer/early fall

What is something that has surprised you in the last year?

In the last year, I have been surprised at how much my mind can play in sabotaging a perfectly innocent experience. The mind simply turns into a brat when it does not get what it wants. Hey mind! Guess what? Sometimes you don’t get what you want in life. I have become more aware of my mind’s patterns and am able to fight back early on and stop it from the kicking and screaming. It has been amazing to see how often I can stay calm and collected while my mind is stomping it’s feet trying to be heard and run amok.

2004 to 2010 to 2016

What advice would you give to someone looking to do what they love?

My advice to anyone looking to do what they love is to continue to hold that or those intentions closely in their heart and protect it. Keep working towards it and give time to allow and present opportunities. Meaning, don’t be hasty. If you truly love something and have the purest intentions, I believe the Universe hears and responds.

What are you most grateful for today?

What am I grateful for today? That’s easy. My life. Everything about it. Family, friends, work, everything. All of it. Although I look to make changes everyday and better myself I am grateful for it all as it is and is meant to be today. It has not been easy to get to this point and some days I battle with this but on most days, with practice, I feel blessed.