I Feel Looser, More Relaxed, More Focused and Alert: An Interview With Melissa Sakamoto

When and how did you first come to yoga?

I came to practice yoga on and off for 15 years ago, beginning with hot yoga. I like that it was detoxifying and it made me sweat and it was something I liked to do in the colder months but I was frustrated in not understanding the effects and proper form of certain poses. I came to mang’Oh about three years ago on a trial with a friend when I moved back to NY. I had never come across such a spectrum of quality instructors who had their own interpretations of vinyasa flow, which felt so right for my body and mind.

How does yoga influence your career and vice versa?

I create jewelry for private clients all over the world. My days are flexible but can also be extremely busy depending on when clients are in town or what I have to complete in a short time. Developing a yoga practice, even for 10 minutes in the morning completely changes my approach to my day. I feel looser, more relaxed, more focused and alert and it gives me a sense of ease even if it develops into being a stressful day. I am still taking deep breaths at the end of the day!

I suppose my work is a metaphor for my practice as I create designs in wax before I cast it in gold or platinum.
It is a very organic process where there is no right or wrong, but I can feel confident when a form feels right. Then I move on to the next step and forget about how long or how hard it was to create that form. Coming out of that process feels exhilarating in both my practice and my work.

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

I decided to do the teacher training at mang’Oh as I was keen to develop my understanding of the poses and its effects on the body. I also knew that Erica was the right person to direct me on this journey, especially with her background in dance. Her approach is gently aesthetic while retaining a true sincerity to why this practice is so essential for everyone. It is the space and freedom she creates under gentle guidance that is the magic of her method.

Describe your Teacher Training experience at mang’Oh

My Teacher Training experience was beyond my expectations of anything I had ever heard about this training including from friends who had taken it in other countries. First and foremost, the friendships I developed in this training were invaluable. There were ten of us who could not be more different. All ages, careers, life paths. Our commonality was thrusting ourselves in this very intensive learning experience both physically and mentally. There were definitely moments when each of us were challenged beyond what we were ready for. One year after our program, it is amazing to see how much each of us have evolved even more so in our personal/professional lives from the effects of our training.

Tell us about your journey post-mang’Oh TT…

I feel that I am on a continuous journey post-mang’Oh TT. I am constantly learning the effects of each movement on my body, more keenly aware of my posture, and what is good for me in every sense. I am more mindful of the nutritional benefits of Ayurveda to balance mind, body and spirit, particularly after our week-long retreat in the Catskills. There is nothing more nourishing to me than good clean food, fresh air and water, deep sleep and vinyasa yoga!

Who has influenced you, both in and out of the yoga world?

My biggest influencers are my parents who have always encouraged me to do what I love, particularly in a creative realm as everyone in my family seems to have an artistic expression or profession. My father was a musician and theatre actor before he became a jewellery artist. So even now, he writes a story with a central theme for each jewellery collection he presents. Every creation must have a message, a tribute to society and the people who wear our works. That is how I was taught to create.
And of course, Erica is also an enormous influencer who embodies the balance of having an artistic and mindful way of life!

When you are not a yoga teacher or working, where can we find you and what are you doing?

When I am not at work or yoga, I can be found anywhere in the world having an adventure with my beloved poodle Bono!

Describe your perfect day in NYC

My perfect day in NYC would begin with a sunny walk through Tudor City with my poodle Bono so he can say hello to all his friends up there.
A noon class at mang’Oh, followed by a quick lunch at Delectica on 2nd avenue and 38th street, 2 minutes from mang’Oh!
They have incredible soups and veggie platters with a Mediterranean flair.
Then, I would head to my workbench in midtown to work on a new design. A little coffee break around 5 pm at Maison Kaiser with perhaps a coffee eclair!
Then get ready around 9 pm for a late dinner date at Il Buco on Bond Street for a glass of pinot noir, pasta and salad to share.

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

In the past year, I have been astonished and at the sense of social responsibility of women and men coming forward to make people accountable for their own actions. I was raised in Japan where this basic human right is still very much regarded as shameful or indulgent for women to speak out against sexual aggressors. I hope this phenomenon continues worldwide.

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

I would advise them to take it slowly. To thoroughly learn the craft, seek a mentor who has been in the profession for a long time. Understand the challenges that may occur. And to put their heart and soul into doing it their way and well.

What are you most grateful for today?
I am most grateful that my family is happy and healthy!
And that I have a community of friends here in NY who have become my family as well!