Maryam was born in Iran and came to the US when she was 6 years old. She grew up in the Reston/Northern Virginia area and was exposed to art through her father, Nasser Ovissi , a living legend of Contemporary Iranian art.
Maryam studied Art Management and opened a gallery dedicated to Iranian-American Art Gallery in California. She is an artist who now co-owns the amazing yoga studio, Beloved Yoga, in Reston, Virginia. As she describes it “a place for people to just do yoga.” Maryam is not new to the fitness world. Maryam and her husband are also the owners of Kamp Pendleton Personal Training Studio.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with her at the delightful and refreshing Cafe Sano in Reston. I discovered a place that locals enjoy and got a glimpse of Reston’s lake culture.
AK:Tell us more about your own yoga practice, how that started for you and eventually led you to opening a yoga studio?
MO: My path to yoga started when a friend of mine, Simin, planted the seed in 1999 by asking me to go to a private yoga class with her when I lived in Northern California. I was intrigued and started my yoga training with a Yogafit’s weekend training and went on to do a lot of self-study. I decided in 2001 that I really wanted to find a teacher and eventually found a teacher, Bhekaji and began studying with her. I began teaching at the YMCA in Reston in 2001 and met my current co-founder of Beloved Yoga, Odisa there.
AK:How do you feel yoga changes a person physically, mentally & spiritually?
MO: Yoga means union. Yoga forces you to face the idea of union. You create union with your breath, body, mind, and eventually with your spirit/divinity. Yoga brings it all together. If you stick with the unity in yourself it allows you to become one with your body. When you face the idea of union it challenges you physically and mentally. You have to be present and be careful to notice your dialogue with yourself.
AK:How did it feel to enter into this lifestyle and career change of owning a yoga studio?
MO: I have always been spiritual. I could finally bring it all together with a yoga studio. In this society we compartmentalize. The practice of yoga eventually comes off the mat and into your daily life.
AK:What did you intend or want Beloved Yoga to be and offer to people?
MO: A place to do yoga. We weren’t trying to open the best yoga studio. We told ourselves we would be perfectly happy if we had 1 person in a class or 10 people in a class. We just wanted a place to do yoga. We went with the more urban style of passes because both Odisa and I are moms and we wanted to be flexible. It has been a blessing and we recognize we did not do this alone.
AK:What recommendations do you have for others who want to be their “own greatest teacher?”
MO: To just get quiet. Stop talking. Spend time with silence. You can study with teachers and books but spend some time with the divine also. It starts with just one minute of breathing and silence. Or it starts with even just looking at something that is beautiful. When you are a parent you don’t have two hours. Sprinkle silence into your day. I also recommend that every few months you allow for some time to gather yourself.
AK:Any recommendations for those toying with the idea of starting a yoga class? What should one consider or look for in a yoga class or studio?
MO: Well, there is this book, Teaching Yoga that says, “ A good teacher will bring out the teacher within.” A yoga teacher is a guide that challenges you not from a place of fear but from a place of empowerment. Start with a beginner’s yoga class. You can find a yoga class everywhere now, the gym, the YMCA, at work, etc. Just be open-minded and don’t think you know what yoga is. It is useful to look at the teacher’s training, see if they are seasoned and if you have injuries be sure to communicate that with your yoga teacher.
AK:So far what have been your favorite life/yoga experiences?
MO: Seeing how to overcome adversity. Being kind when someone isn’t. Being loving when someone isn’t. What I admire in a teacher is courage to believe in something and say it and not always be politically correct.
AK:Any last Bit of Advice to our Readers?
MO: The world of yoga is a big world – there are many paths and there is no one path that is the best. There are many paths, Iyenger , Ashtanga , Vinyasa , etc. So try and see what you find best for you. Yoga comes from necessity and is the art of living and breathing.
Come visit Beloved Yoga to see some of Maryam’s own art and try a drop-in class $16 or $8 on Sundays at the Reston location)