Yogi Sara DiVello spent 13 years working as a publicist for a large financial services company in Boston before turning in her pencil skirts for toe socks and becoming a yoga instructor. Her new book, Where the Om Am I? tells her story of leaving a world full of greed, bad bosses, and women on women corporate cattiness, for a world of inner peace and guidance through yoga.
Or, at least that’s what she thought. It turns out, the yoga world wasn’t that much different than the corporate world. “I was shocked to find the same sense of anxiety and scarcity that I’d run into in the corporate world,” DiVello says. “Even though the ‘rewards’ to compete over were different—getting attention from the teacher, demonstrating your yoga knowledge, or being the most ‘yogic’, as opposed to raises, promotions, and who got the window office—there was a definitive sense of competition, rivalry, and, ultimately, back-stabbing pervading my yoga training experience just as clearly as life at the office. Not all of my classmates fed into this, just as not every corporate woman is ready to plunge her stiletto into your back while climbing the corporate ladder. But the parallels were eerily striking.”
DiVello currently teaches yoga at Inner Space in Brookline Village and at the Back Bay Healthworks, and her favorite styles are a super slow-flow vinyasa and restorative yoga. “Disciplining yourself to go slowly can be mind-bendingly, patience-testingly brutal given that we live in such a fast-paced, instant-gratification-oriented world.” Divello says. “But making yourself stay physically and mentally still through a difficult moment or pose, making yourself breathe through it, stay grounded, and focus instead of just trying to escape or get away, these are the actions that lead to that relaxed, melty ‘zen’ feeling afterward.”
There are so many beautiful places to practice yoga outdoors in Boston. DiVello favors her garden in the South End, but also loves to go to the beach. “Either Carson Beach/Castle Island in Southie, or Crane’s Beach in Ipswich. We’re so lucky to have such an amazing and beautiful resource like the protected seashore at Crane’s,” DiVello says. “Having easy access to beaches is one of the many things I love about living in Boston. I’ve also practiced in the Public Garden, which holds a special place in my heart because my husband proposed to me there on the way to a Red Sox game.”
Here are three poses that DiVello says you can do at your desk (for those of us not leaving the corporate world anytime soon):
Pigeon Pose (Raja Kopatasna)
“This is a great pose for the outer hips. You can do it on the mat, of course, but you can also do it in a chair,” DiVello says.
While sitting in a chair: Cross right ankle over left knee. Lengthen through the spine (which is yoga speak for, “sit up straight”). With right hand press gently down on right knee. When you are ready, or if you need more, stay sitting up tall, keep the spine long, and slowly bring the chest forward, hinging at the hips, to get a deeper release. Stay for 30 seconds. Breathe deeply, inhale and exhale through the nose. Unwind the legs and do the same pose on the opposite side.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
“Just doing the arms is a great pose to do at your desk, at home, or anywhere to release the shoulders and upper back muscles, aka the desk-working, driving, stress-holding muscles,” Divello says.
Bring the arms in front of you at a 90-degree angle, elbows coming close toward each other at shoulder-height. If this is enough of a stretch for the shoulders/upper back, stay here. If you need more of a stretch, drop the left elbow below the right and twine the forearms, pressing the back of the palms together or, flexibility permitting, hooking the left fingertips into the right palm. The key to releasing the upper back muscles is to keep the elbows lifted—equal height to the shoulders—and the shoulders as relaxed and low as possible. Stay for at least 30 seconds, breathing deeply. Reverse arms and repeat.
Utilize the Fire Point
“This is a fabulous yoga technique to immediately relax and de-stress,” she says.
Press the tip of your tongue to the mound of flesh behind the top two front teeth. Feel your forehead and the muscles behind your eyes unclench. Now feel your whole face relax. Let that relaxation travel down your neck and into your shoulders. You can do this anywhere: at work, at home, or in the car sitting on I-93 in rush hour traffic.
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