Meet a Teacher: Mary Kay Raponi

Posted by on Mar 31, 2019 in carson city yoga studio, meet a teacher | 4 comments

Mary Kay Raponi

Mary Kay Raponi

This month in our Meet a Teacher series, we introduce you to Mary Kay Raponi. Mary Kay started out with Carson City Yoga as co-owner, and was instrumental in making sure many of the business details were handled.  While not new to the world of yoga, she was new at the time to the world of teaching, and so she bravely took on not only a teaching gig, but also stepped into the business world.  As you will find out below, Mary Kay is stepping back from the business aspects now, but will continue to teach and is an integral part of Carson City Yoga.  Read on to learn a bit more about Mary Kay.

CCY: Hi Mary Kay. Let’s start with a little background. You’ve had a yoga practice in your own life for many years. How did you first come to yoga?

Mary Kay: Well this is interesting. I was 23 years old and teaching school in Jackpot, Nevada. I came across a book by Raquel Welch; it was her yoga routine. That’s how I started yoga, doing her routine. It was fabulous! I had the strength and I was young.

Then in 1990 we moved to Carson City. I came across a wonderful group of people who were practicing Siddha yoga. It was based on the teachings of Swami Chidvilasananda. The main practices are chanting, meditation, contemplation, selfless service, and study of the sacred scriptures. I was involved in that for over 20 years. It was beautiful.  In this tradition, they practice Hatha Yoga but it’s not their main focus. There is so much more than the physical practice.  And then here in Carson City, which has been my home since 1990, I have studied with several people. I studied Hatha Yoga with Sally Shuster who does Iyengar yoga and also with Angela Sullivan, Amy Joytir, and Steve Yochum, which was awesome. And also with Jenn Andrews, and Lisa Cook when this was Yoga Sol. Two years ago, I was able to take a teacher training program through Vira Bhava Yoga. Becoming a yoga teacher really changed everything for me. It has been a good ride.

Mary Kay

Stepping in as a Warrior

CCY: What changed for you as a yoga teacher? 

Mary Kay:  I was thinking about that question. I loved being a student because you get to feel the essence of the practice. But being a teacher makes your own practice deeper. And you watch how other people are doing practice and how they learn the postures. It makes you think about things a little bit deeper. Much deeper. You’re holding the energy for the whole class. Setting that intention for the whole class. It is important to keep the body safe. And I don’t teach anything that I haven’t practiced on my own, or that I haven’t practiced teaching.

CCY: So, Mary Kay, you mentioned that part of your Siddha yoga training was study. Do you have a favorite book, or a couple of books that you would recommend to people? Maybe for someone who might want to dive deeper into their studies?

Mary Kay: Well, in the Siddha yoga path, there are a lot of books. I love “Courage and Contentment” by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda. I read the workbook in a Course in Miracles. It is 365 lessons….it took me 3 years to get through. I am a member of the Unity Church.  We’re reading the book right now by Richard Rohr, called the Immortal Diamond. It’s not about the Hatha yoga postures, but it’s definitely the essence of the practice.

CCY: This is an interesting theme running through all of the teachers’ philosophies… the understanding that yoga is more than just the physical practice. Can you speak to your definition of yoga?

Mary Kay:  Life. And being on a spiritual path. Wanting to know the truth of things. Now that I am in this place in my life, what is coming across to me even more is the idea of death. The impermanence of life. One of the quotes from the Richard Rohr’s book is, “I am dying to my own addictive, compulsive, and negative ways of processing reality. And that has no social payoff or immediate reward.”  

CCY:  I think what I am hearing you say is that the essence of yoga is to to drop deeper into the core of who you really are. Is that correct?

Kneeling Side Angle/Side Plank

Kneeling Side Angle/Side Plank

Mary Kay: Absolutely. I was talking about this in my class this morning….unconditional love for myself. Accepting myself in spite of my humanness. Taking responsibility for my stuff as it arises, but also knowing that it’s human nature. As I accept myself, I can love other people as well.

CCY:  Would you say this is what it means to take yoga off the mat?  I mean, we come to yoga classes. We do our practice on the mat, at home. What is the relationship between our yoga practice and life off the mat?

Mary Kay: I think it is the expression of my core values. I find that kindness is a core value of mine. And having compassion. Generosity. Gratitude. And love. How I might take that off the mat is going into the grocery store, looking at the clerk’s name, and saying, “Thank you, Sue” and sharing eye contact. That’s kind of what we’re doing in yoga. Recognizing where people are at. Maybe no one has recognized them the whole day, and that one moment makes all the difference.

CCY: Connection.

Mary Kay: Connection. And respect. Which makes the world a better place.

CCY:  Mary Kay, you’ve had this long path of studying yoga. And then you became a teacher recently. And shortly after becoming a teacher, you became a partner in the creation of Carson City Yoga. Would you like to talk a bit about that process?

Mary Kay: So, when Amy and I started talking about Carson City Yoga, Amy asked me to be a partner with her because she knew it was going to be a big project. Bigger than what she wanted to handle on her own. To make it come to fruition, we needed to both work on it.  That was huge. I was a brand new teacher teaching yoga, and at the same time, I was helping to get the Carson City Yoga business up. So, besides the yoga practice, my part was the logistics part of the business. The LLC, the finances, the business side. Amy knew how to run the business. She knew how to teach yoga, and she had her vision. I was there to support that. And do the things that needed to be done on the other end.

Mary KayCCY: (Comment from Amy) It was a really great partnership. There was a good balance between us. We had some interesting conversations where we didn’t always agree, and that served the business in a positive way because we always held the highest good for the studio.

Mary Kay: Even in times of conflict, there was a healthy respect between us. We knew one was not better than the other. We met each other at that place. We both had done enough work. We knew the Universe brought us together to grow even deeper as individuals and then together in the business.  

CCY: Thank you for being there for the creation of Carson City Yoga, and to help with the transition from Yoga Sol.

Mary Kay: Thank you for the opportunity.

CCY: Here we are a year and some months later, and you are ready to pull out of the partnership of Carson City Yoga.

Mary Kay: Yes. We started to have conversations about 5 months ago about where the business was going and what that might look like, and we knew that this was going to come eventually. And then, it came sooner than I had expected due to some circumstances in my life. I needed to move that time frame up a little sooner.

CCY:  And so you decided in January that you would begin to pull out of the business. The good news is that you are going to stay on as a teacher.

Mary Kay: Absolutely.

CCY: That’s very exciting because your students love you. Let’s talk about that.  You teach a beginning yoga class on Saturday mornings at 9:00 a.m. And you teach the lunch time yoga at noon on Fridays. Can you speak a bit about your style of teaching? How would you describe your classes to somebody who wants to know if they should try a class?

Mary Kay: Well, I really focus on keeping the body safe. There’s always going to be basics like Bridge and Chair Pose in my class to keep the core strong.  I’m teaching people to have an awareness of their body, how to functionally move their body. I want them to learn how to engage their thigh muscle or how to engage their core. That’s really my focus physically. But I always try to have a positive message, beyond the physical, as do all of Carson City Yoga teachers. I’m not different than anybody else in that aspect.

I’m also trying to bring in the parasympathetic nervous system into my class….so that the brain-body connection is experienced. Maybe there’s a slowing down of the flight or fight response in a person’s life.

CCY: Let’s just insert here, the parasympathetic nervous system is the counterbalance to the fight or flight response. It’s the relaxation response in the body.

Mary Kay: Yes, thank you. That relaxation response is so important for all of us.

Setu Bandha / Bridge Pose

Setu Bandha / Bridge Pose

CCY: So your classes are really great for beginners. People who have never done yoga before would be very welcome in your class? 

Mary Kay: Yes. Definitely the Saturday morning beginner class. That one is specifically for people new to yoga. The lunch-time class on Fridays has definitely more difficulty to it. For a first-time beginner, that class might be a little hard for them, unless they are really comfortable in their body. That class is more of a mixed level class.

 

Supported Bridge with a block under sacrum

Supported Bridge

CCY: Ok, Mary Kay, one of the things we’ve done with all of the teachers, just for fun, is to talk about yoga poses. Let’s start with your favorite pose. Which is your favorite pose, your favorite asana to work with?

Mary Kay: I am going to go with Bridge. I really love Bridge. 

CCY: What do you love about it?

Mary Kay: I love that it’s an inversion. And you also engage your body, if you wish, from the feet to the knees to the core to the shoulders. You could try to relax your jaw. It’s a pose that has so many varieties to it. I normally end my class with a supported Bridge. A Bridge with a block underneath. I really love Bridge.

CCY: And what is your most challenging pose? What are you working with that has the most to teach you?

Revolved Triangle

Revolved Triangle

Mary Kay: Probably the standing poses like Warrior III, or a revolved Triangle Pose

CCY: What does Warrior III teach you?

Mary Kay: (Laughing) I can do a Warrior III, but it’s a strong pose. It’s a balance. It’s to strengthen the balance.

CCY: And what does revolved Triangle have to teach you? That’s a challenging pose.

Mary Kay: Oh, my Gosh…. Courage.  Courage. Yes. That’s a good question! I am going back to that pose now to work with Courage! 

CCY:  And do you have a favorite pose to teach?

warrior 3 at the wall

Warrior 3 at the Wall

Mary Kay: I love to teach Warrior I, and that transition to Warrior 3.  I also think Chair pose is really important. I love kneeling extended side angle pose because there are so many varieties to it. How to create length and extension in the back body as well as the front body.  So many poses are good! 

CCY: Mary Kay, is there anything else you would like to share? Anything you would like your students to know about you as a person, or as a teacher, or as a human?

Mary Kay:  I am just trying to laugh more and enjoy life.   Thank you.

CCY:  Thank you, Mary Kay. We all appreciate you so much, and thank you for your many contributions to the students and to the business of Carson City Yoga. We are so glad you are sticking around and will continue to be a teacher here!

For those of you reading… have you tried a class with Mary Kay yet?  She teaches the 9am Beginning class on Saturday mornings, and the Lunch Time Yoga at noon on Fridays. Come on by and say hello!

4 Comments

  1. Thank you for publishing this interview with Mary Kay. I love Mary Kay’s classes, how she takes me through the poses safely. I highly recommend her!

    • Krista, thanks for your comment and recommendation. We love Mary Kay too!

  2. I have just started yoga and totally love Mary Kay. She is amazing. I have and would recommend the 9 am class to anyone who would like to start yoga.

    • Thanks, Honey Lynne! That Saturday morning class is a great one for beginners. Glad you are enjoying it, and thanks for being part of CCY!

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