An energetic life force fills Marina Mukandala. When she teaches Baptiste style yoga at Mind Body Flow, her small East Amherst studio, she evokes a blend of cheerleader, life coach and preacher. Her clear voice encourages students by name (even first-timers); she includes everyone in her uplifting patter, exhorting, “Yes, yogi!”
Mukandala lives and breathes the themes of the practice she’s embraced. According to Baptiste teachings, those are, “be a yes,” “you are ready now,” and “give up what you must.” She also exudes gratitude.
Mukandala, a dancer since childhood now with three young children, feels her purpose is to follow the rigorous path of being a certified, professional Baptiste Yoga teacher. And along with Pino Rizzi, a popular Canada-based Baptiste teacher, now she and her husband have produced a yoga DVD to spread their message farther and wider.
The 2-hour DVD, which launched in late January, is the culmination of several years of footage compiled by Rizzi, Mukandala and her husband. It contains one full-on 75-minute practice led by Pino and Mukandala plus several other sections including hips, core strength and flow, backward bending, and meditation.
“The work that we are up to is really to share this,” said Mukandala. “To reach and inspire as many people as possible beyond the four corners of a yoga studio; to know that they too can do this work and transform their lives.”
She first discovered yoga post-college, around 2005. “After six months of doing yoga, I knew that somehow, somewhere, I was going to share it with the world,” she said.
The feeling abided; when she and her husband moved to Buffalo a few years later to be closer to family, she pursued training and became a yoga teacher. “It was like a calling. Teaching yoga was all I wanted to do,” she said.
In 2010, she was teaching in local studios when she had her first child. And, in 2011, she transitioned to Baptiste (or power) yoga from the Bikram style. She felt a new freedom in her practice, and a new passion in her calling.
“Baptiste, or power yoga, is a dancer’s dream,” said Mukandala. “It incorporates music and movement, offers deepening expressions of poses. It also consistently speaks to empowerment.”
Taking a leap of faith, she and her husband decided to open their own studio. With a loan from ECIDA (Erie County Industrial Development Agency), they opened Mind Body Flow in early 2012. She also had her second child that year.
“I couldn’t have done all this without my husband, without my group of teachers, or without Pino,” she said. “And also, I pray. The strength that I’m given through my faith, and my yoga practice, are what keep me going when I may have doubts.”
After operating for just three years, she received an SBA Small Business of the Year award, and now, five years in, yoga is both her business and a sustaining life force.
“I feel like we’re raising a family and a studio at the same time,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about myself. It’s humbling to hear people say that their lives have been positively transformed — that I changed their lives. I didn’t do it; you did. They show up and do the work, they let go of negativity and build courage and awareness. It’s a blessing to be a part of it.”
Mind Body Flow Yoga
9390 Transit Rd.; East Amherst