Mind-body activities like yoga tend to favor adults, but Elissa Cirignotta wants to show that youth can benefit just as much, if not more.
Image by Tammy Kim
Mind-body activities like yoga tend to favor adults, but Elissa Cirignotta wants to show that youth can benefit just as much, if not more. Developing bodies and minds are at the root of yoga’s rewards. And there are rewards enough to encompass the teacher as well.
Tell us about your work.
Elissa Cirignotta: I am a lead teacher and co-founder of Happy Mindful People. We teach kids, teens, and adult yoga and mindfulness classes. Through movement, mindfulness, and social skills we introduce concepts like kindness, gratitude, developing empathy, and being a compassionate person. Our classes keep bodies active, minds engaged, while simultaneously practicing how to use the breath as a tool for peace and calm.
I’ve come to believe more and more that the lack of social emotional instruction is a significant missing link in our society. The curriculum we have written is based on our research on adolescent brain development and reinforces skills needed to combat the emotional changes that often lead to aggression, angst, and lowered self-esteem. Our hope is for all children, all teens, and all adults to have increased control of their bodies, awareness and appreciation of their breath, and gratitude for their magnificent lives.
How does your work make a positive difference to society?
I am lucky enough to get to spend my days teaching kids, teens, and adults how to love bigger! We practice and discuss what it means to love ourselves and learn ways that we can care for our bodies. We talk about the impact our words and thoughts have on our outlook and we collectively practice living our best life. We learn the importance of listening to our breath and we use it as a tool to find calm during stressful moments. As all muscles need strengthening so do our imagination and gratitude muscles! We teach kids and teens how to use their imagination to create their reality and have fun. There is no age too young to practice self-acceptance, calm, and gratitude.
The tag line for our company is “Scatter seeds of kindness and grow peace.” We are all seed planters doing the best we can using the tools we have. My job is to be a reflection of this mantra and help others find personal healing.
As you became committed to a purposeful career, what were the internal doubts or external obstacles that challenged you?
Initially my fears were all financial. I was a special education teacher, behavioral specialist, and Special Ed facilitator for 8 years prior to this leap. Even though my income may have been fairly conservative I still had a set salary, benefits, and job security. How could I possibly make it without those things? I struggled with the fear of financial doom for the majority of the first year. It’s been a practice of re-writing my story and letting go.
What practices or techniques did you or do you use to challenge these obstacles?
I take deep breaths. I jog and take long walks spending time in nature to gain perspective. I make sure my body is getting adequate exercise. I practice yoga, every day. I drink lots of water and tea. I get up and try my very best every single day. I say thank-you all the time.
There are 5 affirmations that I keep tucked into my journal and I say them often.
“I am open and receptive to all the good and abundance in the Universe. Thank you Life!”
“All is well. Everything is working out for my highest good. Only good will come out of this situation.”
“I go forth in perfect faith in the power of omnipresent good to bring me what I need when I need it.”
“I live in harmony with myself and the world around me.”
“I am love.”
There is no turning back. And there’s reason to let fear guide your decisions. The money appears when it is needed. I am learning to trust my instincts and follow my gut while also tapping into local resources and deepening my connection to those that are committed to teaching love and wellbeing.
How did you find a balance between financial stability and a career that makes a difference?
Perseverance and practice. I’m still in a phase where I work really hard and sometimes very long days to sustain myself and that’s ok. It’s a part of my journey and a part of this creative tapestry that is my life. I am just crazy enough to believe that I can change the world and brave enough to try and do it. I’m choosing to trust my struggles and use them as a guide to happiness and global transformation. Each opportunity we are faced with is chance for us to learn, grow, and heal. This year I’ve learned how to live on a very small budget and prioritize my needs and wants. There are no regrets.
What advice do you have for those who want a career that benefits the common good?
There is no reason not to follow your heart. Speak your truth. Find your passion, listen to it, nurture it, and be it. Reach farther than you can grasp because one day you may find you’ve touched the stars. The sky is the limit! Choose love.
For more info visit Catalysta at http://catalysta.org/pioneer-qa/