Name: Monica Mesa, founder/director of Yoga Rocks the Butte Winterfest
Hometown: Crested Butte, CO
Home Studio: Yoga For The Peaceful (Owner)
Training: Prana Flow Vinyasa 500 hr with Shiva Rea
Contact: [email protected], FB Monica Mesa
How did your yoga journey begin? Interestingly enough, I was a competitive body builder and I had a real serious injury. That’s when I started doing yoga to try and heal from the injury, and that started my path to yoga about 25 years ago. Then I slowly fell in love with yoga and fell out of love with the gym. I found yoga a lot more fulfilling, and I practiced Iyengar Yoga for quite a few years until I found Prana Flow and Shiva Rea and found my true yoga tribe there.
What is yoga? Hmmmm…! Well, I think that yoga is everything and yoga is uniting your body, your breathe, your mind, your spirit…with everything, with the cosmos, with the divine. And special practices help us embody that, until we become that, until we are living it.
How is yoga a spiritual practice? I think it’s spiritual because we are connecting with our breathe, our prana, our life-force, and the whole entire body-mind-spirit inside and out. It naturally becomes a spiritual practice because we are connecting with the depths of who we are and the universe and all that is.
Where is your favorite place to practice? I’d have to say that outside is my favorite place to practice, on the beach is my most natural element. The ocean and being outside is my closest temple.
What makes a good yoga studio? The heart of the studio owners and teachers and staff – that they are living yogis that live their yoga in their life as an offering to others.
What’s your favorite asana? Probably Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (Pigeon).
What’s your best asana? Probably any kind of back-bending asana.
What’s your worst asana? Eka Pada Bakasana (One-Legged Crow).
Shiva Rea. Maha!
Neem Karoli Baba. Love.
Love. Mmmmm! A word for Love?! One word?!
What is your yogini diet? Vegetarian, sometimes seafood though, so not entirely vegetarian. A lot of raw food and superfoods.
What’s your favorite yoga philosophy? I love the Kashmir Shaivism tradition and the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. I think that it encompasses so much about integrating and embodying yoga.
What is your teaching style? I’m definitely a Prana Flow Vinyasa teacher from Shiva Rea’s tradition and I think I’m known in the tribe for being a very bhakti-oriented teacher…a lot of bhakti, devotion, chanting, kirtan, heart-blasting, soul-opening type of focus. Lots of creativity.
How about telling us about the yoga festival you are producing this winter, Yoga Rocks the Butte? What I’d love for people to know about Yoga Rocks the Butte is that it’s the first ever winter festival that’s slope-side and the first ever family yoga festival where kids from age 2 to teenagers are welcome and we have programming for them. So it’s combining yoga, kirtan, yoga music, and also skiing and snowboarding for the whole family. It’s also a very strong Prana Flow presenter list. Most of the presenters are coming from what we call the Shiva Rea tribe, and that’s a unique quality because we have so many teachers from the same style with such diverse offerings. For example we have teachers from Prana Flow that are Ayurvedically-trained, that are hoopers and poi practitioners, that are musicians, that are Tantric scholars, we are having Prana Danda Staff Flow, Kalari…a lot of teachers from Shiva Rea’s tribe. And we want to combine a really fun and beautiful destination-based ski resort with world-class yoga and music. It’s also a green festival and part of the proceeds go towards a non-profit called Yoga World Reach which brings yoga outreach to third world countries. And I have to say it’s a very intimate festival compared to some of the very big ones out there and that’s going to make it very special with lots of special opportunities to connect personally with the presenters and other people at the festival. I’d also like to mention that the festival is dedicated to Neem Karoli Baba and his message, which is “Love Everyone, Serve Everyone, Remember God” and that is the main message we want conveyed from the festival.
What is your connection to Neem Karoli Baba? Yes, Neem Karoli Baba is my guru, definitely a very special relationship. I had a very unique experience where he came to me after he passed on, and that’s a great story in and of itself, and ever since that time he has always been my guiding light and he brings me everything that comes to me and I am ever grateful. I feel I am always guided and protected by Neem Karoli Baba. So I am grateful for his presence in my life and his own unique, lightest touch.
What’s your relationship to the Shiva Rea tribe? Yeah, let’s see, what does my bio say…I’m definitely a Prana Flow certified teacher, a master trainer and assistant, I have been offering her modules in teacher trainings, and basically, it’s the style of yoga that I am deeply devoted and committed to. And as far as Shiva Rea goes, she is definitely the Maha teacher who has brought me everything in my yoga career, my yoga path, including my guru. It was through her I encountered my guru, Neem Karoli Baba, it’s because of her I am creating this festival, it’s in celebration and in honor of her and all the amazing people that are coming to the festival, and the messages that we bring, and it’s because of her. I am very very devoted to Shiva Rea. And I am very grateful for her presence and teachings in my life.
What more about Shiva Rea, the woman, do you have to share? Any good stories? Hmmmm…well, Shiva is definitely a yoga-mama for me, and a yoga-sister, and a yoga-teacher, and a yoga-guru, and a yoga-everything. I think the unique thing about Shiva Rea is she embodies everything, she is just the most balanced and gifted yogini fire-keeper teacher that I have ever come across and I feel very much connected to her whether she is in my presence or not. She is a part of my veins I think. I always feel like I can connect with her just by closing my eyes. She has a very special way of being able to being committed to a very full calendar of events as well as serving her students, her teachers, her global activism and pursuits, to her own devotion to her practice, to her beloved…she just is a woman who does it all, has it all, embodies it all. Her body of knowledge is always something that is constantly surprising me. She is one of the most important living yoga teachers walking the planet now.
Tell us about your teacher trainings in Colombia. Well my family origin is from Colombia. I spent quite a bit of time there as a child. And just 5 or 6 years ago I connected to one of my cousins who has a yoga retreat center in a beautiful, exotic area called Tayrona National Park, in the Sierra Nevada mountains on the Caribbean coast. And she was asking me to teach there, and I did, and it has grown in a really beautiful way. They had never experienced Prana Flow there and they fell in love with the Prana Flow practice, and so now I am going there not only to continue teaching retreats and workshops but also Prana Flow teacher-trainings. And it’s been very very soulful for me because I have really connected to my Colombian roots and I have found it very soulful and fulfilling.
You live in Crested Butte. Can you talk about the energy of the mountains, how it’s different from the energy of the beach, and how it affects your yoga practice? I think that the energy of the mountains is very majestic here and they are astonishingly beautiful and inspiring. The outdoor lifestyle here is very much apart of our daily, constant lives. I feel very very connected to the earth and the constant presence of this beauty that surrounds me. There is no escaping it. It is very inspiring and it’s easy to stay connected to what’s true and real. The mundane realities of life can really just fall to the wayside when you open your eyes and are reminded daily of the presence of the divine that surrounds you everywhere. So no matter what the dramas and details of life, this beauty that surrounds me is constantly bringing me back to the presence and the beauty of the moment because it’s just so easy to just walk outside and open my eyes. As far as comparing it to being by the sea…I feel that being by the sea is similar, it just has a slightly different energy to it, and I have generally found that places by the sea tend to be bigger cities with bigger populations with more modernlifestyle issues. And while I love the sea, I love the remoteness and simplicity of life here in the mountains.
What else are you into?
I love to nordic ski. I love to surf although I don’t get to do it very often. I love to just be outside and do anything that involves moving my body outside.
How are your boys, your 3 sons?
Well, I’ve got a senior in high school, so that’s pretty intense. His name is Cheyne. You know, getting ready to send a boy out into the world as a man, so I am very much dedicated to doing whatever I can to give him some tools. And my middle kid is Skye, he’s 15. A 15-year-old is definitely in the throws of his hormones sort of reaching so there’s a lot of energy there to also help channel and direct and also just sit back and watch it in a state of excitement and ahhh and all kinds of other emotions. And then my 10-year-old son Ronin is in an innocent and open phase of life. He has been an ally for me in many ways…I don’t know how to describe that…there’s a very special relationship there, all three of them of course, but the little one has really remained by my side in a special way through many different complex dramas in my life.
Do you have any thank-yous?
I definitely thank God and my guru Neem Karoli Baba, Shiva Rea, my buddhist teacher Lama Tsultrim, my family who brought me on the planet, my mom and dad, and all the people in my life that have loved me and supported me along the way, my beloved Dave has a very very special presence in my life.
I want to give credit to the Hanuman Festival for stepping in and helping with Yoga Rocks the Butte, and all the staff at Yoga for the Peaceful and Yoga Rocks the Butte for putting on the festival, and all the people who believe in us, and the community of Crested Butte and Mount Crested Butte who are believing in us and supporting us, and the people in the Prana Flow tribe who are supporting and believing in us and standing by and going above and beyond the call of duty, so to speak, to support me at this time. So much gratitude in my life. So much gratitude for Juliet Stillman, my business partner who believed in me and the dream of YOGA FOR THE PEACEFUL, and Sarah Darval, who is my right arm in this festival and the behind the scenes diva that is the wind beneath my wings! If I listed everybody I’d run out the whole article, I mean I’ve got healers and therapists and reiki people and massage therapists and acupuncturists and naturopaths and homeopaths and chiropractors and people that keep me happy and healthy and healing through a time when I am basically running a yoga studio, producing a yoga festival, and single-mothering three boys. It’s almost an impossible feat, but I can do it because all the people in my life. I’m in a place of deep gratitude to all these people. And for the magic of Shiva Rea wanting to do a winter yoga festival and saying yes to Crested Butte this winter for Yoga Rocks The Butte.
And I really want to express my gratitude for my beloved, Dave Penney. I believe that love is the doorway, the portal, the key. And his love and shakta power is an incredibly powerful part of my life and my ability to have so much to give. We have a very special love and alchemy and I am just really really grateful for that sacred union in my life. Love is the message that I have. That’s what I teach, is love. Having it in this way, this partnership, is the greatest gift.