We met up with experienced yoga teacher, Jessica Bellofatto, who shared with us her journey through yoga, how SUP Yoga has transformed her community and her true practices off the mat through Motherhood...
RYB: Where do you currently call home?
JB: Currently I call home East Hampton, NY. Its a beach resort area on the eastern tip of Long Island...I have lived in this area pretty much my whole life and as much as I love it and am an ocean baby through and through, I am started to feel the call to live elsewhere.
RYB: How did you first arrive to the mat?
JB: I arrived to the mat at the age of 19 as a dance major at New York University. One of my mentors was incorporating lots of yoga into our dance warmups and I was intrigued - totally intrigued - by downward facing dog. I had never before seen that shape of the body before and asked her what it was. She sent me to the grungy, funky, and somewhat intimidating Jivamukti Yoga Center on 2nd avenue and 10th street in the east village and the rest is history.
RYB: What is your favorite part about sharing yoga?
JB: I absolutely love watching people light up through this practice. It has had such a profound affect on my own life and path and I know how powerful it can be when someone 'gets' it. I love to share especially the deeper practices of pranayama and meditation when my students are receptive to it...more than anything else they express how amazing they feel after being introduced to these practices.
RYB: How would you describe your classes?
JB: Over the course of 22 years I have been blessed to have studied with so many amazing teachers who have all influenced my teaching. First and foremost Sharon Gannon and David Life - the founders of Jivamukti Yoga, then Genny Kapuler, Lara Warren, Kevin Gardiner, Marcelo Clavijo and others at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in NYC, Erich Shiffman, Dharma Mittra, Ashtanga with Richard Freeman and Tim Miller, the 'undoing' of Yoga in a week long immersion in Mexico with Angela Farmer, lots of Anusara with John Friend and many of his top teachers during the height of Anusara, and most recently Ashaya Yoga with Todd Norian...I recently actually completed a 200 hr teacher training with him!
Beyond asana, most influential for me has been my sanskrit and philosophy studies with Manorama, Buddhist studies, and meditation with Sharon Salzberg and other master teachers... phew! I would say my classes are an eclectic blend, taking my students on a seamless yogic journey - blissful vinyasa with masterful alignment and sequencing, interwoven with poetry and the dharma.
RYB: How have your teachings evolved?
JB: As I have gotten quieter, my classes have reflected that. Quieter in the sense that at the age of 43, I am starting to really finally trust my intuition and allow myself to be guided by it. I am more careful, mindful if you will, with my words and the ways in which I communicate with others, both as a teacher and as a friend, mother, lover, and more. After 22 years, I STILL get nervous when I sit in front of a room full of people about to teach a class - as much as I wish that I could get over that, it keeps me on my toes...I care about the experience I am giving people EVERY time I sit down to chant OM.
You are a lover of water and teach SUP Yoga, a Mama of 3 and studio owner...
RYB: What is the most inspiring aspect of owning a yoga studio?
JB: The most inspiring aspect of owning a yoga studio is getting to see the same people day after day, month after month, and year after year, transform their lives through the practice of Yoga.
RYB: What about the most challenging aspect of owning a studio which you didn't anticipate?
JB: Managing the teachers! I often feel like I have 10 more children in addition to the three I already have... here's a lot of ego among teachers unfortunately, and many of them only care about their own 'business' (teaching and promoting themselves) and could care less about the studio.
RYB: How has SUP Yoga transformed the yoga community?
JB: I think SUP Yoga has transformed the yoga community by getting people OUTSIDE!!! It also has brought in an aspect of playfulness and lightness that I sometimes think is missing from a regular studio class.
RYB: How has motherhood shifted your yoga practice off the mat?
JB: Ah, motherhood... I have three children. I had my son when I was 28 and he is now 14. My daughter Uma came along when I was 32 and then after a divorce and thinking I was done having children, along came Jahya at the age of 40.... I will say that for me, having an 8 year gap between my second and third has made me realize that I was really SO young when I had my son 14 years ago...I was selfish and immature and perhaps not a great mom (not to beat myself up but in some ways it is true). I wanted my life and my time and even my yoga practice to come first. I have grown up since then and my practice both on and off the mat has become so much more relaxed and less conflicted....it's ok if I only get in a 20 minute practice as opposed to a 2 hour practice. I am calmer, more patient, more compassionate, and more loving.
RYB: What do you aim to share with your children as they grow?
JB: I hope they see me following my bliss and that they do the same. I want to share with them the importance of love and joy above all else.