The Joy of Yoga
an intervew with Tess Chiodo

by Andrew Elias

JOYFUL YOGA & SPA is the brainchild of Tess Chiodo, who along with her daughters, Jacqueline and Emily, offer a range of yoga and meditation classes and workshops as well as ayerveda and spa services.

I asked Tess about her personal practice of yoga, mediation and ayurveda, and about her studio and spa

How were you first introduced to yoga?
TESS CHIODO: The Beatles influenced my desire to learn yoga in the late 60s. The world could see a shift — at least my little world in Southern California — in not only their musicality but also in their identity and search for meaning. Peace, love and flower power.

When and why did you start practicing yoga seriously?

In the beginning it was more ‘performance art.’ I was a teenager in an all-girls Catholic School and I liked being different. Once I began a regular practice it was a natural consequence to cultivate more awareness and understand that the physical poses were simply the entree to the real practice, which is meditation.

What is the most important thing to know about practicing yoga?

That there is no finish line. To understand that the physical practice is a gateway to ease, comfort and stability as one begins, that will eventually lead one to all that they desire. That it is a process of creating awareness as you move the bodymind (because they can not be separated), into the poses gently, without force or strain. That conditioning of the physical body can and will be achieved without force. That one must learn to be as patient and kind with their own body's abilities and limitations as they would be with their most beloveds.

How has practicing yoga impacted your life — physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally?

That is the miracle of yoga! This amazing map that was passed down from the ancient seers, the Vedic sages, impacts every aspect of ones life. That is the brilliance of the ‘8 Limbs of yoga’. There are no levels in this science and philosophy. Yoga can begin with any of the branches, whether its the physicality of Asana, the selfless service of Karma Yoga, the devotion of chanting and song in Bhakti Yoga, the study of the Philosophy in Jyana Yoga, the study of the Energy body of the Chakra system, Pranayama (the breathing exercises), the study of Ayurveda the oldest medical model and so much more.

What particular school of yoga do you practice and why?

Our goal is to provide aspects of the full philosophy and science to our students. This is called Raja Yoga, or The Royal Path. All of the physical poses, or Asana have their roots in Hatha Yoga.

Obviously, Yoga has evolved, like everything else, over this past 5000-plus years. Ideally, we try not to veer too far off the main precepts of the practice, but are open to current hybrids as long as the main principles are intact, such as non-violence, Ahimsa. Are you harming your body through physical movement or even through your own internal dialogue? We sometimes don't know the answer to this question as we have so successfully disconnected the body and mind. Thus Yoga's goal: connecting the body, mind and consciousness. Bringing them together in union with the breath and then performing action. In this way, any activity can become Yoga. This is called mindfulness. Simply put, if you are practicing the poses mindfully this makes it a moving meditation.

What styles of yoga are offered at Joyful Yoga?

We offer some form of each popular style from Yin and Restorative Yoga to Heated Vinyasa, from Gentle and Chair to Buti Yoga. If we get requests we try to accommodate our students’ desires. The schedule is constantly evolving.

How has meditating impacted your life?

I got my first TM (Transcendental Meditation) Mantra in 1976 in the thick of tough times. I was young, married, a mother, owned a business and had a husband who was an alcoholic and meth addict. Had I not sought out meditation I am sure my life would have taken a completely different trajectory.

At some point in the practice of Yoga, any aspect of it, one starts to create a relationship with their own consciousness (call this soul if you are so inclined). Soon realizing that they are in fact a spiritual being having a human experience instead of the opposite, that they can control their own mind, and that the most direct path to any desire is to be still and silent for any amount of time. You are a human being, not a human doing! This is meditation. Any form of meditation one will actually practice daily is the best for them. I have dabbled in them all and have profoundly benefited both physically and psychologically in untold ways.

In 2011, I became a certified PSM (Primordial Sound Meditation) Instructor through the Chopra Center for Wellbeing. PSM is an adaptation of TM adding more current evidentiary data and technology without taking away from the ancient tradition and practice. We offer this course once each month and also a free Introduction to Meditation Class on the first Friday of each month, 4-5pm.

Explain what ayurveda is?

Ayurveda (Knowledge of Life) is the oldest health model and the sister science of Yoga. It provides an holistic (body and mind) model of health that focuses on creating balance through the five senses. All medicine has its roots in Ayurveda. It teaches you that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in humans and that understanding one’s own body/mind constitution and how when one specifically aligns with the elements in nature it allows for self healing. It offers a map of simple techniques to discover who you really are and how to create balance. We offer Ayurveda 101 twice each year. It is a 5-hour workshop to provide one with a working knowledge of the science.This spring’s workshop will be March 25.

How has it impacted your life?

Ayurveda is truly the missing piece to the practice of yoga, for most. It creates a deep understanding of who you are; physically, mentally and emotionally, and maybe even more importantly, understanding who all these others are with whom you are sharing this life.

What ayurvedic spa treatments are offered at Joyful Yoga & Spa?

In our Spa, it is not so much about our specific Ayurvedic treatments — and we do have those — it is more about our knowledge of our clients’ Ayurvedic constitution that allows us to understand exactly what that individual needs to create a deep state of healing. One doesn't need to know a single thing about Ayurveda when they book an appointment because our therapists do. Our goal is to make your experience perfect for you. This includes the fragrance in the room, the style and volume of music, the temperature of the room, the lighting, the type of pure organic oils used on your skin type, the pressure of the touch the therapist uses in the therapy and the entire atmosphere during the service.

We offer only Eminence Skin Care products exclusively for our Aesthetician services as they are the purest available. We provide the latest in non-invasive facial rejuvenation and healing techniques including derma sound, derma planing, cupping, hydrotherapy and LED light therapy. We offer myriad forms of body work, including Swedana steam therapy, Garshan (dry brush massage) and Reiki.

In addition, my daughter Jacqueline is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner offering consultations, counseling and recommendations for healing and balance.

When did you open Joyful Yoga & Spa?

My two daughters, Jacqueline and Emily, and I opened in Bonita Springs in 2007 after having a small studio in Fort Myers for two years.

How has Joyful Yoga grown over the years?

We knew that we wanted to offer an Ayurvedic Spa and also expand our space to offer more and varied styles and levels of classes, and also Joyful Yoga Academy, offering 200- and 500-Hour Teacher Certifications. Our beautiful space offers 7600 square feet of peace and tranquility.

This spring we are expanding to offer a Kidding Around Yoga™ program and Summer day camp.

What do you hope to achieve with and for your students and clients?

It is mine and my daughters desire to introduce this most ancient of sciences to those that have never thought of themselves as a ‘yoga person’ and to reintroduce those that have practiced before and stopped. To provide the tools and knowledge that will allow anyone, regardless of age, flexibility, balance, strength or health to experience the practice, creating more ease, stability, joy and peace in their lives. To understand that it is a practice done without force, strain or pain. That yoga truly meets you where you are, physically, mentally and emotionally. •

Joyful Yoga & Spa is located at 3405 Pelican Landing Parkway in Bonita Springs. For information, call 947-9845.

March-April 2018

“This is called mindfulness.
Simply put, if you are
practicing the poses
mindfully this makes it
a moving meditation.”

“There are no levels
in this science
and philosophy.“