YOGA teachers are fearless. Sure, they can stand on their hands. Above all, they can speak freely in front of many people. They’re flexible. Yes, their feet can reach the top of their head, but more than this, it’s because they deal with different people. They’re open to all sorts of students and can modify the practice without the need to control what surrounds them. With their deep passion for yoga is their strong desire to teach. Mary Love Deen, certified yoga teacher and owner of Love Yoga World, is all these and more. A mother of two boys and an instructor running her own studio, Mary certainly did not hold her breath when she revealed who and how she was before. She also debunked common misconceptions of yoga being a religion and practiced by vegetarians alone.
Assuming different roles in a day—mother, wife, instructor, businesswoman—Mary Deen sure knows how to keep going without losing her balance.
She appears to be the embodiment of someone who drank from the fountain of youth.
As she goes deeper into yoga, the practice didn’t end when her body could finally do inversions. It went further as turning her life upside-down. The 41-year-old yogi mom measures life span not in years anymore but in breaths, and life sure did make a turn towards a mindful existence. She’ll see to it that it will be smooth, long, and peaceful.
How do you balance being a mother and yoga teacher in a day?
My boys are ages 14 and nine. My nine-year-old boy is so clingy. If he’s here, I cannot talk to you like this! (Laughs) He’s like, “Mommy, help me” or “Mommy, watch this with me.” But I’m enjoying every moment of it. I don’t take it as a mother’s work. Just like teaching. I don’t consider it as work. I love to spend time with students. I don’t go there and say to myself, I have to earn! (Laughs).
I used to plan my day. I have to do this and that, but I became a victim of tasks. I’d get stressed out if things do not go as planned. So now if my body tells me to rest, I rest. I just count the blessings. I breathe.
What do you normally do in a day?
I wake up early. I used to wake up at 5 a.m. I shower and practice. If I have time before my first class at 8:30 a.m. I meditate for 15 minutes to self-heal and take another shower. I have my breakfast of oatmeal or wheat bread with pesto.
At lunch, I sometimes check on my sons in school. I pick up my youngest son from school and bring him to the tutor. I sometimes have lunch with my husband, or go to the grocery. If not, I go to a café and read, get lost in my thoughts. I could meet with some friends and have coffee. I also love wine.
I could just drink by myself and write.
Write what sort of things? Do you keep a diary?
I have a lot! (Laughs) I write about life, realizations, or I ask myself why I feel this way today.
What’s the secret to looking young?
Inner peace. When you are not expecting anything. When you love what you do, when you don’t overthink. In a world that’s so materialistic, don’t get yourself be attached to anything.
Just show up in class. I learned not to be attached to how many students are going to join my class. If there’s no student, then it’s okay. I can have the time for my own practice. I understand some would get disappointed, I get that.
I used to be like that, but not anymore. I don’t want to feel that way. You’ll only create stress for yourself. (Laughs)
How old are you?
I’m 41 years old! (Laughs)
How long have you been doing yoga?
It was 2010, but I started teaching in 2011. It started after giving birth. Actually, I already loved going to the gym because back in college I joined Miss Teen Cebu at the age of 18. Because of that, I had to stay fit to join the competition. I noticed that after hitting the gym, I felt so tired and couldn’t get through the rest of the day. Wala na, finished na akong day. It didn’t energize me and the gyms are getting noisier and I cannot do anything more for myself… that kind of feeling.
One afternoon, I saw people lying down and I asked my friend what they were doing. Nag savasana daw. I asked, “What is that?” They were doing yoga. And so the next day, I joined. Me with my monkey mind, like when the teacher said right, I’d do left. And again, right, I’d still do left. For the third time, he kicked my leg!
I didn’t go back anymore. (Laughs). When it was another teacher, I joined in. It was an Ashtanga class and I liked it after. I felt better. There was something magical about it. I was able to sleep well at night. And so my practice kept going from there. I went to Hong Kong, and I checked on an Ashtanga class by John Scott, and joined in his training.
What motivated you to teach?
Before yoga, I was into apparel for 15 years. Remember Simone boutique, and Adina? I started both from scratch. I had this attitude of being an overachiever. I wanted to do things my way. If I wanted it, I want to have it and do it. I was like that. I thought the attitude is like that with yoga. So when I wanted to be a teacher, then I need to do it. The ego was there—but only in the beginning.
When I went deeper into my practice, I realized it was the opposite. It stripped off my ego. It was humbling.
How did yoga change Mary Deen?
I was so maldita before! Grabe! When I find something suspicious in my store, grabe kaayo ko, ako na ipa-lie detector test akong staff! In Iloilo, I had one put in jail kay nangawat siya. There was money involved. I had stores in Cagayan, Bacolod … when you’re an overachiever, you don’t want to delegate tasks. You want to do things yourself. I don’t trust people. I don’t think they can work like I do. I don’t think their outputs are like mine. If I do delegate tasks, sige nako singkahan. Yoga made me see the more important things in life. It lets me see the importance of making connections and building relationships. It’s how you react. There’s nothing you can control. The only you can control is your reaction. If mag-away mo sa imong boyfriend, di man nimo ma-control iyang anger. Ang imoha is how you react to it.
I used to like getting dressed and party everywhere, attend social events. Well, I don’t shop anymore. I only have to stay fit so I can recycle my clothes. (Laughs). I recycle, honestly. It’s already old, it’s passé, it’s not moda, and it doesn’t matter. It’s okay. I just keep repeating what I wear.
One time I was brutally honest to a friend kay too materialistic ra kaayo siya. I asked her, “What’s your reality and your intentions? Why do you keep buying things? To feed the ego? To tell friends that you can afford? What is your goal?”
I think that person needed to be told. I apologized from the start and she didn’t get angry. She knew she needed to be told, that I didn’t mean bad. Another thing is that I don’t have to be in social events with groups of people to validate my worth. We are usually like that. Motunga ta kay mawala atong security. Yoga makes me self-assured. You become mindful of the kind of energy you want to be in.
How important is meditation in your practice?
It’s very important. Years ago, I used to have an anxiety disorder. I worry about nothing. I get panic attacks. I was on medication for a while and had been seeing a psychiatrist. The scariest one I had was when I was in Davao. I was brought to the ER and they just injected me with valium. It wasn’t my first though. We all have that, but once it gets triggered, it’s there for life. They’d casually say that it’s just in your mind. No, it’s really a disorder.
You have to deal with it alone. For me, if I don’t practice for a week, I’d get agitated and restless. I get anxious easily. Meditation really healed me, and now it’s a part of my daily routine—part of my life.
Do you see yoga as a lifestyle or fitness?
It’s a lifestyle for me. It’s a way of living in a journey that’s why it’s a lifetime practice. In the beginning, physical ra gyud to ako. Ganahan ko maniwang. Ganahan ko mag-handstand! The number of likes on Facebook is an ego booster. (Laughs). But then I learned a deeper meaning of what yoga is about. Being compassionate, kind, but it’s not like I give money to all. The other night, luoy kaayo ang kid, I think wala pa siya’y dinner. I could feel this little boy needs my help. What I did, I turned around. My kids who already wanted to go home were saying, “Mommy, what’s happening?” I had bread and I gave it to him. I handed it to him and his eyes looked so happy.
You know, we are compassionate by nature. When we’re still in the womb of our mother, we don’t really know their feelings as they go through pregnancy but, for some reason, we carry it over from within our hearts. There are already emotions residing in our hearts when we are born. These negative feelings are somewhere there in our hearts and that’s what we need to let go through yoga.
What do you say when people associate yoga with Hinduism?
No, no. You can be Christian, a Catholic, a Buddhist, and practice yoga for as long as you have faith, and I think that’s the most important thing. Whenever I go to Thailand, I visit temples and pray, and I’m a Catholic! It’s ego that’s alienating us from one another.
What type of yoga do you teach?
I teach Ashtanga, and Hatha. I teach yin or restorative yoga.
What’s your advice for beginners?
You’re better than you think you are. Pace yourself. One step at a time. It’s hard because we always want to be perfect all at once. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Do it for yourself. After all, it’s an investment you make for yourself to build confidence, self-worth, a sense of goodness, a healthy body and a healthy mind.
How do you build rapport with your students?
I touch. I give them extra love and for me, teaching is about that. It’s not just about giving instructions… Okay downward dog, okay breathe! For me, there is no such thing as correct sequence. It’s the effect of the nervous system after. If you are able to rest uring savasana, if you are not agitated. If you are, then the poses you did might not be right for you. I encourage students to do their best. No forcing. I teach with a purpose, so if they’re 40 years old and above, I modify the practice.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a yoga teacher?
When your students trust you, when I see them so relaxed after my class, and when I also get to learn from them. That ability to transform a person’s day or how they live their life, both physically and mentally is the most rewarding feeling.
What’s the best compliment you received from a student?
I look so serene? (Laughs)
And how are you as a mentor to your kids?
I’m loving and caring. (Laughs). I’m very patient now actually. If my kids struggle in school work, di na nako kasab-an kaayo. Usahay makasab-an but I give them a hug after. We eat out and talk to them like I’m their friend and that’s good so they can open up to me.
What values do you teach to your children?
One is honesty. If you are honest, you’re free. Free to be yourself wherever or whoever you’re with.
I also teach them compassion and kindness. And have money with integrity. Dili ka manunob. If you have an offer and you’ve already entered an agreement, then stay committed even if someone has a much better offer. I believe in karma. We need to understand that nature doesn’t go in one direction. We say, swerte kaayo ko ron kay daghan offers but sometimes nature takes a different course.
Your yoga philosophy is…
Teach from the heart. This will not only ensure a degree of integrity in how we transmit our teaching with humility, but also offer our students more than just a physical workout. Everything I say or do comes from the highest intention to serve the students, and not to serve myself.
Also, keep doing what you love. Don’t say you want to achieve inner peace today. In your mind, you want to achieve it, so upon meditation, you’ve already set yourself ahead. You’re so eager to achieve that peacefulness that you’re already fighting inside to achieve that. Just sit and relax your mind. Don’t think. This is the state of acceptance and self-awareness.
What do you say to those who are scared to try yoga?
Just try. You have to experience it. It’s not about the headstand or arm balances. Well, maybe in the beginning that you could be your motivation. But as you go deeper into the practice, you’ll be more enlightened. You’ll appreciate a more meaningful existence.
Tell us about your upcoming workshop this year.
Hands on adjustment. I call it extra love. (Laughs) It’s hand-healing. It’s assisting students with care. This is a workshop for students, yoga teachers, aspiring teachers who would like to learn more or hone their skills on assisting, adjusting and giving love.