The Yogi Next to You


The Yogi Next to You - Lori BongiornoWhat’s your yoga story? How did you find Mala?

I tried yoga a couple of different times as a way to deal with stress during challenging points in my life and never got into it. Wrong time. Wrong place. Wrong teachers. I guess.

In January 2009, I woke up one day and I couldn’t turn my head, not one millimeter. It was literally stuck in place. Could it have something to do with the months and months of tingling in my shoulders that I so dutifully ignored? No doubt, said Rudy, the chiropractor I finally got up enough nerve to go see after three days of lying on the floor dazed on painkillers.

The good news was that he could help me get better. The bad news was that if I didn’t change my lifestyle it would happen again and again. I needed to revamp my workstation and get my body moving most days of the week or I’d be seeing a lot of Rudy. Jogging three times a week while chatting with my friends was just not going to cut it. Rudy prescribed pilates and yoga to counterbalance the 50 hours a week I was logging in on my laptop (now ergonomically correct workstation).

When I could move again, I started pilates and took my friend Liza’s advice and checked out Mala. I stumbled in on Angela’s Saturday basics class and was immediately hooked. Right place. Right time. Right teachers. No doubt.

What pose do you want to do all day? What pose could you never do again?

Pigeon feels great on my sore hip. Extended side angle is another favorite right now. I’m not a big fan of awkward chair.

What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?

Getting on the mat – To get to class, it’s as simple (and hard) as walking out the door even though I feel like I should be staying home to supervise homework, deal with piles of laundry, get a leg up on work deadlines etc. etc. etc. At home, I tell myself that 15 minutes of practice is better than none. If I look for a longer window, it doesn’t happen.

Staying on the mat – While I’ve gotten better at leaving home in the midst of chaos, it can be hard to let it go once I walk into Mala. Not surprisingly, I haven’t found the magic formula for overcoming this. I just try to turn down the volume on the chatter in my brain. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And I try not to be too hard on myself when I can’t let go of my to do list.

Connecting breath and movement — This is a tough one for me because when things get hard I hold my breath (on and off the mat) so I remind myself to breathe.

What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?

The other day Angela was talking about attention and reminding us that we get to choose what we let in and focus on. She told a funny and relatable anecdote about a person who gets pushed out of the way getting onto a crowded subway train and is beaten to a seat. They spend the next five stops focusing on the incident. That’s meditating, Angela said, just on the wrong thing.

Where is your favorite place to get coffee, or a drink, post-yoga?

Coffee – One Girl Cookie or Café Pedlar
Wine – Something to aspire to

If you could practice yoga in the world, where would it be?

Right now, I have my sights on Guatemala in January.

How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?

While I tried yoga for physical reasons, it’s become more than that. Yes, I’ve gotten stronger, my posture has gotten better, and, most importantly my body no longer needs to scream to get my attention. While I happily visit Rudy for periodic tune-ups, I have so far avoided major neck episodes.

Starting yoga at 39 and quickly realizing that there was just no way I was going to immediately stand on my head or glide into wheel has been great for my type-A personality. It has allowed me to let go of expectations and not judge myself too harshly about what I can do on the mat. Instead, I just focus on showing up and trying – the process rather than outcome. After all, what’s the rush? Even when you can stand on your head or do wheel you’re not done with your practice. I’m finding that that outlook is allowing me to ever so slightly adjust my expectations in daily life.

We’re thrilled to bring you the stories of Mala yogis in their own words.  Maybe you know them, maybe you’ve never seen them before, maybe they look familiar, maybe you once knew their name, but forgot.  Whatever the case may be, here is the chance to learn a little more about the person practicing on the mat next to you.  Click here to read about other yogis.


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
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One Response to The Yogi Next to You

  1. I heart Lori. Such a gorgeous practice. Such a gorgeous woman!

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