Meet STEPH CREATURO!
What’s your yoga story? How did you find Mala?
I started yoga after graduating from my Master’s Program, around 1998. I was running across the Williamsburg Bridge with my then-fiance-now-husband and had trouble breathing. It then happened on another run. Hmm, I thought. Odd. See, I was durable girl: I could drink a six-pack of Rolling Rock at the Horseshoe Bar on Avenue B, follow it up with a few shots of tequila at 1984, get home at 4 am, get up at 8 am for a run, then go to work after popping an Advil. And I felt fine. So yeah, unusual.
I was (mis)diagnosed with exercised-induced asthma, was advised to quit running, and given a ton of inhalers and drugs to help me “breathe better.” (Yoga helped me figure out that dairy intolerance was the culprit, but that’s another story.) Stumped and feeling like my best friend running had just moved across the country, thus began the year of being sick – asthma, allergies, sinus infections, low energy – things that had never plagued me before. Desperate and fed up with drugs that made me feel worse, I found a local yoga class. My mom – who had practiced for years – nudged me to do this. I was skeptical. I thought yogis only wore white and chanted and did light stretching. Bor-ing.
During my first class, tree pose bedeviled me and final rest was freaky. I left hating yoga because I couldn’t “do it.” My lack of physical flexibility had nothing on the lack of mental flexibility. I went back because I wanted to get “good” at yoga, no matter what. However, I couldn’t deny that I felt better, both of body and in mind, than I had in months. And this was after just one class! The first few years of my practice were comprised of many “beyond words” experiences, and I kept returning because it just made sense, even when it totally didn’t.
Fast forward what feels like a lifetime later. Yoga’s given me a perspective on the world I never imagine existed. I’m stronger from the inside-out, healthier, and when I screw up in life, the recovery time is faster. I’m still working on that flexibility part!
And how did I find Mala? That’s a funny question. You could say Mala found us. Well, at least the space did. But that might be yet another story for another day.
What pose could you do all day?
Headstand, headstand, headstand. Nothing quite washes the cares of the world and the day away like a long headstand hold. Talk about learning to be in the moment. I also love me a good arm balance sequence. And pranayama. Not a pose, but I do love it.
What pose could you never do again?
I hate wheel. There, I said it. Is it because it took me about a decade to do it? (Yep, total ego stuff here. I’ll cop to it.) Or is because I can’t open my heart because there’s a cold black shriveled piece of coal in its place? You decide.
But, I know I need to bow down 108 zillion times to wheel because it has taught me so much. I got into anatomy because I totally hated when yoga teachers said stuff like “you can’t do wheel because your heart isn’t open.” Look, I am a yoga teacher and I say plenty of stupid shit. I get it. But there’s some stuff that just makes me crazy. Maybe because the teenaged punk rocker in me can’t deal. And I just don’t believe in impossible. Our bodies are like cars that just drive at different speeds – we all get there, eventually.
What are your biggest yoga obstacles and how do you overcome them?
Logging time on my mat. The obstacles are very of this world – a kid, a career, a business, a marriage, friends, trying to read something more intellectually challenging than beauty blogs. Plus, I kicked my running into high gear about a year and a half ago and am training for the Austin Marathon in February. My running and my yoga need each other like peanut butter and jelly, but they are both as demanding as a sick toddler, meaning they need lots of time and attention!
Once I’m on the mat these days, I savor those moments like they are the last drop of honey I’ll ever have. Parenthood and entrepreneurship have certainly taught me that quality and consistency are more important than quantity some days.
And I’m kinda a cynic, smart-ass by nature. That’s a bit of an obstacle to approaching some of the more traditional philosophy/pop-culture parts of the practice with an open mind. It’s softening with age, but only so much.
What was the last Dharma talk that resonated with you?
I am currently taking this great course called The Teacher’s Path. The whole course is one big necessary, amazing, and inspiring dharma talk. My biggest take aways? Time and space. We – as students, as teachers, as humans trying to engage from the heart with other living things – all need more time and space than we ever really realize in the moment.
Since our Guatemala retreat earlier this year, I’m also really into this idea that we are our own point of reference – not anyone else. So much of our world is externally orientated, it is hard for us to go inward, stay inward, and have an inner dialogue of quality that’s more than 140 characters long.
What is your favorite place to get coffee or a drink, post-yoga?
(wait for it) I gave up coffee in the beginning of October, so in addition to my big green juice in my old mason jar, I tote around homemade chai tea with homemade almond milk. The 25 year-old me would laugh so hard at that it isn’t funny. I’ve been known to frequent the bar across the street, but since I’ve given up beer (and, I did have my wedding reception at the Brooklyn Brewery, so this calls for a moment of silence), it’s a small glass of red wine and we call it a night.
If you could practice yoga anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I am blessed to have traveled to some drool-worth yoga spots – India, Costa Rica, Santa Fe, San Diego, Guatemala. As corny as it sounds, I’d practice at Mala.
Early on in my yoga life, I met a longtime practitioner in San Jose, Costa Rica. I commented how peaceful it was on the beach and I wished I could stay, as my practice felt “real.” He waved his hand at me, like he was shooing away my ridiculous comment, and said “It’s easy to practice here. Go home and practice in Times Square. Now, that’s having a yoga practice.” I thought he was bonkers. Now I realize he was a guru.
How has practicing shifted other aspects of your life?
Yoga completely shifted the hard-wiring of my brain and my heart. It is still shifting it – how I’d be in my life now is different than I would have three or five or ten years ago. The simplicity of mountain pose or watching my breath – I love the infinite layers of complexity that undergird the seemingly simple stuff. Thanks to yoga, I continue to understand and value pacing, patience, the moment, and me being my point of reference.
As a Scorpio, I am insanely passionate and committed to whatever I’m doing. The discipline of yoga helps to channel some of that fire.
Most importantly, yoga has taught me – and continues to do so – a lot about failure and recovery time, what happens when we fail, how we fail, the value of doing so, and the tenor of the inner conversation when we fail – because we fail in life. All. The. Time.
In my 30’s, I transitioned from a successful career in the nonprofit sector to being a freelance yoga teacher. Yoga wasn’t as commonplace as it is now, and my transition was seen as unorthodox by friends, colleagues, and family. My husband, aka most amazing man ever, was my chief cheerleader and supporter. I bungled the transition in every way you could possibly imagine, mostly because I lost my mental and emotional tadasana during that time.
Looking back on that difficult period, I am grateful that yoga schooled me in how to be kind to myself, compassionate towards others, that perfect doesn’t exist beyond the current moment, and that a good sense of humor trumps all. Well, except maybe a good down dog assist or a savasana head rub!
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.