Long Island Yogini: Mish Volonino by Christine Lynn Harvey

Mish Volonino is a modern-day yogini - a person devoted to the practice of yoga as a way to help empower and enlighten others. As a fitness instructor for 22 years, she started doing yoga about 8 years ago and received her formal training in Rahini Yoga Institute three years ago. She also has training in Pilates. Mish teaches fitness classes at Ladies Express in Lake Grove, Theodorou Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Selden and Bohemia, and she also teaches kid's yoga at Bally's Fitness in Lake Grove.

After years of pounding aerobics and a car accident that gave her a broken pelvic bone, Mish was told by her doctor to try yoga. "From the first time I tried it, I just knew that I felt really, really good. It was a gradual process and I started cutting back on the supercardio and following a more holistic wellness route. The yoga helped me through some really hard times in my life, emotionally and physically. I didn't choose yoga, it chose me and I knew I had to share my love of it."

As for people who are missing out on all the wonderful benefits yoga has to offer, Mish says, "Yoga comes to you when you're ready and when you need it. Unfortunately, people's lives are so hectic and filled up that it's much easier to make up an excuse not to do it." But Mish does her best to sell the world on the wonders of yoga, especially seniors who think they're too old, or too inflexible to begin a yoga practice.

"I teach with a lot of compassion because many are extremely intimidated by it. Since there are so many styles and disciplines of yoga, I wish that I could convey to the extreme yoginis and yogins out there that you cannot walk into mainstream America and have this look because they are going to be turned off by it. There is no reason why every single person from a baby to someone who is 90 can not benefit from yoga."

Mish looks like the typical suburban Mom, with a husband and kids to care for that makes it easy for first-time yoga students to feel comfortable with her. "I have the same exact stuff going on in my life as everyone else. I relate better with older women because they have so much knowledge to relate to the world. We are all going to be at this level some day and we should learn from our elder's experience." Mish takes her message into senior citizen centers and other places where an elder population can be found. "Why wouldn't you want to learn something that will definitely increase the quality of your life? There's medical evidence that shows being physically fit wards off Alzheimers and other illnesses of the mind and body. As we get older, everything changes and if you don't take care of yourself, especially in retirement years, who will? Yoga works very well for seniors."

Mish is rewarded with emails from her senior clients attesting that the yoga makes them feel younger and that the aches and pains are gone. "It's not an ego trip," she says, "just confirmation that I'm on the right path. I know for most people, yoga is a fad, or a status symbol, but for our older population, it's essential. Yoga is also great for kids cause it helps them stay focused. A good instructor will modify yoga to fit their students' levels and needs."

Yoga also teaches you to be more in tune with your body and be more mindful. But yoga aside, Mish's family comes first. She has been married 17 years and has 15 and 11 year-old boys. Then her community is second. "Seva is Sanskrit is giving of yourself without expecting anything in return. I am a firm believer in giving back to the community." Mish does a lot of fitness charity events, (she was the guest warm-up presenter at the MS Walk at Jones Beach on May 13, 2006 where 5,000 walkers turned out) and she does fundraising for the local schools. She also teaches yoga to children at Camp Comfort, a camp for children who have their parents to cancer. She also does a workshop on the surviving parents to help them deal with their emotions caused by the loss of their spouse.

"It's a very good thing to give back. I get more from that than teaching my regular fitness classes. Joy from the people, that's what keeps me focused, knowing what's important in life. Just think of me as a vessel to help you open up to yourself and all you can be!"

For more info, contact Mish Volonino at www.mishoga.com, mishoga@optonline.net or call 631-648-3982.