Welcome to the NJYC, Breathe Life Sangha!
We absolutely love rolling out the red carpet (yoga mat?) for studios and teachers who are ready to dive in and dig deep, and we are SO excited to introduce you to Regina Esparra Pietersen, the co-owner and founder of Breathe Life Sangha.
Regina founded the studio with her partner, Gabrielle Brokaw; these two women are working every single day to offer a practice that gives students the strength to be present, develop mind-body awareness, and recognize who they are and what they need.
As Regina told us:
I want to stress that yoga shouldn’t be viewed as a means to get “in shape”, though there ARE many physical benefits. I want my students to experience how a daily practice, incorporating the eight limbs of yoga, will help them mentally, physically, emotionally. And more than that, allow them to feel youthful, mobile, and mentally agile WELL into old age. Yoga allows you to perceive the imbalances in all dimensions of your being, recognize patterns, be present in your life, and develop that mind-body awareness that can be a blissful part of your practice. It gives you the strength to recognize what you want but more importantly what you need!
So who is Regina? Here’s a quick “yoga” bio for you:
Regina is 200 hour certified yoga instructor, E-RYT200 and YACEP (Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider). Regina is trained in Vinyasa, Hatha, and Bhakti Yoga. She is Buddha Body certified by Michael Hayes to teach yoga to people of every and any size. Regina received her Ropes and Slings Certification studying under Alison West, an Iyengar teacher and owner of Yoga Union in New York City who was recently named one of the top influential yoga teachers. She currently offers beginner, restorative and intermediate level classes to private and corporate clients, as well as group classes.
Regina opened Breathe Life Yoga Studio in Toms River, NJ in 2015 which she merged with Sangha Yoga. Regina holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and was working toward a Masters degree in Psychology. She is currently undergoing training for her 500 hour RYT Training with the Himalayan Institute and her 800 hour Yoga Therapy License with Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy Program and Brandt Passalaqua.
Now let’s go deeper!
Regina is also a warrior. She underwent lap band surgery in 2013 and lost 80 pounds. After physically transforming, Regina began training for triathlons. She incorporated yoga to ward of injuries, but quickly noticed that it was a hugely beneficial practice for stress management, especially while attending graduated school, running a family business, raising two small children, and working a full-time job. Yoga helped Regina clear her mind, stay positive, and just simply feel better. Her goal today? Regina wants to share these benefits with others. Her two favorite mottos are “Simple doesn’t always mean easy” and “Slow, mindful movement is the new strong”.
Let’s get to the interview!
NJYC: When did you first start practicing yoga?
Regina: I first tried yoga in my 30s but came back to it in 2013. I originally didn’t take yoga seriously because when I tried it in my 30s I was more into triathlons and weight lifting. Back then I was just seeing it as a physical practice.
NJYC: What a difference time makes! How do you practice and teach now?
Regina: I want my students to feel that they were able to connect their breath with their mind and body. I want them to come away feeling whole, fulfilled, and happy in their bodies. I want to stress that yoga shouldn’t be viewed as just a means to get “in shape”. Yes there are many physical benefits, but I want everyone to realize that a daily practice, incorporating the eight limbs in a safe manner, will help you mentally, physically, emotionally and more than that, allow you to be youthful, mobile, and mentally agile well into old age. Yoga allows you to perceive the imbalances in all dimensions of your being, recognize patterns, be present in your life, and develop that mind-body awareness that can be a blissful part of your practice. It gives you the strength to recognize what you want but more importantly what you need.
NJYC: Love it. What does “Namaste” mean to you?
Regina: Namaste to me means that we are all divine, that we are part of the divine and that I honor you, me and everyone as part of all that is divine.
NJYC: Tell us how the practice has transformed you.
Regina: I was super stressed and felt like I wasn’t handling many aspects of my life well. I had lost a lot of weight, but had residual injuries that didn’t handle the stress of being overly active as I was in my 20s and 30s. I had negative thought patterns that weren’t helpful to my overall well-being. After re-discovering yoga and making it a regular part of my life, I came to appreciate all the benefits and fell in love with everything about it. I decided I wanted it to be a part of my life permanently and to be able to share these benefits with as many people as I can. The timing of my studio was interesting, challenging, and in many ways exactly what I needed; I had just been laid off from my full-time hospital job (after 13 years) and my children were older. I was able to take the time for me and see how I wanted to live the rest of my life.
NJYC: What prompted you to open your own space? What’s been the biggest hurdle to overcome as a studio owner?
Regina: I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit and felt the best way to see my vision come to fruition was to be a studio owner and hire like-minded teachers! My biggest hurdles as an owner definitely come in the form of attachments.I try to stress that change is a GOOD thing, whether it’s a new teacher, a new type of class, or even just new mat space in the studio. I love to see when students awaken for different experiences. The often unexpected moments of amazement and awe are very rewarding, for me and them.
NJYC: And what’s your style on the mat?
Regina: My style of yoga is more of a hatha, slow vinyasa style. When I personally practice, I love being fully present in my body and breathing through all the postures and how it makes me feel so I try to bring that same experience to everyone.
NJYC: What are your biggest “aha” moments?
Regina: There have been a couple! The realization that my breath is my greatest guide and the biggest indicator of how balanced I am emotionally, mentally, and physically. The seeing that I am okay and always will be okay no matter what happens around me. The knowing that everything does truly happen for a reason and that these can be teaching moments. The learning that I have control over my own actions. The chance to always be a better person.
NJYC: What is your dream for the studio?
Regina: To build a community where people come to heal and grow.
NJYC: Okay! One more. What’s your favorite quote to share?
Regina: My favorite quote that I read to my class: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity, a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. There is no situation or circumstance so small or large that it is not susceptible to gratitude’s power” by Melody Beattie from The Language of Letting Go.
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