Office Yoga: An Interview With Maryam Sharifzadeh
Maryam Sharifzadeh, the CEO of Office Yoga, will be holding San Francisco’s first Office Yoga Teacher Training program from March 3rd - March 5th, 2017. Thank you Maryam, for this inspiring interview!
How was Office Yoga created?
Office Yoga started very organically. I was in transition between jobs and teaching for one company. I had the idea to teach a few more Office Yoga classes to help pay rent while I tried to figure out my next move. I walked up and down the building I was currently teaching in and businesses were very responsive to having office yoga. I saw an opportunity to offer yoga to a broader demographic in San Francisco while creating more job opportunities for my peers.
When did you get into the Office Yoga industry?
I started back in 2012 with my first client, Moovweb and I still work with them to this day.
What is one of the perks of being an office yoga teacher?
I see the same folks consistently every week. This helps create trust and connection with students and leads to faster progress in their practice. Another perk is having a stable income at higher rates than yoga studios, which allows me more time to enjoy other activities.
Congratulations on Hosting San Francisco’s first Office Yoga Teacher Training. What are your hopes for other entrepreneurial yogis?
I hope to inspire other yoga teachers to stick with the path of teaching. It’s difficult to support yourself as a new instructor in San Francisco. Teaching office yoga creates more working opportunity for teachers, allowing them to make a livable income while still doing what they love, teaching yoga.
How do you start your yoga classes for Office Yoga? Do you tune in, invoke prayer and chant mantras?
It depends on the vibe of the group when they come in. If they are antsy, fidgety or stressed, I get them moving right away to get the rajasic energy out. If they are tired or overworked, I start seated with breath work and intention setting and then slowly get them moving. I try to meet them where they are at and bring them to a more balanced, sattvic place.
How important is meditation in a yoga practice? What do you like most about yoga?
Meditation is a daily practice for me and incredibly important for my mental health. I alternate between visualization meditation and psychic development techniques that I learned from Sri Dharma Mittra, one of my teachers in New York. I shower every day to keep my body clean, I meditate everyday to keep my mind clean.
What I love most about yoga is that it’s universal, it doesn’t exclude any being. It is incredibly accessible and anyone can do it.
Which style of yoga do you teach in Office Yoga?
It depends on the group. If I have a younger, more athletic crowd, usually with start ups, I will teach a vinyasa style class. If it’s an older, more traditional company, I will teach a hatha style class. I tend to do a combination of modalities to fit the audience in front of me.
The secret of teaching yoga in an office is to learn how to know your student, and adapt instruction based on the room you're in. Sometimes an Office Yoga instructor will teach chair yoga or around a conference table.
Will it be a Yoga in the Office Guides and Instructors Association (YOGIA) certification?
Yes, once students have finished the training they will be members of YOGIA, which is a network that provides a resources and continuing education for Office Yoga instructors across the nation. We connect Office Yoga brands on a national scale, and encourage wellness networking and brand partnerships.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself primarily leading Office Yoga trainings along the west coast and helping develop YOGIA. Eventually we would like to have insurance cover yoga and meditation for all employees in all offices. YOGIA is part of a larger effort for medical insurance to contribute to the cost of holistic care, like yoga, proven by medical science to have enormous preventative health benefits.
What do you do to continually improve your practice?
I meditate and read a short scripture from the texts everyday. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are my favorite. They provide bite sizes chunks of wisdom to chew on. On a deeper scale, I do trainings and workshops to keep the fire burning. I also practice with Stephanie Snyder, my teacher here in San Francisco. The secret to being a good Office Yoga teacher is teaching often, and in diverse spaces.
Do you prefer to instruct small groups, large groups, or one-on-one? How do you ensure your students are practicing safely?
I don't have a preference over either setting. If I'm teaching one student or 100 students, I love it all. My approach is different depending on the size of the group. I ensure safety by walking around and assessing the room. A great benefit to teaching Office Yoga is having the same students every week. Once you get to know their bodies and capabilities it’s much easier to plan safe and effective sequencing.
What is your life's philosophy?
Do what makes you happy without hurting anyone else. I like to measure success by how much fun I am having. I love the work I do, so it doesn’t feel like work.
Do you have anything you would like to share to the readers?
The two best mantras Steph ever taught me, “Thank you” and “I love you.”
If you are interested in the Office Yoga teacher training click here>>>