We're very excited to bring you this interview with Stephanie McQuillian, who will be returning to Suncokret as a co-hosting teacher from August 23-29th.
During her stay as a retreat guest back in 2012, I got to know Stephanie on a personal level and noted to myself what a gracious and dedicated yogini she is. So when I realized I would be on maternity leave this season, Stephanie was one of the first teachers / former guests of ours who popped into my mind as a wonderful replacement teacher in my stead.
So, Stephanie, please tell our readers a little about yourself; what else do you do besides teach yoga?
When I’m not on my mat, I’m either working at a local chiropractor’s office, studying Ayurveda or painting something. It’s a really great mix that gives me the ability to tap into all aspects of my personality. I love the interactions I have with everyone who comes into the office to get adjusted. I really enjoy the time I get to delve into the science of Ayurveda to find different ways that I can help myself and others find balance in their lives.
I’m also in the midst of starting my own little small business of furniture ‘re-hab.’ I’ve been painting furniture for years now, saving one piece at a time from their inevitable demise of a landfill. I love reestablishing the beauty of piece that, at no fault of it’s own, has since been deemed the ‘ugly duckling.’ Our home is filled with them, so I thought I’d offer my services to others, saving one piece at a time.
When I’m not doing any of the above, I really love getting out on our boat heading to a number of the beautiful beaches that we’re fortunate enough to have so close by.
All of the above, excluding my time in the office, is done with our dog Sam, who is the best sidekick ever!
How did you get into yoga?
By chance. I had recently moved home after college and my friend and I went to our first class. It was in an old mill that had been converted into commercial / multi-use spaces. The incense filled, bohemian styled space was gorgeous, I was lucky enough to have a great teacher and the time worked with my schedule. I was hooked. I had heard somewhere that on average, you ‘fall off your mat’ three times in life, before it ‘sticks’. This struck a cord with me, because that’s what happened. Yes, after my first experience, I was hooked. However, life changed, we moved out of state and I stopped practicing when other things started to take precedence (like moving, working, renovating a home etc. etc... life.)
I found that I had had enough of all that and needed to recharge, so I found another yoga class & studio that worked with my schedule, and again I was hooked. More life changes took place, it seemed I no longer had the time to dedicate to my yoga practice.
However, the third time I made it back to my practice, I noticed and really truly recognized the benefits I was experiencing; clearer thoughts, calmer states of being and an overall sense of lightness of mind & body. Over the years I’ve come to realize I don’t need a studio or a schedule to dictate my yoga practice. My yoga practice is within ME. I can practice on or off my matt, in my car, the line at the market (particularly when I’ve picked the ‘wrong’ line, AGAIN!) I know that all I need to do is ground into my feet, breathe & remind myself that I’m exactly where I need to be in this given moment.
What was your life like before yoga?
Interestingly enough, my life itself wasn’t too different. What’s changed is my reaction to life. Without doubt, life has ups and downs. Without the downs you wouldn’t have the ups. Life isn’t meant to be static. It’s dynamic. It’s forever changing & at times can be a whirlwind.
It’s my time on my mat and in my practice that I’ve learned how to navigate the chaos of life with a little more patience and grace. It’s helped me to recognize that hardships in life are temporary and the sweetness of life is just around the corner. We just have to ground down and breathe OR conversely, lighten up and let go.
What do you love most about yoga?
There’s a LOT, but my #1 would be learning how to breath, which sounds ridiculous, however it’s so true. Most of us take breathing for granted. It’s so incredible what actually takes place within the body, in order for it to happen AND we just take it for granted. When we’re unaware of what’s happening with our breath, we’re breathing mostly in our chest, which can unknowingly create a stress for the body. When we start to breath more mindfully, the effects on our mind and body are truly amazing. I’m so thankful I have connected with this aspect of yoga.
What style of yoga would you do or teach if you weren’t doing or teaching your current style?
It’s only a matter time that I delve more into Kundalini more. It’s such a fascinating practice to me and I look forward to the opportunity!
What was your best class teaching / group event experience?
Overall, I love everyone’s reactions as they awaken out of savasana. It’s like a mini re-birth for that day. It’s like a human re-set button. No matter what’s happened during the day or the week, sometimes all you need is time on your mat to just find yourself again. When people offer feedback at the end of class and they say, “that’s exactly what I needed...” I just get so excited for them, because I know exactly what they mean.
The BEST, was when one student, who had been battling cancer, shared with me that it’s his time on his mat that made him feel the best he’s felt in a long time. That was extremely touching and rewarding. I am almost certain my heart exploded with utter joy for him.
Besides yoga, what is your favorite thing?
Hands down, being on a beach on a warm sunny day with my husband, Derek, and our big yellow dog Sam (add an ice cream cone in there and it might as well be heaven).
What was your favorite thing about coming to Suncokret as retreat guest?
Pretty much everything!
I loved the cozy B&B style setting. I loved the view out my window of the rolling hills & St Ana’s Church. I loved starting and ending my day with yoga... in ALL the spaces we practiced, whether it was on the yoga deck or on the bluffs of the Adriatic Sea.
The food...the meals that Stipe prepared were delicious. You could sense the love and compassion that they were prepared with.
I was lucky enough to share my experience with Evening and a really great group of women.
Dol is also a magical place!
What do you hope guests will gain by attending your event at Suncokret? (How do you hope to enhance the retreat experience with your particular offerings?)
I hope the retreat participants gain a new perspective on why they feel how they feel, rather than thinking how they feel is normal or just the way it is.
We’re all built very differently from one another. We’ve all had very different experiences that have gotten us where we are in life until this point. Yet we’ve accepted the notion that one diet or one type of exercise is a ‘one-size fits all.’ It’s not.
We need to start listening to our own bodies. Really truly listen. From there we can start making small changes in our daily routine to help our body & mind find balance.
When we arrive on our mat, it gives us the opportunity to really take a moment to check in with ourselves; what body showed up today and we work from there.
In short, I hope the students can find a deeper connection of self and an easier route to letting go. Often times it from there, where we find our authentic self.
Why would attending your particular event be beneficial to the participants who join?
It’s a great opportunity to take time out for oneself. We’re constantly doing, doing, doing & going, going, going… Schedules can be a bit hectic. It’s important to take time out for yourself and connect with your body, mind & spirit. The introduction to Ayurveda will also help get a handle on what seems to have been eluding them, in terms of how to help them feel better using such tools.
Is there any ideal way retreat participants can better prepare themselves for their retreat time with you?
Just come with an open mind, let go of expectation and just enjoy all the beautiful things that will surround them while on the island!
At the end of the event week, what is the one thing you hope retreat participants will walk away feeling?
I hope they feel lighter in spirit & recharged. In addition to that, I hope they feel more empowered by learning a bit more about their constitution, whether they’re Vata, Pitta, Kapha or more likely, any combination of the three.
What is your favorite place to visit on Hvar?
It’s tough to pick. I really loved ALL the villages I experienced while on Hvar. They all had delicious ice cream, beautiful beaches & cute shops!
What advice would you give to aspiring yoga teachers?
Be true to what resonates with YOU and share that.