The quote in the photo reads, “Send out love and harmony, put your mind and body in a peaceful place, and then allow the universe to work in the perfect way that it knows how.” While speaking to Carol Shwidock, the owner & instructor of Harmony Yoga, we sat on the floor of her studio in downtown Stamford and listened to her story about finding her passion through the teaching and practice of yoga.
Her journey began as an occupational therapist, a job she held for 25 years. She comes from a family of OT’s, so it was a logical career to get into. She described her love for helping the people she worked with, but began to wonder, “What’s next?”. Carol was in a yoga studio on September 11th, 2001. The events of the day and a confluence of other events were the impetus for her to give her notice and move on from occupational therapy. During that time and after, yoga kept popping up in her life as if it was presenting her with the answer to, “What’s next?”. She had a home renovation that created an opportunity for a yoga space and a party conversation with a friend (who happened to be a career counselor!) who agreed that she should go for it. Carol received her 200 hour Kripalu Certification and the beginning stages of Harmony Yoga were underway.
Carol also described her relationship with her late husband. I believe that we are known by the way our loved ones speak about us. If that is true, this was a truly special man who had a truly special bond with his wife. He suffered from Autoimmune Liver Disease and, in 2011, Carol donated 60% of her liver to save his life. It bought them more time together, but eventually the disease returned and he passed on. Carol’s telling of their story was both tragic and beautiful and her strength and control were apparent even as her emotions came through. We have so little control over what’s happening around us, but we can control our breathing. Carol noted, “It only takes 16 seconds to flip from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system”. This means that we can move from a “stressed state” to a “rest state” with 16 seconds of breathing.
Carol considers herself a “Yoga Therapist”, the combination of her personal experiences, work as an OT and knowledge of Yoga. “If you want to workout, go the gym. If you want to work-in, come to Harmony Yoga”, Carol claimed. She creates her classes based on who is in attendance and her focus is getting people engaged rather than extreme poses.
“I have a guide of what I want to talk about, but I leave room to speak to what’s happening with the individuals in front of me. The moment when people ‘get it’ inspires me, I like to watch people get turned on to yoga.”
I always try to walk away from our interviews with a new understanding of the industry. What I continue to find is, that no matter the discipline, the application by the instructor and the reasons for why they do it are the real differentiator. It’s not about finding a yoga studio, or a fitness class, it’s about finding the one that speaks to you.