What year did you attend training? Why did you go?
I went to Teacher Training in Acapulco, Spring 2008. After a few years of a very uncommitted practice – and stretches of time where I simply felt – lets just very bad – I committed to the 30-day challenge. By day 15, I remember walking home from the subway and my feet barely touched the ground. Before the 30 days were over I had signed up for teacher training.
At the time, I thought I was going so that I could have a meaningful job when I wasn’t acting – the “bread and butter jobs” were depressing. It wasn’t until post training that I realized that that was only partially true. In a huge tennis court converted into a hot room at the Princess Hotel in Acapulco practicing two times a day for two months with over 200 hundred people I had the most amazing catharses of my life to date. I shed toxins I had no idea were paralyzing me. Heaviness from my past, my family’s past, the present and fears for the future.
Maja dancing with her Pop
Not to mention, I had danced from the age of three. At some point I gave it up cold turkey. Taking for granted that I had been processing my whole being, through movement, my whole life. Bored by exercise for the sake of exercise, I became physically inert and my mind and body started to backfire. I now know I went to training to heal. The saying is true: we come for vanity and stay for sanity. When I returned I felt myself lighter. Yes, I ultimately lost about 20 lb. and began to look better then I ever remember looking. But the lightness was in my heart. I had committed to something with no agenda other than to improve my person. My mind, body and spirit.
Suddenly there was space in my life. Within a few months, I found myself rehearsing for the Off-Broadway production of Irena’s Vow that was then moved to the Walter Kerr on Broadway.
What is your favorite thing about being a Bikram Yoga instructor?
If you become a teacher by your pupils you’ll be taught … every class I lead I learn. About the postures, the practice, life and myself. Being an instructor enlightens me. Putting my attention on others puts my personal “aches and pains” into a beautiful perspective. Our community is invaluable to me. The day to day exchange with like minded people – people who are working at being their best self – has become my daily dose of inspiration.
Tell us about your own practice. Which posture is most challenging for you and how do you get through it?
Every posture is challenging for me. I am a struggler (giggle). My ego and emotions like to get in the way of every single posture. If I don’t keep myself in check, I can fluctuate between being a tragic Chekhovian heroine and performance monkey before I even start my set up.
These days Standing Bow on my right side is most maddening. I am still twisting my hips ever so slightly – due to my love affair with getting my leg way the heck up there – and I have a funny collapsing arch in my left foot lately – which when I actually use my mindfulness to engage my inner thigh by bringing my body weight forward and square my hips properly instead of focusing on “getting high” … seems to miraculously behave itself! AHHH the tangled web we weave. Pranayama Breathing is my favorite.
When I practice I feel good when I don’t practice I get wonky. The practice keeps my anxieties at bay. For example, I travel frequently to spend time with my elderly father. Caring for an elderly parent can be a challenge. During my visits I practice everyday at Bikram Yoga Detroit – its 10 minutes away from my Dad’s house! The practice refocuses me. The challenge transforms itself into the joy of spending time together.
I have a way to go in my practice. And in my life. My practice is my best friend. I love my best friend.
Outside of yoga, what projects are you involved with? What do you do for fun?
Still from The Immigrant. Photo: Anne Joyce
There is no such thing as “outside of yoga” for me. Yoga is part of all I do. That having been said: I am an actress, signed with Bret Adams Ltd. Always auditioning. majawampuszyc.com. Recently I was in a play called Lady Macbeth and her Lover, by Richard Vetere, which I have since optioned. I am raising money for an early 2017 off-Broadway production directed by Austin Pendleton.
Do what you love and you never work a day in your life. I’m lucky that way. I never work! I love yoga. I love acting. And I love how together they make me expand. They are my way of putting something beautiful in the world. That to me is the greatest fun! But we can add to the mix: swimming, walking, biking, I enjoying wishing I loved running LOL, traveling, SINGING, my friends and family (particularly my Pop), dancing, live music, dressing up, finding a new route in a daily routine, sometimes I paint and write poetry. Going to the beach. Drinking my morning coffee in bed! I could go on and and on – I’m NEVER bored … now that I think of it I kind of find the fun in everything!
Do you have a favorite inspirational quote or saying?
There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Anthem by Leonard Cohen. It is based on Rumi’s: The Wound is the Place where the Light Enters You. I love how Cohen spins it in Anthem.
What are you currently reading or listening to?
Reading: Borowski (it is the darkest of dark).
Listening to: I am really into silence these days.