BuddhiBhakti – Joanna McNelis’ story










Namaste Buddhis. Very excited to start the BuddhiBhakti Blog series with the beautiful and radiant Joanna McNelis. Many know her as yogagoddess_jo on Instagram & Twitter. Her inspiring photos and messages are uplifting, she is such a beautiful presence. Joanna was kind enough to answer some question for me about her journey, her yoga life, and her inspirations. Hope you enjoy! Namaste. 

Q:Share with us why you started practicing yoga? What is your yoga story?

A: I started practicing in college.  I was experiencing anxiety and looking for natural relief.  It was love at first class and soon became Me – how I lived, how I ate (vegetarian), how I loved, how I worked (helping others as a social Worker/Therapist). It impacted every part of my life and really brought me to life.

Q: What inspires you and motivates your practice?

A: At this point, yoga is just my way of life.  I don’t even consider it a practice.  It’s just how I live.  It keeps me balanced, grounded and happy. I love it and feel incomplete without it. And I will always consider myself an ever-learning student.

Q: What do you have to have when you practice? Like a certain type of water, tea or a favorite mat or strap?

A: At-home practice – I take a hot epsom salt bath first then lots of stretching. 

Studio (& At-Home) Practice – I always have a Mason Jar filled with Aloe Water with a wheetgrass shot to drink.  I  pick out a Mala and a couple crystals that are “calling” me that day and lay them on the corner of my mat. And I always have a comfy Mexican blanket on top of my mat.  Oh, and a journal – to jot down notes and ideas for sequences, classes, myself, etc..

Q: What do you love most about being a yoga instructor?

A: Helping people. I feel it’s my calling. Whether it be to help them recognize their own potential, help them face a fear, help them relax, help them get relief from a physical/medical condition, etc.  especially relaxing.  Our Society is so “Go. Go. Go”.  It’s nice to show them they can hit pause, practice self-care and let themselves unwind. 

Q: What is your favorite yoga posture? Why?

A. Hip Openers.  Love them all.  Lizard Pose, Cradle Pose and Bound Angle Pose, SugarCane pose are a few of my favorites.  We hold a lot of tension in our hips and the mental and physical release from them is very refreshing and rewarding 

Q: Favorite song on your playlist right now?

A. Take Me to Church – Hozier

Q: Would you share one of your playlists with us?

A.  Sure.  I am not sure how exciting others would find them – they usually consist of Grateful Dead, Marley & CSNY

Q: Favorite quote?

A. “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

~ William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Q: What do you do when you are not practicing yoga?

A: For pleasure – any time spent with my husband is fabulous. I enjoy watching movies (romantic comedies), dinner or lunch out with friends/family, taking walks, Solo-Dance parties (when I’m alone), raunchy jokes, sitting on our front porch and chatting with my husband for hours while watching the rain and enjoying some wine or green tea, writing and drinking black coffee. Such a simple pleasure, but those few moments every morning with my coffee are pure bliss.  I am also a total Spa Junkie.  Love going – massages, pedicures, ear candling – love it all.  And cuddling with our 3 cats is always a bonus. 

Work- I am also a Certified Holistic Life Coach  and non-practicing (except self) Reiki Practitioner

Q: If you could go back to a place/time in your life and re-live it, what would it be and why?

A: High School – only to make some smooth moves on my husband.  We didn’t get together and date until 17 years after we graduated.  It would have been nice to be with my Soulmate earlier.  Everything happens for a reason though, I guess it wasn’t our time.

Q: Biggest life lesson?

A: Take the plunge and go for your dreams. Just to believe in myself and my capabilities .  I waited way too long to attend YTT and teach Yoga because I lacked faith in myself for awhile. I also waited too long to realize my self-worth and be in a reciprocal, unconditional and loving relationship. 

Q: What is your life mantra?

A: I have many.  Some in Sanskrit, some as simple as “Relax”.  Currently: Courage, dear heart…

About: Joanna’s Yoga journey started 19 years ago at The Himalayan Institute in Buffalo, NY, when she took her very first Yoga Class in 1995. She studied and practiced Hatha Yoga there, as well as Meditation and Ayurveda, up until 2008 when she moved back to her hometown of Rochester, NY. Maintaining her Hatha Yoga practice, as well as studied and practiced Kundalini Yoga (which she incorporates into her practice) and Vinyāsa Flow Yoga, as well.

In the beginning of 2013 she started studying and practicing Iyengar Yoga (maintaining her Hatha roots) and in the Fall of 2013 was trained under Judith Lasater as a Relax and Renew® Restorative Yoga Instructor. Subsequently, she also became certified as a Reiki Practitioner and a Certified Holistic Life Coach (CLHC). In June 2014, she graduated from Francois Raoult’s ETT (Essential Teacher Training) program at Open Sky Yoga in Rochester, New York (YTT-200). She is registered with Yoga Alliance (RYT-200) with 450 hours of teacher training. She considers herself a grassroots, ever-learning student of Yoga & Ayurveda.

She attended the University at Buffalo, Advanced Standing Social Work Program and holds a Masters Degree & NYS Licensure in Social Work (LMSW) and is a Certified Auricular Acupuncturist (ADS) through NADA. She was an active Licensed Psychotherapist for over 14 years of her career, before becoming a Yoga Instructor and Holistic Life Coach. Her Social Work background marries beautifully with teaching yoga and life coaching. She maintains her Social Work roots and continues to volunteer for many organizations and charities.

Joanna continues to practice and teach Hatha, Iyengar & Restorative Yoga, focusing on alignment.

Connect with Joanna online at http://yogawithjo.co/ or @yogagoddess_jo on Instagram & Twitter


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