When Maryam Ovissi initiated “Love Your Body-Northern Virginia Yoga and Wellness Day” five years ago, little did she realize how quickly this annual event would grow.
Set this year for Sunday, June 9, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Reston Town Center, Ovissi, founder and owner of the Beloved Yoga studios in Reston and Great Falls, is delighted with the event’s rapid growth. She expects approximately 5,000 participants to attend this Sunday, including yoga professionals and the general public.
“Love Your Body-Northern Virginia Yoga and Wellness Day” is the kick off event for 2013 Virginia Yoga Week, June 9-16. She describes it as a day to “celebrate commUNITY with Northern Virginia’s best yoga instructors and alternative health-care providers.”
Noncompetitive in nature, Ovissi’s motivation in establishing the event, she recalled, was to make all forms of yoga as “accessible” as possible. “It is my gift to the community—the yoga community and the community at-large.”
A teacher (or “yogini”) of vinyasa yoga and viniyoga, Ovissi, 39, has been practicing yoga for 15 years and teaching it for the past 10.
Named after the “eight limbs of yoga,” Vinyasa, a vigorous form of yoga in which breathing technique is extremely important, is the root of many other yoga forms, she explained.
Viniyoga is an approach that allows the teacher to adapt techniques to the unique needs and interests of each individual.
Both approaches are particularly suited to Ovissi’s style and personality. “I’m not dogmatic but accessible,” she said, again using one of her favorite words. “I don’t teach set sequences but encourage creativity.”
Prior to devoting her professional life to yoga, Ovissi was a curator and owner of a gallery in Northern California, specializing in contemporary Iranian-American art. A Reston resident, she keeps her connection to the art world and nurtures her “creative spirit” by serving on the board of directors of the Greater Reston Arts Center.
Ovissi emigrated to the United States with her family when she was six years old after the fall of the Shah of Iran. She grew up in Reston and attended Langston Hughes Middle School and Herndon High School. After moving on to Boston and California, she returned to the area in 2001 “ready to give back to my community. I absolutely love Reston.”
Family is important to Ovissi, and “Love Your Body-Northern Virginia Yoga and Wellness Day” is definitely a family affair with her husband and two sons, 18 and nine years old, all participating. “It’s all hands on deck,” she said, noting her 18-year-old is part of her 30-plus Beloved Yoga staff, too.
Her husband Daryl Pendleton is an equally well-known personal trainer and yoga teacher, who founded Kamp Pendleton Personal Training, now with two locations in Reston, after he trained clients at the Camp Pendleton Marine Base in San Diego.
It was Pendleton, she noted, who came up with the name “Love Your Body-Northern Virginia Yoga and Wellness Day.”
Forty Northern Virginia yoga studios and wellness centers will offer classes for all ages, provide services and share information at the free-admission June 9 event.
Among the family-oriented activities will be: diverse yoga classes, complimentary massages, energy healing and chiropractic demonstrations, healthy food samples, plus opportunities to learn about alternative healing therapies such as Reiki.
There also will be live music and a Kids Yoga Tent, where children of all ages may enjoy free classes and activities all day.
In addition, there will be drawings for free yoga classes, massages and other services, plus other giveaways. Although admission is free, donations to benefit Reston Interfaith will be encouraged.
In its first year, “Love Your Body-Northern Virginia Yoga and Wellness Day” occupied only the Reston Town Center Pavilion. This year it will stretch on both sides of the street all the way from the Pavilion and Mercury Fountain area to the Bow Tie Cinema.
Among Ovissi’s many fans is Paco Rodriguez, who grew up in Reston and whose late mother Ann Rodriguez was executive director of the Arts Council of Fairfax County.
Now a personal chef and a chef at yoga retreats, Rodriguez, 42, who will soon be leaving to work at a retreat outside Rome, Italy, said, “I know lots and lots of yoga instructors. … Maryam is an inspired teacher. … She’s devoted to the importance and long history of yoga. She’s incredibly knowledgeable about the different ways it is practiced. … She makes her teaching personal.”
Marion Myers, president and founder of Myers Public Relations in Reston, is another of Ovissi’s admirers. A private client since 2010, Myers, 57, credits her one-on-one sessions with Ovissi with greatly helping her deal with joint pain. Ovissi, Myers said, also recently helped her prepare for hip surgery and worked with her after during rehab.
“What’s nice about yoga, Myers suggested, is that it is excellent for stretching muscles, toning and non-impact movement within the limits of what an individual can do.”
She added, “I’m a high energy person, and after an hour, I’m relaxed and right where I need to be.”
For Ovissi, teaching is the highest form of service. “It’s an honor,” she said, “to share what I love and believe, to get connected to bodies and minds … to be part of that process of awakening.”