Both originally from the US, Shari and Melissa live and teach in Italy and lead many retreats all year round from Greece to Morocco. Find out how their paths crossed on their yoga journey.
Tell us a little bit about yourself… Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Shari: I grew up in Florida, studied in Los Angeles and lived in San Francisco for over 12 years before moving to Florence, Italy. I studied in Florence during college and fell in love with the country—the culture, the people, the food, the language, the art….I could go on and on!
Melissa: I am a native Floridian. Born in Miami and raised in Fort Lauderdale. I grew up with a very sporty family. We were scuba divers, surfers and all around beach people. I went to university at NYU and studied Classical Theatre and creative writing. I lived in Manhattan form 1999-2009. I currently live in Florence, Italy.
How did you meet each other?
Shari: Before I moved to Florence, it occurred to me that after 9 years of practicing yoga, I should advance my practice and become certified. Melissa had a 200hour program at her studio and I signed up. We became friends during the training.
Melissa: Shari registered for a 200 YTT in May 2010 at my studio in Florence. Italy. We became friends during the training.
Where do you currently teach and what is a typical day like for you?
Shari: I teach at Melissa’s studio in Florence, 19rYoga & Pilates. It is an Ashtanga studio. I like to do an Ashtanga Flow incorporating advanced postures, and a dynamic playlist in a fast-paced flow.
Melissa: I teach Ashtanga Yoga and Pilates mat. I teach at my studio 19r three times a day. My classes are traditional Ashtanga in the morning after my Pilates mat class and in the evening I teach a sequence called “Rocket” which is the first and second series of Ashtanga combined into one sequence.
How many years have you been teaching? Who were you mostly influenced by?
Shari: I have been teaching for about 2 years between the studio, workshops and retreats and private instruction. I have a great list of teachers and influencers from all over the globe. I am an admirer of Rusty Wells and Rhiannon Fink in San Francisco, international instructors Tara Stiles, Kathryn Budig and Kino MacGregor. And of course my incredible teachers from my 200-hour training, Melissa and Donovan Hicks.
Melissa: I have been teaching since 2009. I started teaching in San Francisco’s china town under the guidance of Reed Taylor. I have many brilliant guiding forces. I first found Ashtanga thru Reed Taylor (www.methodyoga.com) and Larry Schultz. As I continued to study I met Lino Milele, David Regelin, Carol Diamond, Janet Stone. Donovan Hicks and have followed the careers of Kino Mac Gregor and David Swenson.
You have some retreats coming up, tell us a little about them.
We always offer retreats in Italy, but then we add one or two more locations. This year our first retreat is in Essaouria, Morocco, March 16-21, at a stunning riad near the ancient port city. Daily yoga will be practiced in a specially made yoga studio with incredible meals, gorgeous rooms and excursions like a beach-side camel ride and trip to the souks!
Our Easter Retreat, March 28-April 1 is in the gorgeous town of Umbertide in Italy. The retreat takes place at a gorgeous Villa. The yoga studio has views of the green, rolling hills. Delicious, vegetarian meals made with ingredients from the land. Plus, a fun Jazz night excursion in Perugia and Easter Sunday brunch. Optional wine tasting, chocolate factory tour, horseback riding and hiking. Perfect for couples of even families.
Our first summer retreat, June 1-8, takes place at the sea in Lagonissi, Greece. The location is a private home with views of the Mediterranean. All rooms are shared with plenty of shared bathrooms and space to relax. Daily yoga in a special designed space with fresh sea breezes blowing through. Delicious vegetarian meals with Greek and Italian influences. All-day boat excursion to different islands, trip to Acropolis, dinner in town. Walk to local beaches.
Positano, Italy, August 4-11 ends our summer retreats. This is our 3rd summer at La Selva along the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Breathtaking views of the jewel coast from every angle. Fresh, incredible meals with amazing ingredients from the land. Daily yoga overlooking the sea or in a partially covered space with views of the famous Amalfi cliffs. The rooms are charming, comfortable and all shared. La Selva is only accessible via foot, so this is a real retreat for serious yogis and those who do not mind walking up or down the cliff to get into town.
What inspires you to lead these retreats? and what makes them special?
Shari: for me, as a fairly new instructor, inspiration comes from the location. I love being in a studio, but there is nothing more incredible than teaching in India and having an elephant walk by! The sounds of crickets in Positano, the ocean breeze in Belize, the rooftop views of Florence. This is what makes the retreats so incredible and special.
Melissa: I believe that when you take individuals out of their everyday life, they are able to finally let go of their roles as mothers, wives, executives etc. and are able to really concentrate and center themselves in there practice. A retreat is a time dedicated to yourself for yourself and I love being able to guide them thru this time of surrender and love.
How has yoga been transformational in your life?
Shari: Before Italy, I worked as an account director, producer, writer, project manager for many clients, large and small. At the end of the day, it was rare that anyone really appreciated what I did. When I began teaching, there wasn’t a lesson that went by where someone didn’t say something wonderful to me. I have realized it isn’t about the money, but knowing I have done something to help another person.
Melissa: There was life before and after I found yoga. In my first life (prior to Yoga) I was an actor in New York City. The film and theatre industry are very challenging in many ways I had come to a point where I needed something more nurturing and giving. I had always dreamed of helping people like Audrey Hepburn thru media and the arts. Yoga allowed me to be creative and nurturing to those on a path of peace. I have been able to fulfill the dream of giving love and guidance to those needing a hand in there times of question and want. This is yoga to me.
What advice do you give your students looking to change themselves through Yoga?
Shari: Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect transformation overnight as this is a lifetime practice. Don’t compare yourself to anyone around you and most of all, yourself.
Melissa: Find a practice that serves you. Stay on your mat and breath. “Practice and all is coming” P.K Jois
Would you like to share an unusual anecdote with us? Anything that crosses your mind.
Shari: I believe India was the most incredible experience. Melissa and I went to a nearby orphanage and taught the local boys a bit of yoga. They were so open and kind and silly and full of joy. You realize the ones that have nothing are the ones that are the happiest.
Melissa: Every moment you have the pleasure of seeing other peoples’ souls, and that to me is always full of laughter, beauty and love. Namaste