Tell us a little bit about yourself… Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I am a global yogini citizen. I’ve lived on both coasts, and currently reside in Texas “the third coast.” I have shaken the hand of the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas, paddle boarded with crocodiles in Costa Rica, euro-railed through Europe and I love a classic road trip. There’s nothing like hitting the dusty road with my two sons and striking out on an adventure!
Where do you currently teach and what is a typical day like for you?
I’ve heard that Austin, TX has the highest per capita amount of yoga teachers and yoga studios than any other city in America. So it was an honor this year to be voted in Austin Fit Magazine’s reader’s poll as one of Austin’s top yoga teachers! I practice daily and teach locally at several studios. The gem of what I offer in Austin is my year-long Teacher Training program called Yoga Illumined. This year I’ve even co-written & published my own teacher training manual available for those enrolled- huge accomplishment & labor of love! You can learn about the program at: www.yogaillumined.com
How did yoga enter your life?
Yoga has entered my life repeatedly. Growing up, my mother practiced yoga from a Sachidananda Book of Yoga and I loved laying on my belly and just gazing at the pictures, flipping through pages of poses. As I grew into my own person, yoga emerged as my favorite way of moving my body. I have studied yoga under some of the “big names” master teachers; I have attended conferences and workshops; but at the heart of it my practice is not fancy or high-falutin’ – it’s simply my way of infusing my life with truth, light, and beauty.
When did you decide to become a teacher?
When I moved to Austin in 2001 I discovered a very favorite teacher. I would practice with her daily and follow her from studio to studio devotedly hanging on any poetry or quotes she read in class. In my heart, I bowed to her lotus feet. This teacher unlocked a doorway for me to pass into deeper understandings of yoga- beyond the poses and the breath- and allowed me to begin to enter into my own heart. When she told me I was ready to teach in my own right, then I set forth and did just that. I’ve been blessed to have so many doors open & I have been teaching yoga actively and full-time ever since.
Who influences you the most today as a teacher and as a mother?
My biggest influences:
Jesus. Buddha. The Dalai Lama. My sons Max & Gabe. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Nina Simone. Maya Angelou. Woody Allen. The color yellow. Cupcakes. The poets Rumi & Hafiz. Gospel music. Mantra. Prayer. Sleep. Meditation. Breath. Life. Tears. Laughter. Truth.
You have some retreats coming up, tell us a little about them.
My retreat in Telluride, Colorado July 11-15 is unique because it is a festival retreat weekend. My absolute favorite time to visit Telluride is in the summer when the weather is perfectly crisp and this mountain town becomes a green and flowing oasis from the heat. Yogis on this trip will be treated not only to daily morning practice with myself & my co-leader Malia, they will also get an all-access pass to the Telluride Yoga Festival with access to tons of classes lead by top-notch and world-renowned teachers. Breakfast and lodging are also included. This is my idea of the ideal summer escape!
My other retreat offering in 2013 is “Thanksgiving in Paradise” – a yoga retreat in Playa Negra, Costa Rica Nov 26-Dec 1st. This amazing retreat features: twice daily yoga in a screened-in yoga studio listening to jungle sounds, a short dirt pathway to walk from the retreat center to the beach, a day excursion to an active volcano and mineral mud baths, and of course- a Thanksgiving day Feast -Costa Rican style! Playa Negra is a tiny, sleepy beach town that is a perfect destination for quiet reflection, peaceful connection, and happy enjoyment of life’s simple good pleasures.
What has been the most fun when organizing/leading a retreat?
Most fun? Tons of moments come to mind! I lead a New Year’s retreat to Costa Rica where we toasted in the new year with champagne, tipsy rounds of card games under the stars, and a midnight stroll to the beach for bonfires and fireworks with the locals and a live mariachi band! I’ve also lead a retreat in the empty big-sky desert of west Texas where each yogi received a rental beach-cruiser bike for the weekend and everyone biked to class each day and biked to dinner in groups like old friends just flying free. I lead a family-friendly retreat that included lots of kids, so in the evening we gathered round and cooked s’mores on a campfire. The fun that I’ve experienced on each retreat comes from the uniqueness of the individuals who attend and in the special chemistry that arises out of the vast potential for having a fantastic time in a new and unknown situation. I can’t wait to see what will happen next!
What aspects of your life inspire you the most?
Being a mother. Being a daughter. Being a lover. Being a teacher. Being a student. Being alone. Being together. Being happy. Being sad. Being honest. Being free.
What advice do you give your students looking to change themselves through Yoga?
Yoga has magic in it. Once you dedicate yourself to the path, you need only let the magic unfold and it will do its work on you. Why limit your expectations by using words, when the magic transformational power of yoga is bigger than all words- the potential is as vast as the sky.
For more details about Zoe’s upcoming retreats, check out
A Colorado Festival Retreat Weekend with Malia Scott & Zoe Mantarakis, July 2013
Thanksgiving Yoga Retreat in Paradise, Costa Rica, Nov 2013