Milena Azevedo and I go way back, to seventh grade to be specific.
At the most hormonal and awkward time of my life, I met Milena and instantly adored her feisty Brazilian vibes.
(I'm grateful Milena still chose to be my friend while I basked in my many emo wristbands. OMG / WHY THOUGH?! 😂)
Milena was a cool girl that embodied Shakespeare's infamous snippet:
Fellow goofballs with senses of humor, we even created a notorious comic book series that we drew back and forth for a couple years in study hall.
Milena occasionally tags me in memes about Mr. Brightside and it always draws a smile.
I find it awesome that after having so many similar interests throughout middle school and high school, we now find ourselves many states apart as yoga teachers, as she throws down for Colorado as a yoga queen.
I am so impressed and inspired by her, and am thrilled to learn more about her epic yogini ways: the lover and conqueror of inversions!
I'm curious to know her fearless ways.
So, without further ado, the one and only Milena Azevedo!
KS: GIRL, YOU'RE KILLING IT. WHAT IS UP IN YOUR WORLD? WHERE ARE YOU TEACHING YOGA?
MA: I teach a few times a week at CrossFit Longmont in Longmont, Colorado. I also teach private classes between Denver and Boulder throughout the week!
KS: WHEN DID YOUR YOGA JOURNEY BEGIN? WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INTO IT? WHAT WAS IT THAT YOU LOVED?
MA: I started getting into Yoga throughout the end of high school, thanks to my Wii Fit, and from there I gradually worked my way into buying a ten-class pack that would last me all year.
It was probably a little over four years ago that I began a dedicated practice.
KS: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PRACTICING INVERSIONS?
AS SOMEONE WHO IS STILL FRUSTRATED BY MY FEAR OF GETTING UPSIDE DOWN WITH CONFIDENCE, WAS THIS SOMETHING THAT CAME NATURALLY TO YOU?
MA: I've been practicing inversions for about three years now.
I wouldn't say inversions came naturally to me at all, but that's because I tend to compare myself so much to others and that doesn't do ANYONE any good!
I think inversions all depend on the body, and the person.
The fear was definitely there in the beginning, but I was determined and I think once you fall enough times (and hopefully you have a teacher to teach you how to fall safely!) and either don't hurt yourself, or you do hurt yourself and heal and move on, you really begin to realize and trust in your own strength.
Trust in your own strength!!!
KS: HOW DO YOU CLEAR THE MIND ENOUGH TO FIND BRAVERY AND COURAGE?
MA: As basic as it sounds, with my breath.
Inversions require every part of you to be steady; take a deep breath.
If it's frustrating, keep breathing, then try again, if it's not happening maybe it's just not today, maybe it's tomorrow.
KS: ANY CUES OR TIPS OR HIDDEN SUBTLE SECRETS YOU'VE FOUND FOR INVERSIONS?
MA: ALLLLL the core work, seriously, there is no way around it.
I used to think the wall was our buddy, our friend, but as I grow as a teacher and a student I've found that the wall was a giant crutch for my inversion practice, knowing it was there put me at ease but also delayed that process of being "fearless".
Having the wall behind you sometimes lets you relax the muscles and sacrifice alignment and develop poor habits.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't use the wall. If you instead put the wall in front of you, like you could kiss it if you got close enough, that's not only a much better way to practice proper alignment and form but you begin to conquer that fear of not having something supporting you.
Walking up and down the wall that way is a great way to build strength for inversions as well!
Strong and open shoulders also help; spend some extra time in downward dog!
KS: WHAT STYLES OF YOGA INSPIRE YOU AND WHY? WHAT DO YOU TEACH AND PRACTICE THE MOST?
MA: I am so inspired by Ashtanga. I hope to someday be able to spend time taking Ashtanga teacher trainings and dive into the infinite wisdom.
I teach all levels Vinyasa (and a Vinyasa for athletes) and Flows with creative transitions.
I love beginners classes because its so fun to see my students discovering the new things their bodies can do!
I love teaching inversions and arm balances as well; seeing my students achieve breakthroughs is probably the most exciting part of my day!
My favorite is women's health yoga focused on reproductive issues and relief since I myself have endometriosis.
I can really relate to searching for some sort of outlet for that pain, and the flows I’ve designed work really well to alleviate discomfort!
I try to practice a little of everything, but I really love the intense Vinyasa classes that make you think you might throw up a little bit!
KS: OUTSIDE OF YOGA, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR GREATEST HOBBIES? WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT IN LIFE?
MA: I'm a baking fanatic! I have a terrible sweet tooth so my house is usually pretty well covered in cakes and treats!
I’m passionate about advocating for animal rights and liberation, for animals are consumed, used and abused on such a mass scale and it can’t be good for the earth's karma. We are all one.
I love spreading the message to de-stigmatize mental and chronic illnesses as well; too many are suffering in silence and in darkness because they are made to feel ashamed!
Other than that I’m a pretty laid back homebody sort of person!
KS: WHAT ARE YOUR MOST LOVED BOOKS YOU'VE ENCOUNTERED IN YOUR LIFE?
MA: Oh boy, ANYTHING by my fellow Brazilian Paulo Coelho!
The Bhagavad Gita will always be on my bookshelf as well.
Brazilian authors are really my favorite though, I think because they connect me to a lost piece of my heritage.
KS: WHAT ABOUT MOVIES? ONES YOU JUST LOVE OR WILDLY RECOMMEND IF SOMEONE HAS NOT SEEN THEM?
- La Vita é Bella - (this movie will move you in ways you never imagined possible)
- THE GREAT DICTATOR
- MODERN TIMES
- THE KID (these four are all Charlie Chaplin movies, and they have changed my life!)
- THE FOUNTAIN with Hugh Jackman is also pretty thought-provoking.
KS: WHAT ARE YOU FAVORITE GO-TO MEALS YOU MAKE? QUICK AND EASY, HEALTHY, SIMPLE SNACKS YOU LOVE?
- Sweet potato quesadillas (mashed sweet potatoes between two tortillas seasoned with cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and a dash of nutritional yeast)
- CAULIFLOWER. I love cauliflower; I'll cut some florets and squeeze a little lemon and dip them in Catalina dressing. (So weird, but so good.)
- COCO PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE (QUICK to make…but takes a bit to set, but super healthy for a desert) I take a can of the THAI coconut cream (or the milk if they don’t have cream; they both work) and scoop the solid part out, leaving the clear liquid in the can. Pour in melted dark chocolate chips (find some that don’t have any milk in them and you cut a lot of the sugar out) and 1/3 cup of peanut butter and whip it up till its all one, put it back in the fridge either in cups, or in a pie crust and BAM! Thank me later!
- Bagels or pitas with hummus and cut up peppers and carrots are super easy and yummy!
KS: FAVORITE QUOTES OR MANTRAS?
MA: OM GUM GANAPATAYE NAMAHA - This mantra calling the powerful Ganesha to remove obstacles from our path.
This mantra served me in ways I can’t describe. I would sing it hundreds of times a day, and suddenly I found myself losing jobs (that I was miserable in), people (that didn’t value me), things (that I didn't need).
It was a really confusing time, as I thought my life was falling apart, but in turn, it was just making room for what was to come next, a life full of happiness and fulfillment.
OM NAMO NARAYANA - This is my new daily chant. My interpretation is that nothing in this universe is mine, not even my own life… I surrender my life to the universe and ask for its guidance.
LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU - May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in someway to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
This mantra is so important in the world right now.
KS: FAVORITE PLACES YOU'VE TRAVELED?
MA: I feel like I haven’t traveled much!
I really enjoyed Salt lake City; it was really beautiful there and really nice to have a different mountain view.
Living in Colorado has really taken the need to travel out of my life; it's just so amazing here.
But I also love going back to Brazil and getting lost in the Mato; there's nothing like the peacefulness that is being out in the quiet nature.
KS: YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATIONS? THE PEOPLE YOU LOOK UP TO MOST?
MA: Charlie Chaplin was an incredible man; he taught me that language is a barrier easily broken, that laughter can carry us through all of the darkness in this world.
For these same reasons, Robin Williams was someone I really looked up to.
Growing up very depressed with a lot of mental issues and even struggling with alcoholism, I could appreciate the lessons he gave me as a child, and the lessons he gave me as an adult; from his death I carry with me the certainty that I will never, ever end my life so selfishly, and that I will do everything I can, no matter how hard it may be… to just keep going, and laugh through it all.
Conor Oberst is also someone I deeply cherish; his music got me through some of the hardest parts of my life.
He wrote of his depression and as he has grown I have as well, learning that everything is just a moment in time and that those times that we thought of leaving this world would also pass by.
KS: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE GREATEST LIFE LESSONS YOU'VE LEARNED ALONG THE WAY?
- You matter. Regardless of how little you may think your life is, you’ve impacted someone along the way and that is a gift that can’t be taken for granted.
- You have the power to manifest your entire life. Every moment is up to you.
- Someone once told me, “The universe will ALWAYS answer, and it will always answer YES," so if you are out there putting out “I’m not good enough, I can’t do this, I’m not worthy,” the universe will answer yes, you are all those things. Instead, put out that you are brave, you are good, you are full of love to give to this world; things may just begin to shift.
- You can’t expect to be everyone's cup of tea, and that's okay… If someone does not like you, that isn’t YOUR problem… it’s theirs.
- And my favorite quote ever: “Everything will be okay in the end; if it’s not okay… it’s not the end.” - Paulo Coelho (or John Lennon; there is some debate about who said it first.)
KS: WHERE CAN WE FIND YOU? DO YOU HAVE A WEBSITE AND VARIOUS SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS WE CAN LINK TO AND SHARE? ANYTHING YOU WANT TO HIGHLIGHT?
MA: My website is www.milenamoonyoga.com where you can find class schedules, my blog and soon there will be online classes and plant based recipes added!
My Instagram is @Milena.Moon.
KS: THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING! KEEP BEING A SHINING BEAM OF INSPIRATION!