YogaView With Melissa Zuena
Welcome to Chime's YogaView series! Each month, I interview yoga teachers and practitioners to learn how their yoga practice is an empowering force in their lives. This month, Melissa Zuena talks about yoga, recovery, art, and how the three are powerfully interconnected.
1. Why did you begin a yoga practice?
I initially began practicing yoga because my sponsor recommended I add exercise to my recovery program. A friend went to the studio I practice at now, and she really liked it. So, I signed up for the first-time student trial and was hooked pretty quickly. For that hour or so of practice, I only thought about what my body was doing. Yoga helped me clear my mind in a way nothing else did, especially during early sobriety. Now that I’ve been practicing for about a year, I notice that yoga has helped me to build a relationship with my body that wasn’t possible before. And what’s surprising is that I really like my body! I always felt a sense of disconnection from my own body, but yoga is helping me bridge that separation.
2. How has yoga contributed to your recovery and life?
Prayer and meditation are important parts of my recovery. I like to come early to class for a few minutes of quiet on my mat to turn inward and meditate. My yoga practice is a moving meditation that supports the other aspects of my recovery. My focus is not so much on what I can do physically—although I have been surprised at my body's ability to improve and strengthen quickly—but more on the mental and spiritual strength that I gain. The lessons I learn on my mat are applicable to my life off the mat. One of my teachers once said in class that crow pose is like facing fear. That statement has resonated with me in so many ways. A big part of my recovery is overcoming fear. Once I was able to breathe and sense crow, I was able to find that incredible feeling of balance in the pose. My life and my recovery are a lot like crow pose. Yoga helped me to see that.
3. What is your artistic training and background?
I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Studio Art with concentrations in sculpture and drawing from Skidmore College. I worked in the fashion industry for a little while and then the corporate world as an administrative assistant. Since I’ve been in recovery, I have returned to my artistic roots, and it feels amazing! I’ve also designed and produced wedding invitations and stationery for friends and family over the years.
4. Share the genesis of your greeting card line and how you came up with the name of your business?
I started by making anniversary cards for my friends in recovery. I found the choices for recovery cards to be very limited. I created monthly anniversary cards for friends in early recovery (ie., 30, 60, 90 days sober), and my designs eventually grew to include sayings that are heard in the rooms.
I began making yoga cards because a friend of mine was opening her own yoga studio and I made her a congratulatory card with a die-cut, purple glitter “om” symbol on the front. She loved it so much that she suggested that I make a few more yoga-inspired designs for her to sell at the studio. When I showed her my designs a few days later, she was so enthusiastic about them and said to me, “Ya know? This could really be something great for you!” From that moment on, I have been focusing most of my energy on my yoga line. My yoga cards are currently being sold at four different studio locations and one retail athletic clothing store with more to come soon!
The name of my business, “Art Is My Higher Power,” came to be from an AA meeting that I attended some time before I started making cards. At that meeting I shared that I could feel my Higher Power when I was painting or drawing. When I decided to open my shop on Etsy and was brainstorming a name for my business, that memory came to mind and the name was born.
5. What is the hardest part of creating and selling the cards?
Creating the cards is a great joy and comes so naturally to me. I have a million ideas for cards, both for recovery and yoga. It is an amazing feeling to turn an idea into a reality. It’s very satisfying.
The hard part for me is selling my cards to shop and studio owners. I have a hard time speaking up for myself. I have been fortunate in that those I have pitched to have welcomed my cards with open arms. Still, I have a hard time getting up the nerve to show off my work in the first place. But I am getting better at it! Progress NOT perfection!
6. Which card is your current favorite and why?
My favorite yoga card is the one I like to call “Namaste Cubed” in gold. I love the way the textures of the gold foil and the gold and brown glitter cardstock play off each other. Namaste not only means something beautiful but it is beautiful to say and is an interesting form from a design perspective.
My favorite recovery card is one that I made for a friend for his 11-month sober anniversary or “soberversary." It’s not for sale and it’s one of a kind. It was inspired from the matchstick anniversary cards on my Etsy shop. The matchstick cards were the first fully realized designs that I made for my Etsy shop and they hold a special place in my heart. For this one though, I glued and sewed actual matches to the card. There is something about that card that will always make it my favorite.