School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play star Ciera Dawn takes us through her yoga practice and how she’s remaining mindful while social distancing.

By Jaclyn Jermyn

When did you develop an interest in yoga?

Ciera Dawn

My first in-depth introduction to yoga happened during my sophomore year at Emerson College.  As part of the primary classes in my conservatory training, I had to take one semester of theatre movement. My teacher owned a yoga studio in Boston, so she decided to focus our movement class specifically on yoga. At the time I was a bit miffed because I wanted deeper teachings on the work of movement educators and theorists  like Rudolf von Laban, Frederick Matthias Alexander and Jacques Lecoq. If you would have told me then that I would become a yoga teacher in six years, I certainly would have laughed it off. Life works in funny ways because here I am! I understand now how yoga has transformed my life.  As someone who has lived with high levels of anxiety for most of my life, practicing yoga has given me focus, growth and much needed shifts in my mental perspective. 

What is your typical yoga practice like? 

My current practice, while living in a social distancing world, is very Vinyasa heavy with added HIIT (high intensity interval training) in my sequencing to ensure that I am getting enough cardio and muscle strengthening in my day while being at home. In the evenings, I’ll occasionally do a restorative/deep stretching practice to help ease my mind and body before bed. With the stay at home order in effect, I’ve been lucky enough to have plenty of time to practice every day–sometimes twice a day. Before this, I would practice four to five times a week, including teaching. 

What’s your current favorite yoga position?

I love going from Goddess pose into Parsarita C! Goddess is a very powerful and grounding pose that allows me to find a deeper connection with my breath while strengthening my legs. Flowing into Parsarita C gives the hamstrings a deep and generous stretch, while inverting energy towards my head, which is always a great “pick-me-up” of energy!

As a teacher, what is your best advice for beginners?

Get on your mat and get out of your own way. No one is expecting a perfectly pliable, flexible and graceful student from beginners. If you’re able to connect your breath to your movement and quiet your mind even if only for 30 seconds, you’ve achieved beginning a yoga practice! The beauty of yoga is in consistency and seeing your growth on the mat. The mat is a reliable place for witnessing beautiful transformations in yourself. 

Do you think that your yoga practice helps you specifically as a creative?

I would definitely say so! In tandem with daily meditation, it has helped me to cultivate a daily calm in my life, which allows me to be more available for creative inspiration.

What are your best tips for other creatives trying to stay mindful despite our current circumstances? 

Perfection should never be the goal! Please be kind to yourselves, especially now with the current state of the world. Find peace in quiet and solitude, which doesn’t mean “not having thoughts,” but observing them. In observing your thoughts, see what mental patterns occur, how they affect your daily life and what that means for you. 

And please incorporate as much joy in your day as you can, whatever that may look like for you. That adds goodness to your life and the world around you!  

What would you like to accomplish with your yoga practice?

I will always be a student of yoga. Knowing this has helped me to not put so much focus on an end destination and to enjoy my journey with the grace to understand that wherever I am on any given day, I can come to my mat, go within and feel more alive.

You can join Ciera’s virtual yoga classes every Tuesday and Saturday at noon by signing up through Yoga Tree Chicago