Practicing, teaching yoga suits type ‘a’ personality

Maxine Mirowitz teaches a Torah Yoga class in a Jewish Light file photo from 2007.


When the 6 a.m. spin class she favored was cancelled, optometrist Maxine Mirowitz had to find another way to start her day. Reluctantly, she signed up for a yoga class. In a short time, she was teaching the class. 

“I had never gone anywhere near yoga and was not even curious about it,” said Mirowitz, 50. “My nature is more Type A, and I was completely into cardio, but when that spin class was cancelled six years ago, I had to do something.”

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Today, Mirowitz teaches traditional forms of yoga at six local clubs and also leads classes in Torah Yoga, a spiritual-based practice, at United Hebrew Congregation. (Call 314-469-0700 for a schedule and information on a free sample class.) 

A native St. Louisan and a member at Bais Abraham Congregation, Mirowitz spoke recently about how yoga found her and how she has developed her own way of teaching it.

How did you go from reluctant yoga student to avid yoga teacher?

The third week in the class, the teacher invited me to attend a teacher-training program with her. We practiced together during all 200 hours of the training program, and at the end, she asked me to take over her classes. I said yes.

What about yoga appealed to you? 

When I took the training class, I started reading books on yoga. I especially loved the spiritual nature of it. The asanas, or postures, are just a small piece of the bigger picture, and I started thinking about starting a class by talking for 10 minutes about Kabbalah or some other aspect of spirituality.

Did you find a connection between yoga and Judaism? 

If you look at yoga practitioners from the beginning, they have a mystical side to them. I believe that we all have a spark of the divine, but unless you are in a silence-filled place, you may not feel its presence. Plus yoga talks about the vital life force, or prana. In Judaism, we call it our light. 

What is your mission for Torah Yoga?  

To help people see that yoga can be deep, to help them feel more connected to a higher power. Interestingly, early on, I discovered that a woman named Diane Bloomfield had the same idea, and she copyrighted the title. 

Do you teach her version?

I have her permission to use the name, but I don’t use the same sequencing of postures, and I don’t follow the same texts. I do all my own research, looking for texts that may relate to a Jewish holiday, a rite of passage or a Hebrew term, and also texts that correlate to the universal topic of finding a piece of the infinite within.

And that is possible in yoga? 

When you still the mind, it’s there.

Are the classes restful? 

Actually, Torah Yoga is fairly rigorous. In addition to the spiritual aspects, you get every bit of balance and coordination, all the basics of yoga. At first, you feel physical improvements—and then the mind thing happens. I have seen people grow, change their outlook, find more depth and meaning in the world. You don’t feel that way after spin class! 

Who attends Torah Yoga classes?

Beginners and more advanced students, ranging in age from the late 20s to the 70s, come to class. More than half of them were in my original class four years ago. I really enjoy the energy of the class, and I am so blessed to have a group of people who get it.

Obviously, you get it, too. What has become of your Type A personality? 

I am so aware that today we’re always thinking we are missing out on something, we are always looking for the next event or setting the next goal or seeking something else. Why? When you are doing yoga, you are thinking only of yoga—there is nothing in your external environment that takes up space. Yoga is about the present moment. 

Speaking of which, you recently retired after three decades working in optometry. How is that going? 

I love the freedom of retirement. I’m taking workshops, learning new things, and now teaching yoga is my part-time job. I feel more at home in my yoga attire, and I see me doing this indefinitely.