Written by Deena Douara
It is this impact yoga has had on her life that she hopes to share with others through classes, private lessons, events, and especially by working with children and youth.
After discovering how yoga relieved her university-related stress, Mallais decided to train to be a yoga instructor herself. But not before she felt “emotionally ready” to lead.
She explains that she struggled with depression and anxiety since her early teens, and thought that doing presentations would be stressful. “Once I got deeper into my practice,” she says, “I thought it was too helpful to not share this with others.”
She had some “others” in mind already.
Mallais was working at a group home as a child and youth worker, a natural path for someone looking to help others. One of her long-standing goals is to develop programs that she can take into such homes on a regular basis to help youth most in need of relief from stress, anxiety and depression.
Mallais has started her helping practice by going into schools, where she says her impact is visible.
“Teachers usually come back and say the students are focusing a lot better,” she says.
“One student came up to me near the end of a 12-week session and said ‘Do you mind if I give you a hug? … You made me feel safe, made me feel better about myself.”
Mallais designed her school programs to deal with issues around bullying by exploring different emotions, inviting students to recognize particular feelings in themselves and in others, and exploring ways they can respond to such feelings.
Mallais also holds mother-daughter classes meant to facilitate dialogue, understanding and bonding.
Instruction always starts with proper breathing.
“It’s the top thing I learned and the first thing I teach. If you do nothing else in my yoga class, focus on your breath and you can notice right away you start to calm down.”
Affirmations are also a big part of her practice. She suggests to students that they record things they like about themselves — what makes them good people — when they are in a positive mood, and to post that somewhere accessible and visible. Speaking from experience, she says when dark moods arise, turning to those can be very helpful reminders.
While self-directed affirmations are Mallais’s focus in her yoga practice, she says that external affirmation certainly helped when it came to developing her business, citing Enterprise Toronto's workshops, and the Rise Asset Development startup program hosted by the Rotman School of Management.
“You go through phases where you’re like, I got this, but then sometimes you need that boost.”
She says the City of Toronto's Small Business Forum was particularly valuable in terms of networking and finding resources like Vistaprint.
“They’re so well priced, it’s not even funny,” she says. After ordering business cards, banners and labels through them, Mallais says “It’s helped me build my brand.”
“I went from looking like I’m just a yoga teacher to looking like I am my own business and I’m a professional. It changed how I feel about my business.”
A schedule of Mallais’s availability for yoga and fitness can be found on her website.