If yoga is the gift that keeps on giving, Martina Sergi's doing her part in giving back. Like so many others, she found yoga at a pivotal time in her life on the path to self-discovery. Through building her own practice, she found strength in letting go and joy in cultivating a healthy relationship with herself. Now, she shares her experiences and her yoga on Instagram (often showing ah-mazing spots in Italy, where she lives) to guide others through their journeys on the mat. She posts instructive pics to help her followers improve their alignment and their poses, and she even created a YouTube channel with different flow videos in both English and Italian, so more of her followers can follow along. We picked Martina's brain about her personal transformation through yoga, her biggest inspiration on and off the mat and why she's so passionate about helping others grow their practice.
How did you first get into yoga?
I started yoga when I was working out a lot and looking for something to keep my body flexible. I didn’t know anything about it—I just needed to stretch. I started following yogis on Instagram, and it seemed like a perfect match for me, so I practiced at home using apps, ebooks and YouTube videos. After a few months I fell in love with it. I started increasing the time I spent practicing and decreasing the working out part until the latter disappeared completely. It could seem that I found yoga randomly, but I believe yoga found me when I needed it the most, without me even being aware of it.
It was a stressful period of my life. I was finally graduating from university after five years, but I felt so unhappy. I was not taking care of myself anymore because I was only focused on studying, and, in the end, I could not recognize myself anymore, physically or mentally. I thought that by making myself look good, I would feel better. But I was wrong. I decided to put five years of studying behind me, turn a new page and devote myself completely to yoga. This changed my life. I found myself again because yoga taught me how to look beyond the physical and find happiness on the inside. It made me feel comfortable in my own imperfect skin and helped me find a safe place where I could get in touch with my emotions and free myself from what was hurting me. Yoga made me feel complete.
What’s the yoga community like in Italy?
In the big cities, like Milan and Rome, you can find big yoga communities, but in the small towns, it's still something new. I live in Milan, and here it’s growing really fast. There are a lot of yoga studios with really good teachers ready to guide you, and you can find a lot of workshops and different kinds of classes. The city dynamics are really fast, and I see that people are feeling the need to stop and just take a moment for themselves. They are finding in yoga exactly what they need.
How has your yoga practice impacted your day-to-day life?
While you are practicing, you think about every movement your body makes and every breath you take. Nothing else. I learned how to apply this in my everyday life. Live in the present and focus on what is going on now, in the moment, when you are living it. You cannot change the past or predict the future. Take life one day at a time and get the most out of it. Enjoy the journey without rushing towards the finish line.
On Instagram, you talk a lot about alignment and how to correctly achieve certain poses. Why is this so important to you?
I think alignment is important for safety. I do not believe there is only one way to do a pose—everyone is different. We should all learn to listen to our body and maybe adjust the pose for ourselves, but when you are a beginner, this is really difficult to do. A lot of my followers practice yoga at home without a teacher guiding them, so I hope that my tutorials will help those who are starting out have a safe practice.
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You recently created a YouTube channel where you post yoga flows and tutorials in English and Italian! What made you decide to start it?
People write to me about yoga on a daily basis, asking for suggestions and tips because they practice at home and do not have a teacher guiding them. Since I used to be one of them, I always try to help as much as I can. This is why I started #YOGAWITHMARTI one year ago. I wanted to make yoga accessible to everyone, so I started making short tutorials on Instagram, explaining how to enter a pose and showing the correct alignment. Lately I have been getting a lot of requests, and I wanted to find a way to answer to them in the best way. I feel like I owe it to everyone who supports me. Since I cannot have everyone come to Milan, I decided to come to them. So, I created a YouTube channel. I also felt the need for a space where I could share other parts of my life, like my travels, to connect with my followers even more.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your yoga practice, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me was to learn how to be patient. When I first started yoga I wanted to be able to do everything right away, but that is not possible. I felt frustrated, but slowly I started understanding the importance of giving yourself time and accepting yourself as you are right now and the joy of just enjoying the journey with no expectations.
Who inspires you in your own practice and why?
I think my dad is my biggest inspiration—not just in my yoga practice, but in my life. He taught me to never give up on my dreams, to stay positive and see the good in every situation and to believe in myself. He inspires me every single day, on and off the mat.
What do you hope to accomplish next in your practice?
I would like to attend another teacher training, maybe to get the 500 hours or to try another style. I am still looking around, but that is for sure one of the things I would love to do in the next year.
Need a playlist for your next practice? Martina created one just for us!