Feeling left out this Valentine's Day? This yoga teacher wants you to open your heart
Ana McNulty-Romaguera wants you to be more receptive to love.
That’s why the yoga teacher and owner of Eternal Bliss Yoga Center — a colorful studio tucked behind Young’s Korean Restaurant on Mushroom Boulevard — is putting together a Valentine’s Day event that’s meant to be an alternate way to commemorate what is customarily a consumer-driven holiday.
Combining her passion for self-care with her desire to help people heal through restorative yoga, she dreamed up “Heart Opening Restorative Yoga and Sound Meditation,” set to take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.
“You don't have to necessarily have a partner or a spouse to be able to feel that connection to love,” she says. “Just that ability to connect with someone on a deeper level or connect with yourself on a deeper level.”
Unlike what you might find at fitness-oriented studios, Eternal Bliss is focused on providing yoga-curious Rochesterians with a way to take a load off — no athleticism or designer workout clothes required.
So it seems natural that the studio specializes in restorative yoga, a gentle practice involving a series of supported poses held for long intervals, all with the goal of deep relaxation of mind and body.
In a restorative yoga class, participants are provided with a large supply of props — including bolsters, blankets, and yoga blocks — assisting them as they work toward experiencing, well, eternal bliss.
Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But for many who practice it, restorative yoga is a much-needed antidote to the relentless rigmarole of 9-to-5 office culture, not to mention a respite from divisive politics and pandemic-era stresses.
McNulty-Romaguera believes that sound vibration can deepen the experience, so she teamed up with local percussionist Sean Dellomonaco, who will be playing the handpan drum throughout the event.
If you’re wondering what the heck a handpan is, it’s understandable.
“I think of it as a UFO-shaped hippie instrument,” says Dellomonaco, who not only plays the instrument but also makes them in his spare time.
Handpans, which were originally inspired by traditional steel pans of the Caribbean Islands and are part of the steel drum family, offer a hypnotic tone that Dellomonaco describes as “crystal-like,” lending itself well to sound meditation.
Both McNulty-Romaguera and Dellomonaco approach their work in a deeply personal way. They say it’s a calling — bridging their personal experiences with their desire to help people heal.
For McNulty-Romaguera, this event is a way to pay forward what yoga had brought to her own life. She explains that when she was a teenager and young adult, she went through difficult times.
“From eating issues to self-harm to substance abuse,” she says.
It was those challenges that ultimately led her to practice yoga.
“And it really just made a whole 360 shift within the matter of a year or so,” she continues. “I got out of an abusive relationship. I got sober. And from then on, it's pretty much been uphill.”
Yoga, she says, has become an anchor for her — a go-to mindfulness practice where she has been able to quite literally find her balance when things have started to feel off. Discovering her love for yoga was transformative for McNulty-Romaguera, and she's eager to introduce the practice to others.
For Dellomonaco, being able to share sound is his own way of paying it forward. Playing the handpan is otherworldly for him, and he wants others to feel it, too.
“My experiences in life, as well as my growth in music, are not separate,” Dellomonaco says. “Everything is connected in ways we don’t always see.”
McNulty agrees and is looking forward to Sunday’s event. She’s excited to offer an option to people who want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with less stuff and more heart.
She wants the idea of receiving love, as opposed to just giving it, to be a main takeaway on Sunday.
“No matter who you are, or how you identify with yourself, or just anything in general, there’s a way to practice yoga,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter how you practice.”
The point is, she says, to practice.
Heart Opening Restorative Yoga and Sound Meditation will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 12 at Eternal Bliss Yoga Center, 120 Mushroom Blvd. Tickets are $39 for one person, or $65 for two. Go to eternalblissyoga.com for details.