Maya is one of BGM's most in demand instructors. She can teach anything from Pilates to Yoga to Zumba and due to her impressive dance background, anything from Hip Hop to Jazz to Modern and more. She exudes charisma and has boundless energy. All of her clients love her. While Maya has been working for Bring the Gym to Me for years, I never really had a chance to sit down with her before and hear what the experience of working for our company has been like from her perspective. It was inspiring and humbling to learn that in addition to keeping our clients active and in shape, my company has concurrently been serving such a pivotal role in her professional career.
Where did you grow up?
Outside of Philadelphia, in the suburbs. 10 minutes away from the city.
Where did you go to school?
I went to the Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet as a kid.
Oh wow, so you were into dancing from a really young age…
Yea, I started when I was like 3.. my parents saw that I was always dancing so they put me into ballet and it took off from there.
Do either of your parents dance?
No. But they stay in shape. They both do yoga.
What do they do?
They are psychologists.
Cool. So what came after the Ballet Academy?
When I got older I went to George Mason University for college. That's where I got introduced to Yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais etc. All of that stuff was part of my training. We learned anatomy, physiology, kinesiology... so I really got a good sense of the body. Also, you are constantly touching and working with bodies.
From what I understand, in addition to performing dance, you also do choreography, is that right?
Yes, I love to choreograph and create in addition to dancing for other people. I have my own company for this. I choreograph for all kinds of different projects. I recently did the choreography for a Nike commercial for example.
Do you have specific type of dance that you like to choreograph and/or perform?
I like Modern Dance.
What is it about Modern Dance that you like?
I like the athleticism of it. The physicality. The partnering aspect.
I know that you frequently travel around the world to perform. Where are some of the places you've traveled to?
London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels, Montreal, Bolivia, Costa Rica - to name a few.
Do you have a favorite place?
For dance, I like Brussels. For travel, I love Spain.
And how did you transition into teaching fitness from being trained primarily as a performance artist?
All my teachers at George Mason were saying that a great side job for dance is to be a personal trainer/teach fitness. Then I went to Brussels and was dancing in Brussels and then came back to New York. When I got back, I didn't want to do a waitressing job or anything like that. So my friend Nancy - remember Nancy?
Oh yea, that's how we originally met! That's right..
Yea, I had friend Nancy who was working for you. She and I were in the same dance company. And one day she asked if I wanted a side job and I said yes. So I subbed for one of her kids yoga classes she had through your company and that's how I got introduced to you and you started sending me more work. I soon realized that while I am able to teach kids, my real passion is in teaching adults.
So was Bring the Gym to Me you first experience with teaching?
I had taught a bunch of dance before, but for general fitness, yes Bring the Gym to Me was my first teaching job. In the very beginning, I asked a lot of my friends who had been teaching for awhile for advice and pointers. I also took a lot of very intense classes and would pick out the things I liked from those classes to teach. At this point, I now teach the type of class that I would want to take.
How do you feel that your teaching style has evolved?
I think I'm a lot clearer and I think I'm able to personalize it more to the client. Like for example if I client wants to specifically work on her lower half, or has wrist issues, or uses her neck too much in sit ups... I can cater the classes specifically to their needs at this point.
What types of things do you tend to emphasize in your classes?
It's important to me that they know the proper form. I don't want people to just do what I say, I want them to actually learn how to use their bodies. I like to teach clients about their bodies. Like it's cool, the other night I saw one of my longer standing clients and she said to me "oh my pelvis feels a little twisted.." It's nice to hear them talk about their hamstrings and their triceps... they are much more body aware than when they started. It's really cool to see how their form changes. For example, I have a class with women in their 40's and in the beginning, their alignment was pretty out of whack and I'd be yelling at them a lot to fix it and now they are in better shape than like 22 year olds.
Oh yea. They look great. And they aren't complaining of back pain and other things that a lot of other people their age tend to.
What makes your classes unique?
I like to incorporate my dance background into my classes, so it's not just pilates or yoga or toning.. there is an added element of intensity that comes from my background. I like the dancer body because it's strong and lean and full body. Instead of focusing on just one body part I think that's why clients like what I do because it's full body and it gives them the long lean lines that they want instead of just bulking up in certain areas like some other exercise styles might do.
Do you have a personal workout regime?
I do ballet, hot yoga and pilates. I like the high intensity that's involved with pilates - getting strong. Most of the classes I go to are taught by other instructor friends of mine who teach at various studios around NY. We work out an exchange - I teach for them and they in turn teach me. Teaching for and learning from other instructors keeps things fresh.
How long have you been working for Bring the Gym to Me?
Oh it's been awhile... I think like 3-4 years now?
Yea that seems right... wow time flies. What do you like about working for us?
I like the fact that at this point, Bring the Gym to Me has grown so much that I can pick my own clients. Depending on who I feel I'd enjoy teaching best. I like the flexibility of the job. That I can still fit in my dance rehearsal schedules around the classes that I teach. I love seeing concrete results in my clients. I feel like I'm really helping them. It's a nice feeling to really see that. It's nice as a teacher to see over a couple of months how a client has progressed. If I were teaching at a gym, I'd just be having random clients come in all the time and I wouldn't have that same personal connection with them. Also, I like working for you (Sarede, Bring the Gym to Me owner) since you are so respectful and flexible with my periodic travel schedule. It's nice. It's a good fit.
Can you share a success story of one of your clients that was especially moving for you?
Well, I was recently invited to a client's son's Bar Mitzvah. And all these people were coming up to me raving about how amazing she looked. And she was really proud to show me off to her friends. It was a very cool feeling. And it was so nice to see how she was holding herself. In the beginning when I first started working with her she was slouching a lot and now when I see her she stands really tall and looks so healthy. It was so nice to see her look so great and see how everyone noticed and how proud she was of herself. That was a nice feeling.
Do you have any advice that you regularly give to your clients?
Working with me is a good start but it's not enough. To really see concrete results, you really need to have health and fitness be your lifestyle. You need to eat healthy and do some kind of regular cardio in addition to working with me.
How do you motivate a client who isn't motivated? Or complains that the workout is too hard?
I yell at them! I mean, they need to want to be there. I'm not going to force someone... Most of them want to get healthy and want to get better. It's all about getting them in the right mindset, keeping a positive attitude. Making things go fast. If things drag along too slowly, they'll get bored and lose the mindset. You need to keep it at an intense pace and keep it fast and interesting, for yourself also. Because it's boring to do the same type of thing over and over again. I need to find ways to make it interesting for myself and look at each body differently and keep them intrigued in showing them the right form. Also, playing the right music helps.
Do you have a favorite fitness exercise that you would recommend to people reading this?
I think side plank is the best full body thing to do. I love side planks. They are really hard and tone the full body. They strengthen the back as well as the abs. It's a real 360 body toner.
Do you have any New Years Resolutions for 2016?
To have fun, travel, eat good food. Be involved in cool dance projects. To cross train more. To do more cardio. And to just keep doing what I'm doing.
Do you have any final message for your clients or for people who are looking to get in better shape?
I don't like when clients say they want to lose weight. That really bothers me. I really want them to know they'll look better and feel better if they just focus on getting in shape. Like, I don't remember the last time I weighed myself. I don't own a scale. It's about lining your bones up in the right way. Doing ab work, doing some stretching, eating well, walking a lot. I don't want them to be telling me about pounds or anything like that. I just want them to be healthy.