If slowing down, being more mindful, and starting a yoga/meditation practice are on your list of 2019 goals – Alesandra Zsiba is your woman. This zen yogi fills us in on what it’s like to direct the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington (JMCW) at Adas Israel, her dream Shabbat celebration, and tips to live more mindfully. Get to know her!
Allie: What brought you to DC?
Alesandra: Well, like many stories, I came to DC to follow love. It was the year after my year of service with AmeriCorps and my partner from college was here, so I made the decision to come to DC. While at AmeriCorps, I started my own course for ELL students (English Language Learners) focused on healing trauma and self-actualizing through the creative process – photography, performance, documentary filmmaking, and poetry. That spring boarded me into this career developing the Identity Project, which I brought to schools and organizations around DC.
Today, I still run the Identity Project in addition to my work with the JMCW.
Allie: What does JMCW do?
Alesandra: JMCW started as a way to bring mindfulness practice into the synagogue space. We host weekly, drop-in Jewish yoga and meditation classes, Rosh Chodesh programs to celebrate the New Moon, and we’re having our first daylong retreat at Pearlstone Retreat Center on President’s Day. I’ll be co-leading it!
Allie: How did you get into your role at JMCW?
Alesandra: After I did a yoga teacher training in 2013, I was really excited to connect what I learned about yoga to what I know about Judaism. I started going to yoga classes with Roni Zelivinski at JMCW – Roni is wonderful. She’s a doula and a midwife, and used to teach at JMCW. She got me involved. I was soaking up whatever JMCW had to offer, and then started teaching there. As I deepened my relationships with people there, I stepped into the role of program coordinator for the yoga program and then became Director of Engagement.
Allie: What first drew you to yoga and mindfulness?
Alesandra: I had a really beautiful, deep relationship with my grandfather who was a cantor and a mystic in his own right. Everything that I learned about Jewish mindfulness as an adult I tie back to him.
Allie: What is your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?
Alesandra: Years ago, my partner at the time and I went to Israel with Sixth & I, and found a really beautiful Shabbat on the beach – there was so much music and dancing, and everyone felt so free. The organic and public nature of that was really appealing. I’ve always wanted to go back to that. I also would really love to have a havdalah yoga practice within community.
Allie: What does mindfulness mean to you?
Alesandra: It means creating a path to stillness inside yourself. It’s a practice of healing, self-actualizing, and maturing…it’s about pressing pause on the doing and finding calm in a busy, busy world.
Allie: What is one tip you would give for someone seeking to live more mindfully?
Alesandra: Find community. We’re so conditioned to try and do things on our own, but I really think the answer is to get excited about it through other people. All the good, juicy bits of life happen in the context of relationships. Go make a pact with a friend to be mindfulness buddies, and try out a meditation event together.
Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…
Alesandra: There’s a lot of questioning, talking, and curiosity. It’s beautiful and loud.
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