Denise Ferguson has been running her studio, Yoga Sanctuary, for well over a decade. She shares her journey to becoming a wellness icon in the seaside village of Mairangi Bay.
Long before yoga was the word on everyone’s lips, Yoga Sanctuary was establishing its foundations. It started out as a vinyasa studio—the yoga practice often described as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga—and has evolved into a hub of diverse offerings.
It Started With Vinyasa
“Yoga Sanctuary was one of the first vinyasa studios in Auckland,” says Denise. “I purchased the business 13 years ago when it was three years old. I was 29 so I’ve virtually grown up with the business.”
Denise had been living in Aspen for four years prior, which was where she ‘fell’ into her profession. “I was a bit of a party girl and waitressing to pay for my travels when I got shin splints from snowboarding and running, so a friend suggested I try yoga. I was sold from that first class.”
A Fake & A Fraud
Having found her destiny, Denise trained as a teacher and on her return to Auckland bought the Yoga Sanctuary. “I was a bit of a wild card and people called me a fake and a fraud for being emotional and not hiding my true nature, but the one thing I’ve always been proud of is that I’ve always expressed myself with exuberance and I’ve always been committed to my practice and my business. Yoga grounds me, it’s my anchor.”
The studio now offers vinyasa, restorative, yin, kundalini, and kids and teens yoga, along with teacher training and retreats. “I don’t diversify until I feel we’ve reached perfection,” says Denise. “Our ethos is hands-on. I only hire people who love what they do, and who are genuine. If you’re not genuine you’re not going to join us.”
Denise also runs annual retreats in the Coromandel, and is hosting her inaugural Bali retreat this August. “I bring my experience and share all I know,” she says. “They’re holistic wellness retreats because your brain chemistry creates new pathways during the time, so we eat well and don’t indulge in alcohol. I prefer to knock you out of the norm so that you can develop better habits.”
Denise says yoga practice is one of the places where she can feel euphoric and credits it with helping her to deal with some strong emotions. “I used to have anxiety and panic attacks but breathing, meditation and yoga have cured me,” she says.
The Importance Of The Teacher
She emphasises that a good teacher is crucial if you’re after that same yoga high and healing. “Having a good teacher is the difference between night and day,” she says. “That’s why I search for the best; there are thousands of yoga teachers around, but only a few good ones.”
She acknowledges some people can feel pressure to be a ‘perfect yogi’ by wearing the yoga gear and being flexible as all heck. “Trends aren’t always as they seem,” says Denise. “Yoga doesn’t always look a certain way – whether you have stuffed knees, are overweight, suffer anxiety, or are a beer-swilling sailor if you’re committed to your practice you’re a perfect yogi. Don’t judge and don’t ever let anyone judge you.”
Find the teacher and studio who makes you feel good, comfortable and like they’re there for you.
You don’t have to go to yoga every day but you do have to go regularly.
Find what works for you, slow and steady really does win the race in this case.