Story and photography by Bill Fallon.
Zilka knew stress.
Her published book might even be considered must-read material for certain high-stress achievers – “Business Restructuring: An Action Template for Reducing Cost and Growing Profit.” Her work experience includes a vice presidency at GE and a stint as a Wall Street trader.
Zilka knew, too, how to de-stress, using yoga. In an occupational battle of the wills, yoga with all its serenity would trump big business with all its big busyness.
For three years she’s been owner and principal instructor of Mantra Mind Body in Old Greenwich. She also partners with Yoga for Everybody in Fairfield, where she runs the aerial yoga component.
“Linking mind and body is the only way to find fulfilled happiness,” she says. “That’s our job, to teach people how to transform into their highest form. The inside has to be transformed for that best person to appear.”
She has studied and teaches several types of yoga – a heated variety began in September and the already-popular aerial yoga is getting a dedicated room as well in the 3,000-square-foot space – but admits aerial and Yin are her favorites. Aerial yoga is just what it sounds like, using outsized elastic bands suspended from steel girders. Yin features long-held and firmly grounded poses.
“You have to slow down and be grounded before you can lift up and progress,” she says of Yin. As for aerial, “I try to get upside down every day.”
Attired in peacock-patterned pants, Zilka says, “We’re pretty individualistic and crazy with what we wear around here.” But she also mentions an outfit company known for its showy styles and says, “We’re not about that.”
Besides Yin and aerial, Zilka has trained in Hatha, Vinyasa and restorative yogas. Additionally, she has developed and teaches what she calls “smart yoga.” She was always an athlete (NCAA track and field; Syracuse University cheerleader), but said yoga offered her something more profound: “Change the body, quiet the mind.”
In the world of finance, Zilka says, part of her job was to lower the stress and anxiety of big deals.
“That is exactly what I do for people now. I reduce their stress and anxiety and transform them into their happier self. I used to go deep into a company during restructuring. Now I go into people’s souls.”
There the broad-brush suppressors of personal growth are societal pressures and egos. “Men, interestingly, can be the first to see their ego is in the way.”
Whatever the challenge, she says, “We want to figure out what’s blocking you from being your higher self.”
Mantra Mind Body, at 1455 E. Putnam Ave., hosts 35 classes per week, taught by 15 instructors.
For more, visit mantramindbody.com.