Our Q & A series intends to gather and share insight from leading experts in their field. This week, we are lucky enough to have Maria Munkowits with us.
Maria gifted us with rewarding insight on how best to cope with recent turbulent times and a gentle reminder to “not compare your journey to anyone else, and be mindful of the allure and illusions of social media”. We couldn’t have worded it any better.
We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.
Let’s kick off by telling us a bit about yourself and the business you’re in.
I’m Maria Munkowits, I’m a freelance dancer and Pilates, Barre and Yoga Instructor working in Tāmaki Makaurau. I also co-host Innerspace retreats with my friend and fellow instructor Abby Simons.
How did Innerspace start, was it straightforward forward or did it take time?
It happened very organically, Abby and I work at some of the same studios in central Auckland and were keen to combine our skills to offer a blend of classes within a wellness escape setting. We are both creatives so it was about a 6 month lead up of doing branding and photo shoots partnered with some giveaways with our favourite brands to promote. Everything flowed naturally and our first retreat in February was such a lovely and rewarding experience.
What are common issues you see your clients dealing with and how do you help them overcome this?
Mobilising the spine and strengthening the trunk/core is really important to counteract a lifestyle geared toward a lot of sitting or driving. I’m a big believer in working the entire body with integrated and controlled movements then applying those neural pathways to create freedom in functional everyday actions. If someone can have an awareness of their posture and whole body in space, the exercises will be experienced much deeper and therefore become more beneficial over time. I think it’s crucial to hauora (wellbeing) to honour your body with movement, it’s just about finding that thing that brings you joy.
I think it’s crucial to hauora (wellbeing) to honour your body with movement, it’s just about finding that thing that brings you joy.
What are some tips you can give us for how you best navigate these turbulent times of lockdowns and the wider pandemic?
Burnout and stress is a really prevalent thing within our culture at this time, and adding lockdowns to the mix can be really unsettling. Routine is great, committing to regular classes and showing up for yourself can improve both physical and mental health immensely. The social aspect is also really important, to be in an environment of positive energy can turn a not so good day around, also just the action of carving out time to move the body and regulate the nervous system can be very beneficial for handling stress.
How does your wider community shape the way Innerspace operates?
We are always open to ideas and welcome feedback from our clients and friends. I think working in this industry attracts like minded people, and from that I often see partners or parents/family get coaxed along to classes – they may arrive unsure or nervous and it’s awesome to see them leave with a big smile or a post workout glow they perhaps weren’t expecting! The health and wellness/fitness community in Auckland/NZ is relatively small but I am so happy to exist in a space where we can tautoko (support) each other and create opportunities for growth.
What does your morning routine look like?
I’ve recently started tongue scraping (an Ayurvedic technique for detoxification) so as soon as I wake up I’ll do that 5 – 6 times. Every morning is a bit different depending on studio timetables but I like to wake up around the same time each day to make sure I get to bed at a reasonable hour. Getting enough sleep is so crucial so magnesium is my number one supplement. I usually eat my first meal around 11 or 12, I find this type of intermittent fasting works well for my body and gives me more energy in the mornings.
What’s your favourite way to train at the moment?
Over this latest lockdown I’ve taken up running, which is something I never thought I would do! I’ve always had an aversion to how foreign it feels in my body, but I decided to challenge my comfort zone and while I’m still very much a beginner, I do love getting outdoors and I’m slowly feeling an improvement in my stamina.
When you’re not training or working on the business, what’s your favourite way to spend time?
Either catching up with friends or family or going to the beach for a walk or swim. I’m definitely a summer person and love the longer warmer days. I’d like to start a few new hobbies like surfing and tennis this season – learning new skills keeps my mind happy and fulfilled as well.
Can you give one word of advice to someone that is looking to increase their overall health and fitness?
Find a modality that you enjoy, and that works within your schedule. The more obstacles you can remove, the more likely it is you will create a habitual routine. Start with small realistic goals, these will add up to greater achievements. Most importantly, try not to compare your journey to anyone else, and be mindful of the allure and illusions of social media.
How has Covid affected your business and what are you doing to get around the current restrictions?
It really is a lesson in releasing control, everyone is in the same situation and dealing with a lot. The best thing I can do is show up fully to my community in terms of offering online content where I can, but also realising it’s also ok to take this time to focus on other things and take a break. We are really hoping we get the freedom this summer to host our second Innerspace retreat in February, it’s important to have things to look forward to!
It really is a lesson in releasing control, everyone is in the same situation and dealing with a lot.
And let’s finish on a high, what is something you’re most proud of or your greatest achievement?
I think rather than one specific thing, I’m most proud of my ability to be versatile and have a lot of strings to my bow. Dance training and my further career in the arts industry gave me a really good foundation of discipline, resourcefulness and being adaptable to change. I’m also so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to travel and experience parts of the world while performing I otherwise may have not had the chance to see.
Find her on Instagram @mariamunkowits and,
Find out more about Maria’s three-day Innerspace retreat this February here – where she and Abby Simons combines Yoga, HIIT Pilates, and nature walks with nourishment and a space of genuine connection. What a blissful way to start your year.