When she was 26, Nebraska-based yogi Mary Clare Sweet opened Lotus House of Yoga, her first vinyasa yoga studio in Omaha, Nebraska. Now she owns five Lotus House locations and teaches regularly at yoga festivals. Mary Clare will be teaching at the Hanuman Festival this June in Boulder, CO. She’s known for her fun spirit and lively music playlists.
How did you find yoga?
I found yoga around junior high school! My mom practiced yoga so I was aware of what the practice was. Then, when I was on a summer trip to Estes Park, CO, I bought a book about yoga and it changed my life. I wrote everything from the book into my personal journal and was fascinated. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I began to dedicate my time and energy to studying yoga.
What inspired you to dive deep into the practice and/or become a yoga teacher?
The thing about yoga is that it is an infinite well of wisdom. One question leads to a handful of answers and even more curiosity. I absolutely love being a student and consuming new knowledge. So, the study of yoga lit a fire inside me like nothing else. It is an incredibly dynamic science that helped me heal myself and become my true destiny. I found myself teaching my friends and family yoga. It was very organic in the beginning, gathering at friends homes and dance studios. My mom went through her first teacher training and then inspired me to do the same. I saw a profound shift in her spirituality and her peacefulness and I wanted more of that for myself!
How has your personal yoga practice evolved since you started?
I have been a dedicated practitioner for 15 years, and it’s been a constant evolution. Looking back, the practice was the perfect companion to what I was going through in my personal, professional, and physical life. During years when I needed tremendous fire, a daily 90-minute Ashtanga Vinyasa practice was my ignition. In times when I needed expansion and fun, I explored inversions and arm balances. When I needed a sweet sanctuary for my soul, the mat was there for me to soften and heal.
What have you found to be the most effective/powerful yoga practices/poses to shine your light brightly into the world?
Ashtanga Vinyasa taught me discipline and focus that I desperately needed. Vinyasa was my outlet to discover and honor my divine feminine energy. Yoga Nidra is the most effective healer that I have ever encountered!
What has been your biggest obstacle to seeing your inner radiance?
My biggest obstacles are self-doubt and what I call my ping pong mind. Self-doubt is the voice inside that tries to tear me down. It is a voice that feels like darkness and is sometimes easy to believe. It holds me back from my divine purpose and necessary lessons. When I can, I ask myself if I would ever say that to my sisters, if the answer is no, it is totally bull. But like most of us, sometimes I believe those voices and it takes me nowhere good. Usually straight to the ping pong mind. I call it this because it reminds me of a ping pong game, the ball bouncing back and forth between two players. I try to find “evidence” to prove one right or the other, but it isn’t until the ball flies off the table and I can observe the insane pattern that I realize what is happening.
What do you feel is your greatest gift to the world of yoga?
My greatest gift to my students is to remind them that they are Greatness Embodied. We need greatness out of every human right now and my dharma is to ignite the light inside. If you can remember that for even an instant, you can change your life forever. For too long, we have believed that we must follow in the footsteps of normalcy. I prefer to dance outside the lines and celebrate weirdness.
What is your dharma and how do you follow it?
My dharma is to share love through looking people in the eyes and giving great big hugs.
How do you approach difficulty and challenge?
I get very competitive with challenge. Not with anyone else, but with myself. I look at difficulty as an opportunity to find a new solution. I accomplish this by finding commonalities between the issues and remembering my intention. If you make the difficulty stare face-to-face with your dharma, you see that it is nothing compared to your divine purpose. My grandmother used to say, “It’s just a little thing.” And most things are little things.
What gives you strength to persevere or surrender?
The law of impermanence gives me the clarity that is needed to persevere. Nothing lasts forever so whatever you’re facing has a limited time in the book of your life.
Never force anything is the way I surrender or go with the flow. How do you know if you are forcing it? If you are cutting corners, belittling your integrity, being dishonest, or hiding anything, you are forcing it.
Where do you want to go from here? What are your future plans/projects/dreams?
I have a message of peaceful, breath-centered techniques that are accessible to everybody. I want to speak to more humans that haven’t been touched by the profundity of the yoga practice, and maybe never will. I want to lead the legions of yogis all over the country to change our political system by loving their neighbors and serving their communities. I want to grow my family with my partner Alex and raise children who are wise and ready to be the leaders of the new world. The world that honors Mother Earth, sees colors of the heart, and innovates an ever-changing world.