Teaching yoga at her studio in Orono, Sandy Cyrus enjoys being her own boss while passing on her passion for the ancient system of breathing practices, postures and meditation.
“People often tell me that yoga has made a real difference in their lives and it’s very rewarding to know that,” says Cyrus, owner of Full Circle Yoga, which she opened in 2002, adjacent to her Stillwater Avenue home.
Today, offering nine classes a week to 50 students of all ages and abilities, she continues to delight in using yoga to transform people’s lives.
“I like the challenge of creating a yoga practice that honors people, wherever they are,” says Cyrus, who earned an M.B.A. in 1996 from the Maine Business School. “I like that it’s a spontaneous practice so I really have to see people and listen to them to be an effective teacher. There’s a kind of built-in vitality to the act of being a good yoga teacher. Sometimes students come in angry or frustrated or fatigued.
But those are just emotions – the Buddha would call them mental formations that aren’t real. So I honor their feelings; their mat is a sanctuary, not a place of judgment. My goal is to create a practice that can set them free from the bondage of whatever negative emotion they’re feeling.
“One day a woman came to class and said her heart was cold and closed up. First we did some back bends to physically open her heart. Then I led a series of yoga poses in which students partnered with each other. She left class smiling, with a big, wide, open heart, because she had so much fun connecting with another person. There’s something very healing when we get out of our heads and into our bodies.”
Owning a small business is immensely gratifying for Cyrus, who has a background in theater and dance. “I like being my own boss,” she says. “I like attending to every detail. I like washing the mats and making the eye pillows (eye covers that help students relax during the resting pose at the end of yoga practice). I get to be very meticulous about everything because there’s no one to answer to and there’s no reason not to have everything exactly the way I think it should be to serve my students.
“I like that I can have a vision and can follow it through all the way to the end,” continues Cyrus, who designed her 500 square foot studio to be a peaceful, welcoming haven, with warm pine walls, a bamboo floor, stained glass window and skylights that fill the space with natural light. “People like coming here,” she says. “They tell me it has good chi (energy).”
She also likes the freedom she gets from being on her own. “I work hard and I play hard and I like it that way. The other reason I like what I do is because of the creative aspect and the way it is possible to connect deeply with people when you are exploring and creating together.”
Cyrus was involved in business and marketing long before opening Full Circle Yoga. From 1980 to 1993, she served as executive director of the Theater of the Enchanted Forest, a professional touring children’s theater company, and in 2001 she was named marketing and development director for the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor.
She was arts coordinator at the American University in Bulgaria, where she worked with her husband Al Cyrus, former chair of UMaine’s Theatre Department, who was hired to institute a theater curriculum at AUBG. After his death in 1993, she took her first yoga class as a way to help her recover from her loss. A former dancer, she immediately took to yoga, recognizing that both physical disciplines share an emphasis on breath-guided movement and mind-body awareness.
In 2002, after earning certification from the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Cyrus opened Full Circle Yoga – the first yoga studio in the Bangor area.
“I felt a strong calling to return to a career centered on creativity and self-expression,” she says. “That’s why I named my studio Full Circle. It felt like I came home to myself.”
Determined to make yoga accessible to everyone, Cyrus has lead classes at the Orono Parks and Recreation Department, Maine Discovery Museum, Bangor Public Library, UMaine’s Student Recreation and Fitness Center and the Juvenile Detention Center in Charleston. She also has taught therapeutic yoga to people with chronic health issues and to children available for adoption through the Maine Department of Human Services.
A native of Rahway, N.J., who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from U Maine, Cyrus credits the education she received at the Maine Business School with giving her the skills and training to run her own business. A graduate assistant for Professor Guvenc Alpander who worked with local companies to improve employee satisfaction, Cyrus says his consulting work “made his classes alive and relevant.” She also hearkens back to classes with Professor Bob Strong and Professor Virginia Gibson.
“I still live by Professor Strong’s advice that money today is worth more than money tomorrow,” says Cyrus. “And Professor Gibson made statistics so understandable. One of my strongest memories is watching her prepare a room for an important presentation and going around with a bottle of Windex, cleaning off the desktops. I was impressed with the importance of presentation and attention to detail, as well as with the idea of making it right and getting it done, no matter who you are. I really admired and respected her lack of ego.”
Cyrus, who always tries to reach new markets, also offers private yoga classes, Thai Yoga Massage, therapeutic yoga and prenatal yoga. Reflecting on her success as a businesswoman, she advises would be entrepreneurs to “put yourself in the shoes of your customers and your employees. Be passionate about details and be open to opportunities for expansion or diversification or deepening the relationships you have with your employees and your customers.”
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