Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham: Yoga Medicine Instructor & Co-Owner, Soul Yoga + Wellness

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Bio:

Teacher, philanthropist, wife, dog mama and business owner, Amanda Bonfiglio Cunningham has been practicing and teaching yoga for a combined 15 years. Since graduating from Kent State University in 2007, Amanda has been traveling the world and studying with master yoga teachers including Tiffany Cruikshank, Christina Sell, Noah Maźe and Seane Corn. When Amanda is not in the studio, she’s combining her love of business and wellbeing as the Media and Marketing Manager for an integrative dermatologist in South Carolina, serving victims of human trafficking in India through her role as a coordinator for Yoga Medicine’s Seva trips, and owner of From Hand to Heart, an online fair trade shop. In addition to her teaching, marketing and philanthropic activities, Amanda founded Full Body Fitness & Yoga in 2012 and in 2013 her studio was rated one of Northern Kentucky’s Best places to practice.

What do you do best?

We {Yoga Medicine by Tiffany Cruikshank}are raising the bar. In an industry full of lunch-break teacher trainings, we are asking our trainees to not only hit the bar, but to exceed it. Through vigorous modular trainings complete with end-of-course testing, anatomical based focal points, mandatory case studies, community engagement, national research and global outreach, we are diligently working to merge eastern and western modalities to output educated teachers and empowered communities.

As a 500-hour Yoga Medicine trained instructor, I personally bring those values into my studio, Soul Yoga + Wellness, in addition to my teachings. I am not an instructor prioritizing feeling good, but making it important my students are simply able to feel. I’m afraid we’ve come to a place where feelings or emotions are masked by business. I want my students to understand the mind/body connection, dropping deep within to explore the sensations and possibility of body + mind. My goal is to raise your awareness and my hope is that, within the space of exploration, my students gain the ability to achieve healthier, happier lives.

What makes you the best?

Enlightenment might be our yogic goal but it’s the journey and what we learn along the way that constructs our worth. We are not the best, nor am I. But as long as we authentically strive to better ourselves, and our communities, then we can be proud to say we are serving our purpose.

Yoga Medicine has been in constant growth for many years and, just as our families and businesses encounter growing pains, so does Yoga Medicine. I am honored to be a part of a team that is building a supportive web of educated, passionate and driven individuals. We evolve as we go, so that every ping along the way is simply a lesson, projecting us farther on our path and closer to our goal.

In my classes I try to exemplify authenticity. Whether a dark moment or light, good day or bad, I will bring it to the table. I do so as a means of linking, connection. We all have our own struggles and triumphs; I think it would be a pity not to share those moments with others. My hope is that through my transparency, a student finds their strength.

In my personal life, I have achieved a lot. And I’m continuing to learn that that statement is not arrogant, but a validation of self-worth. At 31, I own my second yoga studio and third business. I have traveled to 40 countries, raised thousands to fight for human rights, operate Yoga Medicine’s non-profit, the Seva Foundation and continue to better myself through higher education. I am the best version of myself, striving to live a full and purposeful life. When there is a will, there is a way and I ALWAYS find the way.

What are your aspirations?

Yoga Medicine has aspirations to bond the medical world with the yoga industry in a way that heals, empowers and connects. Our mission is to create an international resource of instructors with a depth of knowledge who support healthcare systems around the globe. Our goal is not to replace the provider, but to help people find a practice that can act as a therapeutic adjunct to traditional medical care.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed daydreaming about all the things I want to accomplish; places I want to travel, subjects I want to learn, books I want to read. It begins to feel as if time is speeding and there's no one on patrol. But, then I pause, realizing the very notion of aspiration is an adjective of being fully alive. The want to survive and evolve is the driving force of life. Be happy you have aspirations - it means you are living!

Personally, I want my family and loved ones to be healthy & happy. Professionally, I want to make a lasting difference in the lives of others. And for my business, I hope we hold space for others to find a deeper meaning in their being.

Biggest Success?

Always following my heart.

Most Challenging Moment?

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

We all experience woes in the course of our lifetime. I really do believe each struggle or challenge is an opportunity for growth or understanding. During the struggle it feels impossible to see the reasoning. For me, even if it took years to see, the light appears.

My most challenging moments have been struggling with panic attacks, my inconceivable fear of flying, overcoming parts of my past, realizing the dark parts of myself, letting go of toxic relationships, body image, heartbreaks, loosing loved ones and coming to terms with the fact not everyone who loves me will agree with what I do.

Motto?

In all the chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.

When things are array or don’t seem to make sense, this settles me.

Favorite People/Role Models?

I like to think I turn to spirit as my guide. The universe is quite a cosmic explosion of information and I have to believe there must be a deeper sense of understanding out there. Sometimes a simple walk through the forest or on the coast can be role model enough.

As far as people go, I had the privilege of attending the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum on behalf of our Seva Project, where 2014’s Laureate Kailash Satyarthi led the 3-day discussion. Transitioning from a wealthy businessman in the Indian caste system to full-time children’s rights activist simply because he believed his selfless service would better the world, well, that right there is the model of all roles.

I tend to be attracted to those who follow their passions. Whether it be a stay at home mom, an activist or an astronaut - when a person is listening to their little heart beat, I’m captivated.

Favorite Places/Destinations?

7 years of travel, 40 countries and 2 trans-oceanic boat crossings, you’ve got a travel-junkie on your hands. Tortola, BVI will always keep a part of my heart. Having lived there for over a year, I fell in love with the simple island life and beautiful coastal feel.

In 2011 I had the honor of traveling to Nuku Hiva, an island in the French Polynesian chain. You can only arrive by boat so the island is primitive and pristine. We explored barefoot, finding waterfalls, wild horses, indigenous tribes and local children. The entire experience still gives me tingles.

And to list a few favorites, in no specific order, Kolkata, Koh Samui, Cape Town, Fuerteventura and Colonia Del Sacramento.

Favorite Products/Objects?

I lived and worked aboard a vessel for nearly 7 years after college. We could only bring with us what could fit into a one suitcase. I learned an invaluable lesson those years, no product or object was needed to survive or feel happiness. Less, really, is more.

If I had to pick a tangible object, I’d go with my Jade yoga mat and my Mac laptop. Can my puppy fall into this category? If yes, then definitely my rescue, Teddy. 

Current Passions?

Always travel. Currently our Seva Project.

In 2015 Yoga Medicine raised $45,000 supporting 15 street-kid shelters across Kolkata, housing over 525 survivors. I had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in India learning about the human-trafficking trade and visiting the children housed in those shelters. From the squatters in Africa to the slums of Argentina, poverty is not new to me. The more I’ve seen, the less shaken I’ve become by its sight. Kolkata is certainly on a different level than the rest, probably because its population is so vast. But, it wasn’t the impoverished extremes that impressed me - it was their joy.

Since our project launch in 2015, I have become the Seva Coordinator within Yoga Medicine. We are working to create our our own internal programming to ensure a long lasting, beneficial relationship with the NGOs we work with on the ground, and the children that need our support. In 2017, our goal is to raise $100,000 to support Rescue Foundation’s newest shelter in a village outside of New Delhi. These girls not only need a roof above their head, they need a tangible example of love, support and empowerment. We strongly believe in vocational education for the girls, ending the vicious cycle of the sex trade. Our donations are used for their healthcare, mental rehabilitation, vocational education, and basic human needs such as water, food and shelter.

A question I’m asked frequently and dumbfounded by, Why India?  I always find it hard to articulate my answer.

Some go through life never coming to terms with the path their heart’s been telling them to follow. Some hear it yet choose to ignore it. Some can’t do anything else but listen to it. I fall into the last category. I hear my heart loud and clear. When I listen, and then ultimately follow its lead, I feel alive and right.

Mostly, I choose India because my heart’s been telling me to for many years. But, when a helpless child full of innocence and unconditional love wraps their arms around you; you no longer have a choice. You have a mission.

Whether it be India or replace the blank with any other location on the globe, I travel so that my mind can expand to depths which are unreachable on our home turf. 28 million slaves are being held captive today in almost every country in the world. More slaves now than ever before in history. Mostly children. So I ask them back, Why not India?

https://www.instagram.com/amandabyoga

(photo credit: Ryan Jones)