In 2015, as Manja H. Podratz, Ph.D., stood in front of her first yoga class, she found herself confronted with students’ needs that she did not feel equipped to meet. “These were real people with real questions,” she says. “They sought out yoga to help them with insomnia, anxiety and depression. Some struggled with recovery from knee and back surgeries, post-chemotherapy and old injuries that had never really healed. Many of my students were not in yoga class for fun. They wanted to develop a practice that would improve their health.”
Inspired by the needs of her students, Podratz continued her yoga training and branched out to become a certified brain health coach, certified life coach, certified hypnotherapist and master teacher of Reiki, spiritual healing through laying on of hands.
“My goal is to help my students take their mindfulness practice from the mat to their daily lives. They are often frustrated with their circumstances and tormented by negative self-talk. I help my students to remember what brings them joy, to reconnect to their purpose in life, and to see life as a constant flux that we can meet with awareness and strength.” Podratz leads her students toward a balanced life, combining yoga, meditation and healthy living. She is currently earning a doctorate in integrative medicine to greater expand what she can offer her students.
Podratz’s ties to yoga run deep. She was born and raised in Communist East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down and began receiving her first instruction in hatha yoga from her father at the age of 6. “He also introduced me to relaxation techniques,” she says.
In 1999, Podratz was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Following this diagnosis, she completely changed her diet and lifestyle, living on raw food for two years and then as a vegan ever since. This aided in her recovery, and since then she has given birth to three children at home. Then, in 2001, a sports accident caused the fracture of three vertebrae in her spine — yoga served as an invaluable part of her rehabilitation. “These experiences allow me to empathize with my students as they face seemingly insurmountable hurdles in their lives. I have forged my own path through yoga, meditation, Reiki and healthy living. I believe I can help lead my students to find their own way to wellness.”
From 1998 to 2006, Podratz practiced kundalini, prenatal and hatha yoga in Germany. She came to the United States in 2008 and received her 200-hour teacher training from Shanti Warrior Living Yoga School in Mobile.
International retreats to Costa Rica, Belize and Italy are a unique offering Podratz brings to the Bay area. “Intensive yoga retreats were always my intention,” she says. “A week of healthy food, movement and mindfulness allows students the space to assess where they are on their life’s journey and where they’d like to go.” She acknowledges the limitations modern schedules and demands have posed for students trying to take their yoga practice to the next level. “A deep immersion is difficult to achieve in the bustle of our daily lives,” she says. “Taking a week to travel to the jungles of South America or to the history-steeped island of Sicily gives students the opportunity to dig in. Enjoying beautiful places and new experiences with like-minded yogis is, of course, a plus.”
And the students who attend Podratz’s retreats leave feeling inspired. One student commented, “I was able to use her theme of ‘inner space meets the open sky’ to help me refresh and come back with a new outlook. In this intimate setting, we felt supported: mind, body and spirit. We had excellent meals, teas and snacks, with all the amenities for the body, including a Reiki session, breathing practices and yoga asana practice. The meditation and yoga nidra nourished my soul. We had plenty of free time to read, to relax in the hot tub and at the beach, and to engage in enlightening conversation. I feel more equipped to face my busy schedule with a greater knowledge of how to handle stress.”
Podratz offers workshops as well as private classes, which she describes as one of the most important aspects of her mission. “These students include post-chemotherapy patients and teenagers on the autism spectrum who may not feel comfortable in group classes but still want to do something for their health. It is tremendously rewarding to see others recover and become strong and confident, especially when they are able to live authentically and are in love with their lives.”
Manja’s Upcoming Schedule
1. Diet and Hormonal Balance six-week program: The initial free presentation will be on Friday, January 10, from noon to 1 p.m. at Synergy Yoga & Pilates in midtown Mobile. After that, the 6-week program meets once a week in the afternoon. yogawithmanja.com/diet-and-hormonal-balance
2. Our Chakra System: On Saturday, February 1, from 10 a.m. to noon at Synergy Yoga & Pilates, Podratz will host a workshop on the chakra system and how to use it as energy sensors, generators and transformers to shift from the material to the subtle realms and back and to align the vital body for holistic well-being.
3. Upcoming International Retreats: Podratz will host a retreat on a private island off the coast of Belize this Memorial Day. However, registration for this retreat is now closed. She will then hold a week-long retreat in Sicily, Italy, in May 2021 and another in Belize in September 2021. For more information, visit yogawithmanja.com.