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Spotlight Iowa City: Calmly finding a center

BY HANNA ROSMAN | FEBRUARY 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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Maureen Mondanaro uses “peace” of mind to streamline her busy life.

She’s a mother of three busy girls, a prominent downtown restaurant owner and — as if it weren’t enough — a co-leader of Hothouse Yoga in Iowa City and Coralville. Luckily, the final title brings with it some relaxation.

“It gets kind of crazy, but when it gets really crazy, I try to use my yoga off the mat and remind myself of what’s really important,” said Mondanaro, a petite woman with short blond hair.

The 50-year-old heard about hot yoga (participants stretch in typical yoga positions, except in a steamy hot room) in 1990 from a friend. Mondanaro discussed it with her husband, Jim Mondanaro, who had suffered an injury around that same time. After 75 days, he was cured, he felt and looked younger, and found a new love for many things in life.

“[Yoga] has a trickle-down effect on everything else you do,” said Maureen Mondanaro, who soon also began the practice. “It has no comparison to other workouts.”



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Unsurprisingly, she lives a healthy lifestyle that is complementary to her workout routine. Her diet is full of fruits, grains, and vegetables, and she eschews red meats and stimulants such as coffee.

“I am a firm believer in what you put in your body has an impact,” she said. “It has an impact on your thoughts, your level of productivity, and how you feel about yourself and relate to other people.”

Lindsey Kaalberg, a Hothouse Yoga instructor and UI student, has worked with Maureen Mondanaro for three years.

“You can tell she is really passionate,” Kaalberg said. “She is really helpful and always there when you need her.”

Yoga can have a huge effect, especially among UI students because of the heightened stress levels that college students deal with, some say.

“She is really able to make anyone feel comfortable in a studio,” said Emma Rainey, a Hothouse Yoga instructor who’s known Mondanaro for seven years. “She combines welcoming people and helping them address their needs.”

Rainey said she began her study of yoga to help ease the stress of returning to school after making a career as a visual artist. Maureen Mondanaro helped curb Rainey’s stress and find her center.

“[Maureen] is a little ball of dynamite,” Rainey said. “She is so full of energy and love, it’s awesome.”

Mondanaro’s interests do not lie only in the practice of yoga and healthy eating but also in business ventures with her husband. The couple owns Joseph’s, Bread Garden Market, Givanni’s, Mondo’s Saloon, and Micky’s Irish Pub (they first broke into the restaurant scene when Maureen Mondanaro was 21).

“We ride the ride,” said the Ottumwa, Iowa, native, who had reluctantly majored in business at Colorado State.

To make it a smoother ride, she uses yoga to give her the ability to do more with her life and help others.

And she likely passes that off to her students, many of whom leave the 75-minute class feeling sweaty but rejuvenated and commenting that they are on “cloud nine,” reaching a new level of calm.


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