The License to Be That Way. An Interview with an Amazing Yoga Teacher at FIU Fitness Center and a Fascinating Person – Bonnie Quiceno.

FIU BBC Fitness Center Yoga Classes
The room is spacious, bright and inviting; with hardwood floors and huge floor-to-ceiling windows which let Miami sun feel welcomed in here, just as welcomed as all regulars or any random curious visitor. Abundant greenery, palm trees and the bay on the other side of the windows complete the picture and fill this space with energy. Once you open the door, you want to stay a little longer.

Florida International University Wellness Center added yoga to the existing classes back in 2000. The idea came from brainstorming ways to improve students’ general wellbeing and was an instant success. Students loved yoga and the schedule quickly changed from one class to four classes a week.

FIU BBC Fitness Center Yoga Classes

When FIU created an opening, Bonnie Quiceno, a former dancer from Georgia, just completed her 200-hour yoga teacher training and grabbed this opportunity with all the aspiration of a freshly trained teacher. Her passion for yoga, endless positive energy and genuine care for students made FIU yoga community be truly one of a kind.

Bonnie was a dancer her whole life and was actually pursuing an actress career when she met her husband Arbey, changed her mind about everything, quit dancing and moved to Miami.

“I took a year of just being a wife and then realized that I’ve got to do something,” Bonnie says.

“So I started going to yoga classes and literally at the second class I thought – I want to teach this. This is an amazing stuff; I need to teach this!”

Bonnie’s husband Arbey was the director of the maintenance department for two hotels in South Beach at the time and had a dream of opening a hardware store. He had been buying hardware and tools for as long as Bonnie had known him. Arbey decided to join his wife at her yoga path: he wanted them to grow together. The couple didn’t have enough money for both of them to have the training and so Arbey sold his dream hardware store to be able to do yoga teacher training with Bonnie.

Today they are both yoga teachers.

FIU BBC Fitness Center Yoga Classes

“Thanks to Bonnie, we all feel being a part of the FIU yoga family,” says Monica Silva, an FIU graduate, pursuing her Master’s Degree in global strategic communications. Monica used to attend other yoga places before she came to Bonnie’s classes. Once she came, she became a regular.

“It’s different here,” says Monica, “Most of us become friends and keep in touch outside the classes. People are mindful here – after the class we don’t leave right away. We stay and talk and we care about each other.”

Monica is also one of the five students attending Bonnie’s recently created Blue Lotus Yoga Teacher Training, her own 200-hour certification course.

“I’ve been noticing lately a lot of the students are struggling with juggling time to study because they have to work,” Bonnie explains. “I knew something must be broken in the system, if students come to yoga classes just to rest, to sleep.”

This got her thinking – students could make much more money teaching yoga, than doing some usual no degree restaurant job. The math was simple: $90 for an hour of a private yoga class versus eight hours a day delivering sushi at $10 per hour. Once she figured it out, she realized that by teaching students to teach yoga, she could help them make more money and have more time to study or have this supplemental income at the beginning of their career ladder.

“The only thing I love more than teaching yoga is teaching people to teach it. It makes me happy,” Bonnie says and the smile lights up her face.

Donny Boulanger moved to Miami from Tampa a couple of years ago and began working at FIU Parking and Transportation Department. He started taking FIU yoga classes and before he knew it, became a regular.

“Almost all friends I have in Miami,” says Donny, “I met here at yoga.”

He remembers, when Bonnie mentioned Blue Lotus Yoga Training, he agreed without hesitating. Now he is ready to start teaching classes to the public and currently practicing teaching here at FIU.

“When you do yoga, nothing else matters,” Donny says.

FIU BBC Fitness Center Yoga Classes

Bonnie is a genuinely happy, positively minded person. She doesn’t have her own children, but she considers her students to be her kids.

“At least once during each class I absolutely fall in love with every student in the room. There’s always that moment – this is so rewarding!” she smiles.

Bonnie has two “confirmed kids”, as she calls them. Nan Jia is her Chinese daughter, an FIU graduate, whom she met at the class and offered help and support to the lonely girl, whose family was on the other side of the planet. They had a special connection and Nan Jia quickly became a regular guest at Bonnie’s house. She called Bonnie Mom and her husband Papi (Arbey is Colombian). After graduating Nan Jia returned to China, but they never lost contact and Nan Jia considers Bonnie to be her second mother.

Bonnie’s another “confirmed child” is a Turkish boy Sidar. About six years ago Sidar’s mother happened to stay alone at the hotel in South Beach being none month pregnant. Her husband was in Turkey and she had no one to take care of her. When Bonnie and Arbey heard about her situation, they instantly offered their house and their support. She stayed with Bonnie for two weeks before the birth of the baby. It was a water birth and Bonnie was in the tub with her. When the baby was born, Bonnie was the first to hold him. His real mother tells Bonnie, with no jokes involved, that she only gave birth to Sidar, while Bonnie is his real spiritual mother.

These are no ordinary stories, but to Bonnie this is the only way she can be.

“I’ve always been like that. I don’t know how else to think,” Bonnie says.

She explains that she grew up in South Georgia where people just help people. They don’t think about it or at least that’s her perception of her upbringing. And her husband, Bonnie says, has a heart that is bigger than this planet.

Bonnie and Arbey had a lot of grief from some people who heard that they took home a strange Muslim woman. People did not understand or approve.

With time Bonnie noticed an interesting pattern – people would feel more comfortable with your presence and your behavior, no matter how strange they thought it was, once they knew you were a yoga teacher.

“Yoga gives people the license to be that way. Which we shouldn’t actually have to have the license to; we should just be that way,” Bonnie says.

When she used to say she was a vegetarian and refused to eat meat, people would get offended. Then she would say she was a yoga teacher and so she didn’t eat meat. Suddenly, they became apologetic.

“It’s OK if you are a yoga teacher not to eat meat. It’s not OK if you are just a regular person. I don’t know why,” Bonnie sighs, but her eyes keep smiling.

One day people will learn to be tolerant to their differences, but for now you have yoga as "your license to be that way."
FIU BBC Fitness Center Yoga Classes
FIU BBC Fitness Center Yoga Classes
FIU BBC Fitness Center Yoga Classes

Useful facts:

Everybody can attend FIU Fitness Center, not only students and university members.

Memberships are much cheaper than the usual fitness membership rates – for anybody not involved in the university $215 annually for a basic membership plan. $7 for a Day Pass. 

Find details here.

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    1. What a great studio! I can tell you've worked really hard to create a space that is relaxing and soothing.

    2. This is indeed a great studio! Not mine though, Bonnie Quiceno -