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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Aug 09, 2019

Stephanie Hicks Creating a Healthy Balance

By Deirdre Flanagan Ward

Stephanie Yoga Photo Shoot

One might wonder what the Deputy Academic Director of the M.S. in Applied Analytics program within Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies might do to relax in her spare time. “Yoga!” one local woman exclaimed. Meet Middletown’s Stephanie Hicks.

Hicks attended Elon University in North Carolina, where she became interested in psychology and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the subject. She decided she loved the field so much she went on to complete her master’s in General Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and then earned her Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology from Fordham University.

“My main research areas focused on successful aging, as well as perceptions and activities that influence physical health among adults,” she said.

And when not immersing herself in academia, she now combines her interest in health and well-being by teaching yoga classes around Monmouth County.

“I first took a yoga class in college and really enjoyed it,” she smiled. “We learned about a handful of different styles. I had been a gymnast and cheerleader for most of my life, so getting into yoga felt like a natural transition. I increased my practice and incorporated meditation when I moved to New York City to start my doctoral program. I often felt strapped for time and found yoga to be a great way to get in a workout while lowering my stress level at the same time.”

Stephanie Yoga Photo Shoot

As she continued her yoga practice over the years, Hicks said she often considered getting teacher certification but always created excuses for not enrolling in a training program. She admitted the excuses often centered over finances and a packed social calendar. But still, the idea circled in her head.

“I had a call with a spiritual coach who stressed the need for me to dig deeper spiritually and make a career shift,” she said. “After this call, I deepened my meditation practice and realized that I really did want to teach yoga. I reviewed the schedule of an upcoming teacher training program at a local studio and realized that I was free most of the weekends when the sessions took place. The financial piece of it still made me nervous, though. The night before I was scheduled to meet the studio owner and sign up for the training, I didn’t sleep much. I had such a strong fear of financial lack as a result of enrolling in the program.

“But the next morning, I came back to my meditation practice. After 20 minutes of meditation, I pulled a card from an angel card deck that I have (cards in this deck have positive, guiding messages) and pulled the ‘Prosperity’ card. The message that goes along with this card is to release worry surrounding financial lack, for all of your material needs are taken care of. Pulling this card and seeing its message really moved me and reaffirmed my intention to enroll in the training program. So later that day I did! And I didn’t experience any financial loss following. It was the final push I needed.”

And there was no pushback from her fiancé, Michael DiFiglia, either.

Stephanie Hicks middletown nj

“He always was, and continues to be, extremely supportive of whatever goals I set for myself, including enrolling in yoga teacher training,” she said. “He even let me teach him yoga a few times to practice!”

Hicks also admits she enlisted family members, including her dad, who had not stretched in over a decade and had his hips replaced a few years back!

Balance is something Hicks is constantly aware of and working on.

“The wonderful thing about yoga is that certain poses assist with certain things, mentally and physically,” Hicks said. “Working in Manhattan made me feel a bit disconnected at times from the Monmouth County community, but diving into the yoga community in the area has helped me feel much more connected. It’s great to go to so many amazing yoga events that take place here and meet open, like-minded people.”

In addition to balancing here career, teaching yoga, blogging and answering emails from her followers, Hicks is adding another significant element to her ‘life balance’ this October when she walks down the aisle to become Mrs. Stephanie DiFiglia.

“I’m really happy that yoga is a part of my life because I think it will be a wonderful practice to model for my future children as well as help me stay sane!”

Three things to know about Hicks:
1. Morning coffee is her happy moment.
2. Her favorite pose is the Pigeon Pose.
3. You can follow her at