People, Perspective

An Illuminating Experience: the Union of Light and Yoga

Angelica Santana - Union Yoga

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Angelica Santana, IALD, MIES, LC
Founder, Union Yoga
Senior Associate, CM Kling + Associates

Instagram: @unionyogadc
w: www.unionyogadc.com
e: unionyogadc@gmail.com   

Angelica Santana holds a Bachelor of Architectural Engineering with a focus in Lighting/Electrical systems from The Pennsylvania State University. After graduating, Santana worked with Cline Bettridge Bernstein Lighting Design, New York, on a variety of international projects for two years. She then moved to Washington, DC and started working at CM Kling where she has been since 2013. Her lighting design and project management portfolio includes hospitality, sports, government, civic and residential projects. Her latest venture, Union Yoga, aims to provide yoga & wellness programs to companies, teams, or groups within the lighting and design industry. Santana has recently been elected the IES District 3 Chair and will be starting her 2-year term in a few months.

Below: CM Kling + Associates lighting design projects Angelica Santana was a part of


LightFair recently interviewed Santana about the role yoga plays in her professional life as a lighting designer, her new, side venture and how she hopes it will benefit the lighting community.


How did you get started with yoga?

I had my first experiences with yoga at PSU, and then pursued it more seriously in New York City. It was in Washington, DC where I really established a more solid practice. So, my yoga and lighting design progressions have been very intertwined in terms of experience level and learning. In DC, I became a studio assistant at a studio because I just wanted to spend more time there and be part of that community, it was an Ashtanga studio where I had a Mysore style practice. Even after I stopped being an assistant I continued practicing at the studio. In 2020, I completed my 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training certification virtually. 

In what ways do your passion for lighting design and your experience of yoga complement one another? Help us explore the connection between yoga and light.

In terms of timing, you can see the parallel progression in my professional life and yoga from my earlier response. But even in general, yoga is also about light from a more philosophical standpoint. It is about enlightenment, seeing the light, coming out of the illusion of darkness and into the light of knowledge. It is fascinating to dive deeper into yoga not only as a physical practice but also into its history and teachings.

For me personally, yoga has helped me deal with all the challenges that come with the lighting industry but also be more present and aware to see all the beauty that comes with it as well; that intersection between the humans in the space, the architecture and design around it, and the impact on the environment with a sprinkle of psychology makes this profession ever fascinating.  

What was the pandemic year like for you as a lighting designer? How did your yoga practice evolve?

Surprisingly, it felt like we were working just as much or more as before. I was waiting for that “free time” that so many people were talking about, but it never arrived.

I am thankful for this of course, but being at home and losing the separation of work and personal life, I used yoga as a way to help me maintain that separation that was no longer physically there.

I lived in a 500 sq. ft. apartment when the pandemic started, with my husband, who also was working more than ever. Yoga helped me adapt to this new life and integrate the new situation in a way that to me seemed successful.

What role does yoga play in helping one cope with the challenges and pressures of professional life in the lighting industry?

Yoga can play a big role in staying balanced, focused and efficient. Our industry is filled with constant overlapping deadlines which create the appearance of a high-stress situation that just never seems to end. This makes our mind and body think we are always in this fight or flight mode and that underlying acute stress can lead to health and emotional complications.

A consistent yoga practice that includes a physical practice (asana), breathwork (pranayama), and meditation (focus), can alleviate stress, re-charge you when you need energy, and help you focus better so you can get your work done more efficiently and then be able to have more free time to do the rest of your life. 

What is your advice on incorporating yoga with a busy travel schedule? Say, when you are at a trade show or conference with a packed day ahead of you, how does yoga help?

The good thing about yoga is that you can do it anywhere and you don’t need any equipment (or shoes!). Sure, a yoga mat helps but many times that I have traveled to trade shows or conferences, I have just done my physical yoga practice on the floor of the hotel room, with a towel for my face. There are these super-thin travel yoga mats too that can be folded up instead of rolled so these are super convenient for traveling and that’s what I do now.

I think having a fitness routine, yoga or not, helps tremendously during a trade show to keep your energy level up. A quick morning routine with some physical activity and give you the energy boost you need to start the day. Also in the evening, releasing stress and letting the day go, by doing some breathing exercises for meditation, can help you sleep better which of course will help you take on that next trade show day. 

Is there such a thing as the ideal lighting for practicing yoga? What are some aspects of holistic health that overlap between the two areas?

I love this question… ideal lighting is such a preference-based metric for yoga but I’ll tell you what works for me.

A candle-lit environment is my preference for a relaxing practice. I like very low light levels, warm CCT, and the flame effect which adds a dynamic nature to the space but also provides a focal point in case I need to meditate or concentrate while I sit or balance.

Daylight is my preference for an energizing practice. Now that the weather is nicer, I have been trying to do my physical practice once a week at the park and it just leaves me feeling the best, like it was always a perfect practice, watching the beginning of sunset and the blooming flowers, listening to the life of the city, and surrounded with my yoga friends, 6 ft apart of course.

I think in-studio lighting should allow flexibility since practices and instructors can be so different from each other, it should allow them to be able to set the appropriate mood for the space. Indirect lighting is ideal since many times you are laying on your back staring up at the ceiling. Color changing could be fun and energizing. Lighting around the perimeter and away from the people, making you feel relaxed and not in the spotlight, it is a space of vulnerability after all, so comfort is a priority. 

Tell us about Union Yoga. What is your vision for this new venture?

After completing my yoga teacher training last year, being immersed in this daily practice, I came out with a desire to share yoga with others, starting with the people I know, the lighting community.

The purpose of Union Yoga is to provide wellness programs to companies, teams, or groups within our lighting and design industry. It seemed like a good idea in the middle of this pandemic when many of us were working remotely and starting to feel a little disconnected from our teams. Hence UNION yoga; a place to connect to one another when we can’t physically come together.

If you are interested in bringing a wellness program to your company that includes physical yoga practice, breathwork, meditation and nutrition, please get in touch with me via email or my website. We provide a comprehensive approach to companies with a customizable offering to meet their needs. The lighting industry has become so fast-paced, with so many deadlines, and just constant stress, that it feels like we could all benefit from a little wellness, and a little yoga. Union Yoga is about that, connecting the two parts of my life, lighting and yoga, a union that will hopefully make our industry a little bit brighter.

4 Comments

  1. I am very proud of my niece and goddaughter Angelica Sofía for all her projects and accomplishments. This new project is an effective approach to increase wellness in any environment, specifically in today’s professional organization. I can wait to invite her to deliver this powerful message in our higher education Institution. Love you! Padrino Rafy RR.

  2. As an architect, I know the importance of spatial and lighting design in creating an experience for the user. I think it is a great idea to establish a correlation between your professional and recreational passions that will result in an optimum experience to improve your quality of life.
    Congratulations, Angelica, for this innovative concept which can benefit so many people during these struggling times!

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