Interview with a Yogi

I’ve chatted a little in the past about my desire to be more intentional with my yoga practice. This is a goal that I consistently fall short on so much so that I’ve simply resolved that it may never be a “regular” part of my regimen. Nonetheless, I truly admire the practice. I love the idea of setting intentions, and the nurturing, accepting environment that the Yoga community appears to embody.

Today I’m sharing an interview with a lovely soul from my local running group who also happens to be a yoga instructor. If you met Tammy today or tomorrow, it would just make sense that yoga was and is a big part of her life. Tammy, although not necessarily a quiet person, exudes a still calm. She is graceful and moves with the confidence of comfort in her own skin. She is as authentic as she is kind and if I were into reading auras, I’d label her pink. Trust me, you’d want Tammy on your team.

Read her words and be inspired.

When and why did you start practicing yoga?

The first yoga class I ever attended was at the Florida State University Student Union, in a tiny, very non-yoga, educational classroom back in the early ’90s. My girlfriend attended classes there and, since she and I shared many of the same interests, thought I would really enjoy it. I was an extremely active person who enjoyed gymnastics, was flexible, loved trying new things and had a very “hippie” outlook on life, so it just seemed appropriate! Also, my mom had taken yoga classes for as long as I could remember, and she always talked about how wonderful the physical practice made her feel.

What was it about the practice that enticed you to become certified? And, what was the process for your certification?

After 20 years of classes at gyms, sessions in friends’ homes, courses on VHS (yikes) and DVD, I finally attended my first yoga studio, Yoga Quest, to try a new discipline of yoga that was buzzing called Hot Yoga. I instantly fell in love! After three babies and many years of weight training (and a few non-training years, too!), much of my flexibility was lost. I committed to long distance running and some cycling, which I absolutely love, but I noticed my body was working tirelessly for me and I wasn’t achieving the balance that I needed.

The physical benefits of Hot Yoga were unbelievable. My body felt exponentially healthier after several months of practicing. I felt stronger and my flexibility was returning. Given that my background was in traditional gym workout, I’ve always focused on the physical benefits of every exercise routine or discipline I join.  However, after only a brief time, I began recognizing that being in the yoga studio surrounded by peaceful people who share their beautiful energy was also affecting me mentally.  I felt an incredible sense of comfort and belonging that made my heart grow after each practice.

It was a little over a year after my first Hot Yoga class that I asked the studio owner, Jeff, about how he came to be a yoga teacher and studio owner. He heaped praises on Many Rivers Yoga Teacher Training at Journeys in Yoga and how it had changed his life. As I was fairly entrenched in the yoga lifestyle (or so I thought), I did some research and mentioned the yoga instructor certification training to my husband, never thinking we

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The note! 

could make it work for me to go. As a single income family with three children at the time, money was tight.  Fortunately, my husband is the most giving and selfless person I have ever met. That Christmas I opened a box from my husband who is always my number one cheerleader and supporter. In the box was two of the yoga books required for the 200-hour yoga teacher training at Journeys with a note that said, “We’ll make it happen”. With childlike excitement, I started my yoga teacher journey that January!

Different studios offer different options for earning your 200 hours. Many Rivers Yoga Teacher Training holds a once-a-month weekend class from January to October. Students attend classes Friday evening and all-day Saturday and Sunday. Each weekend offers instruction on different disciplines of yoga, like Ashtanga, Hot Yoga, Yoga Flow and Yin Yoga. The Journey’s curriculum is very thorough, teaching not only how to teach asanas (yoga poses), but also anatomy, physiology and ethics. Students are required to be present and participate in the classes for the required hours, are assigned reading and homework to do throughout the month and are also required to teach several donation classes before earning certifications.

What is your favorite pose and why?

My body and mind need different things depending on the day. The different disciplines of yoga offer different, but equally as challenging, curricula that are beneficial depending on need.  Each type of yoga is so rewarding, it is impossible for me to choose a favorite or a favorite pose. I can tell you I do not like rabbit or half lotus, but I do them

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Half Lotus

because they are good for me!

 

How does yoga compare to other forms of exercise (i.e. traditional cardio, weight-lifting, running, etc.)?

Intentional is a word that comes to mind.  Physically, yoga tends to be slower, more mindful and purposeful. Yoga targets the entire body. Muscles can strengthen and lengthen at the same time as your heartbeat raises and you experience a cardio effect.  Yoga can also target specific areas, making it versatile as well.  Yin yoga, for example, is very still and targets the joints and fascia in the body and is beneficial as a compliment to the traditional yang exercises (those listed in the question) that do not offer benefits for our bones and ligaments.

For me, perhaps the most fulfilling aspect of yoga is the degree to which we can prepare ourselves mentally.  Yoga means many things to different people.  It can be as simple as a workout, or it can be as complex as a lifestyle.  Yoga teaches us to live and be in the present, to be accepting, to let go of the things you don’t need and to live non-violently.  It teaches that our breath is the link to life.  There is a spiritual side to yoga portrayed in the Yoga Sutras, which contain so much depth.  They are beautiful and worth reading.  Having said all of this, I am not a good one to elaborate on them or the lifestyle of yoga.  While I do not believe yoga goes against my Christian beliefs, because I am a follower of Jesus I have not spent a lot of time digging into all that there is to the spiritual aspects of yoga. I enjoy the asanas and feel like they bring great balance to my mind and body.  I also love the peaceful, non-judgmental beliefs of yoga as they echo the message of love portrayed by Jesus.  I truly believe that yoga offers a combination of physical and mental wellbeing that continues to slowly transform this work-in-progress of a woman to live the life I’m called to live.

I hope I answered your question!! Above and beyond :)

Should everyone include yoga practice in their fitness regimen? If so, why and what advice do you have for someone trying yoga for the first time?

Yes! So much yes!  For the physical and mental benefits I’ve mentioned previously!

Find a yoga studio that offers intro or beginner classes AND JUST GO!  I’ve had the privilege to have practiced at many studios since I first walked through the doors at Quest.  Every studio has its own vibe, but, in my experience, they all follow the societal and spiritual tenants of acceptance and compassion with beautiful, unexplainable energies. I’m struggling to find the right words to express how wonderful it is to be in a studio full of practicing yogis!  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve explained to friends and acquaintances that you do not need to be able to touch your toes or go into the full expression of a pose in order to walk into a studio and better yourself physically and mentally.  Heck, one of my mentors would tell us to “make a shape.”  That’s it!  It didn’t matter that your shape didn’t look like another shape. Yoga is all about doing you, and that looks different in all bodies.  And just for a little confidence, my husband is my guinea pig for my classes, and his shapes look NOTHING like mine!  😉  So, go and find out what your body and mind need!  It may be Hot.  It could be Flow.  It might even be with GOATS!  If it’s Yin, bring your patience and let your mind go.  Whichever suits you best, take the class and enjoy the experience that will propel you into a new and exciting practice for years to come!

 

And that, my friends, is a wrap 🙂

 

Peace and Blessings,

J.

 

 

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