What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Jennifer

Jen is one of my running heroes. She runs Boston qualifying marathoners like a champ and has a beautiful heart. Jen has been my long time pal and came to the first yoga class I ever officially taught. I was so nervous, but her smile and support put me at ease. Jen is runner, skier and “not a pretzel.” Jen is what a yogi looks like.

Jen

1. When did you start doing yoga and why? Back in 2001, I visited the Nike Employee Store in Portland through my job and was given a stipend to purchase whatever I wanted. (Score!) In between running tanks, shorts and shoes – I bought a pair of yoga pants, because someday, I thought, maybe I’ll start doing yoga. I have never been flexible, and it took four more years before I could get up the courage to actually go to a class. In 2005, I made it a New Year’s resolution to stop making excuses and start going to yoga classes. I started at the gym I went to Redondo Beach had early morning yoga classes. Bonnie was the teacher’s name. She was great! So patient with me – and she could tell that I just wanted to get better at it. We moved to the IE after a few months, and I continued in whatever classes I could find. Starting just above the Fox Theater, then moving to Blue Mud, then onto Inner Evolution Yoga. As I progressed, I found a sense of calming, and a feeling of strength and power that I’d never felt before. I was hooked!

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? Flexibility required! There used to be a yoga series that aired early mornings on PBS back in the 80s that my mom used to watch. She was never flexible and would try her best at the poses, but would get frustrated when she couldn’t do a pose. I always heard her say, “I’m not a pretzel.” And she’d comment that the lack of flexibility runs in the family and I’d never be able to do those poses either. So yoga was never something on my radar growing up, making it that much harder to start as an adult.

3. What is your favorite pose and why? There are so many I love for so many different reasons. My top three are:
-Half-moon – it reminds me how much strength, balance, focus, breath and vulnerability are vitally important to work in harmony to get the most out of the pose. Isn’t that what life is about?
-Pigeon – it forces me to a place where I am not comfortable, and allows me to ease into being more comfortable in that space
-Chair – for the power it gives me. Plus, it’s the BEST pose to get in shape for ski season.

4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? I am so thankful that yoga is so accessible to everyone and anyone – and you don’t need to be a “pretzel” to start (or continue) on your journey. It took me some time to accept that there are some poses I may never master due to my own limitations (cow’s face and twisted pyramid, I’m talking to you), and that is OK. Heck, it took me ten years to be able to touch my toes on a regular basis! I don’t think anyone should ever be made to feel like they have to have a certain body trait to do yoga.

I’ve always been involved in sports. I ski and snowboard, played soccer and used to be a semi-competitive swimmer. Now, I’ve channeled the swimming and soccer into running. I’m into challenging and punishing myself. Often, I wonder what my body would be like if I hadn’t started started a yoga practice. I can guarantee that I would be nowhere near as flexible as I am now (which isn’t very flexible, but much more than 11 years ago!!), and I would probably be nursing many more injuries. Plus, I wouldn’t have the awareness of engaging and relaxing my body as I do today.

5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? Yoga has become deeply personal for me. My husband just doesn’t get it, nor do I ask him to fully understand my reasons why I practice. Yoga helps me to find my own path in the absence of religion. It complements my being, and is one of the parts that make me who I am and who I want to evolve to become as I get older. Each time I roll out my mat and practice, I make a promise to better myself on that day.

6. What do you love most about yoga? Yoga has helped to calm my busy mind, and has allowed me to understand how to live in the moment. Unfortunately, I am a control freak who plans out the minute details in life – traits that can turn negative for myself and my relationships with others. Practicing yoga gives me peace to give in to what I can’t control. Is it an exact science? Far from it. I’m still learning, growing and accepting every day.

Yoga gives me another avenue to challenge my inner self. I always appreciate hearing my yoga teachers tell me to hold the pose one more breath, and if I can hold it one breath, try to hold it one more, and one more after that. Like all things in life, the pose (the hill, the day, the rough times) has an end point. But taking it breath by breath, step by step, day by day – that is living in the moment.

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice?
There is no shame in being hesitant to start. Stepping through the doors of an unfamiliar place seems daunting. It certainly was for me. But once you’ve finished that first class, you will be amazed at what your body is capable of on the mat.

Be honest in what you want to get out of your journey. But also be open to where that journey will take you. You never know where it may lead.

Finally, don’t buy yoga pants because you think you might go to a class someday. Buy them because you signed up to take your first class within the week!

Thank-you, Jen!!!

Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com. 

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Kartsee

I met Karstee through Rock Your Bliss’ 7 Weeks to Bliss program and was excited to find she was also a contributor to Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It, along with my friend Eduardo Martinez. Karstee has used yoga to practice forgiveness and truly connect with her body. Karstee is what a yogi looks like.

Karstee 1

1. When did you start doing yoga and why? The first time I ever went to a yoga class was towards the end of Summer in 2014. I had signed up to go to an early Saturday morning class at Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado. It’s funny because looking back I can’t remember how I even came to hear of this event or what even possessed me to sign up to go– by myself none the less! I remember that morning rising before the sun and grabbing my dusty mat from the corner of my room, it was propped up against my dresser and I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it actually had cobwebs on it! I threw my hair up, threw the mat in the back seat, stopped for a coffee and then hit the road. I got to Red Rocks just after the sun rise…. and the light was stretching across the city below in one of those “everything that light touches is yours” Mufasa-esque type of moments. It was beautiful. Yogis & Yoginis were all over the amphitheater sitting on their mats and soaking up the warm morning sun. I picked a spot (in the very back row, or course) and unrolled my mat. I sat down and did some very beginner stretches and smiled at the people next to me. After a while the class began, I moved through poses that were familiar and learned some that I of course had never heard of before. In downward dogs I noticed I lacked the strength to hold myself up for very long, my arms would tremble and I would have to drop to my knees. I noticed that I could never gracefully pull my leg all the way through from downward dog into a lunge (I still can’t), but something about the overall message of the class made me feel like it was ok to forgive myself for not being there yet, for not being perfect. There seemed to be a message of letting go, of not lingering on any thought for too long, but rather just acknowledging, breathing and being in the moment. Towards the end of the class in a chautauranga (that I most certainly was doing wrong) the teacher said something along the lines of, “take a moment to send gratitude out to everything and everyone that has brought you to this very moment in this beautiful setting.” You could feel the electric buzz of gratitude, it was overwhelming. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought of the years that I had spent away from Colorado and of the person that I had been married to in that time. We had hurt each other and it had ended in such a final way. In that moment of gratitude I felt a subliminal wave of forgiveness and love to the people we were, to the person I had become. I saw the way I had been feeding the hurt inside of me for so long with unhealthy things like Chipotle Burritos and I had so much compassion to myself. It was strange. And when I left that day, I felt so peaceful and I felt like I had just done the kindest thing I possibly could do for myself. And so even though I don’t remember why I initially went that day, I know what keeps me coming back.

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? I thought that every single person that practiced yoga was going to be blonde, wear lululemon, and be kind of snobby. And while yes, there are blonde people, and yes the yoga community loves their lululemon… I have literally never felt like someone was being snobby to me. I had a lot of fear because I don’t fit the mold of what I thought a “yoga person” would look like. But I tell people all the time that my initial beliefs could not have been further from the truth, because if a person has developed a physical practice of yoga, I honestly believe they cannot help but for the practice to spill over into all the other areas of their life and so if a person is a yogi… there’s no way that person could ever hold lasting judgment against me because when they come back to their mat, back to their breath, and back to themselves they would only be able to see love. And I SWEAR I feel this when I go to my yoga studio (Core Power Yoga in Boulder)! Going to 24 hour fitness as an obese person, I feel completely invisible… but when I go to my yoga studio it feels like going home. I’m greeted by my name, I’m supported, teachers actually take the time to show me adjustments. I feel the very opposite of invisible, I feel seen.

3. What is your favorite pose and why? It’s definitely Supta Buddha Konasana (reclined bound angle pose)— I love after flowing, just laying in that moment and slowing down. I remember my favorite time ever in this pose— That day NPR and all major news outlets were reporting how the world was facing the biggest humanitarian crisis our generation has ever seen with the floods of migrants and refugees pouring into Europe. My heart and mind were so on this topic, I was fixated… I almost felt like I was driving in a daze on the way to class. While I was sitting at a red light I happened to look over and made eye contact with a homeless man on the corner holding a sign that said, “You are awesome”. He suddenly pointed at me and then mouthed the words from his sign… but he did it slowly and with a big smile, “You. Are. Awesome.” I smiled back and pointed at him and said, “You are awesome too.” We laughed, the light turned green, I waved and drove on. Class felt like any normal class until landing in Supta Baddha Konasana— I love practicing yoga to music and there are so many times that it has amplified the moment for me. Laying there with one hand on my belly and one hand on my heart, I listened to Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”, it came to the line “and every breath we drew was hallelujah”. I thought of the migration crisis… all of those people running from the unimaginable and looking for a better life for themselves and their loved ones. Hallelujah. I thought of Germany (Germany!) opening it’s doors and arms and hearts and receiving thousands of these weary people. Hallelujah. I thought of that man on the corner smiling in the sunshine and bringing joy to other people’s day. Hallelujah. I came back to the moment– to a studio where you can fall to pieces in the dark concentrating on your breath and sending love to the whole world. Hallelujah.

Supta Baddah Konasana— how delicious. Hallelujah.

Karstee 2

4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? I feel like yoga has improved my body image. I’ve come to appreciate my body— the things it can do and the areas where it’s limited. As I said above, I also really try to honor where I’m at and not beat myself up. I also feel I’m more in tune with the areas that are sore, and I know that most the time it’s nothing a good hour on the mat can’t fix. I also have become really mindful about my breath— and I try to send love to the areas that need it through my breath. I really love doing this during my menstrual cycle.

5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? Yoga has strengthened my spirituality, it’s a beautiful complement to the beliefs that I already held about what this whole world means and how I should behave in it.
As for my sexual orientation/gender identification I feel like for so long I was trying to be invisible, I had been so hurt that I thought if I could just be invisible no one would ever notice me, love me, hurt me, you name it… I was hiding from it all… but really being in your body through a yoga practice just makes me eager to explore things I’ve been avoiding for a long time. And I’ve been excited, even though it’s been slow going, about the process of bringing my body back to life, if you will. Also, I know this is strange, but one time I went through class with my hair down (total accident— forgot a hair tie) and it was actually a really cool experiment and ended up being quite nice; I felt very feminine and sexy and as someone who has almost been living like a gender less asexual type of person it felt very exotic. haha!

6. What do you love most about yoga? I love the community that I have found, it is one that is so embracing and supportive!

Karstee

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? What do you have to lose? Try it, and if one type of class doesn’t strike your fancy then try a different one! And find the teachers you like, that is key! I love yoga for the physical practice, but I adore the classes where there is a spiritual side or lesson or something to ponder; and like I said I like music, some people don’t. There is a world of options out there, and I guarantee you will be able to find the one that fits you and that elevates whatever area of your life you might be looking to better!

Thank-you, Karstee! You can read more of her work on her blog or by picking up a copy of Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It.

Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com. 

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Marcella

Marcella is my sister and when I asked her to be apart of this series, she said, “...but, I just stared doing yoga.” Even though she considers herself a beginner, I felt her perspective was still valuable and a good reminder that no matter what your level or abilities are, it does not make you any less of a yogi. Marcella is what a yogi looks like.

1. When did you start doing yoga and why?
I don’t remember exactly when I started yoga. I think it was maybe around 2013/2014. In the course of 1 year (2011-2012) I was in a major car accident, my grandma died, and we had lost our dad to a homicide. My sister had found major benefits from yoga to help her through that and she encouraged me to try it. At this point I was still have back pain, anxiety and plenty of nightmares, so I willingly went.

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting?
I think the biggest misconception that I had about yoga was that I needed to be a certain level of fit or flexible to start the practice. This is clearly not the case. What’s great about yoga is that you start at the level you are at.

3. What is your favorite pose and why?
My favorite pose is tree pose. It requires a lot of my concentration to keep my balance, but once I’m there, I feel strong and tall and confident.

Marcella

4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice?
Like I mentioned earlier, I thought I needed to be at a certain level to even try yoga, but it really is for everyone. I don’t look like a fitness yoga Barbie, but I can see myself getting stronger in my practices. It’s about strengthening your whole being.

5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity?
I don’t feel any conflict. I grew up Christian and still practice that in my life today. If anything I feel like that helps me. Yoga helps me to stop and look around, to remain quiet and listen to what God has to offer me. It has really given me time to be open and honest about my feelings and release them.

6. What do you love most about yoga?
The thing I love about yoga is that it’s mindful. While practicing, I am mindful of all aspects of my body, and try to keep in touch with that throughout my day. I find myself watching my posture more and realizing that I’m not relaxing or breathing as I should. Stopping to take the time to do that can really help de-stress throughout my crazy days.

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice?
I encourage so many people to do yoga. I tell them that first of all it’s not as scary as they think. There are different levels and different types of practices and it’s about finding the one that works best for you. You don’t realize the stress you put your body through until you start working through it in yoga. It’s very eye-opening!

Thank-you, sissy!

Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com.

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Melinda

Melinda is a yogi I met through an Instagram challenge. I truly admire her strong, home practice and how honest she is in her poses. Melinda is a former smoker and fibromyalgia thriver. Melinda is what a yogi looks like.

Melinda 1

1. When did you start doing yoga and why?

I had always be pretty healthy and active throughout my 20s and 30s but kind of went through a “midlife crisis” just before I turned 40. I had really neglected my health and diet and had picked up a really bad habit of smoking just before my 40th birthday. Jump ahead 10 years just before my 49th birthday. I had started having pain from what I now know was from fibromyalgia and severe back pain. I was terrified of spinal surgery and was going to do anything possible to avoid it. I decided I was getting healthy no matter what it took! I gave up my bad habits cold turkey. No smoking, no junk food, no fast food, and I had to increase my activity. Chiropractic therapy and spinal injections were not helping very much but I did get instructions from my Chiropractor of exercises to do every day. One look at the drawings and I thought “this looks like Yoga”, or what I thought Yoga looked like. I looked up yoga on youtube and was hooked! I couldn’t get enough of it! It’s been almost 6 years now and my only regret is that I wish I would have started sooner, much sooner.

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about Yoga before starting? I thought that if I walked into a yoga studio I would see people sitting on mats chanting and doing crazy poses that only thin, extremely flexible people could do. That you really didn’t sweat, exert yourself, or build muscle it was mainly for relaxation and stretching. I didn’t see myself as the type of person who could practice yoga. I was overweight, in bad health, and didn’t even know the first thing about it. In my small rural town there are no yoga studios or gyms that offered Yoga and I didn’t know anyone who taught or practiced at home. I didn’t understand that there was more to it than a physical practice and that Yoga was a lifestyle. That you could actually LIVE yoga.

3. What is your favorite pose and why? I have several but if I had to choose only one it would be Wild Thing! Or Camatkarasana. I used to be able to drop back into Wheel Pose anytime I pleased when I was young but I thought those days were far behind me. Before I started my practice I couldn’t even turn my head to look behind me without pain or even do a simple twist. No way did I ever think I could do Wild Thing! After about a month of daily practice I was in the pose without a care in the world. I can’t flip into the pose without a smile on my face. My next favorite pose is Sleeping Pigeon. This is the first exercise my Chiropractor gave me to do that reminded me of “Yoga”. I love this pose and it helps my hips and back so much. I get so much benefit from it. My last one I’ll add to this list is Headstand. I have never NOT been able to do headstand. It shows me how to look at things from a different angle and perspective.

Melinda 3

4. What are your thoughts on Yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? My answer to this question has changed many times. I started my practice to help with my physical pain, and it did help but not only did I benefit from how my body felt but how I felt about my body. I was overweight and unhealthy in the beginning and so my focus was on how to make my body feel better. I thought I was not “in shape” enough to perform the poses correctly and it bothered me a bit. I thought if I just got some weight off I would be able to do this pose or that pose. As time went on I saw improvement in my strength and flexibility and found it didn’t matter what the scale said. I did drop 50 pounds, not that it mattered to my practice but I did have more confidence and wanted to interact with other yogis. I don’t have a studio in my town and no one I knew practiced. I came across a studio 90 miles from me that had a workshop with Kathryn Budig. I couldn’t pass that up! I came back from that weekend with a different attitude toward my body as well as other’s bodies. Kathryn told us to forget about how we looked and asked us not to adjust our leggings if they rolled under our muffin tops! We were all enjoying the practice and it was wonderful! I still struggle with my own body image from time to time just like most women but I try to not let it affect my practice. To just be there in the moment just as I am. I know to some, social media is not their thing but to me it is contact with other yogis that I wouldn’t get elsewhere. I get on Instagram and join in on challenges, post my pictures as well as look at other yogis’ pictures. Everyone and anyone can practice yoga and should without being afraid of what their physical body looks like. We are not our bodies, we are so much more! I know I’m rambling on about this but I get so upset about comments I read on social media. I don’t understand how people can be so rude to others and make such hurtful comments about the way they look or what they’re wearing or even if they are “real yogis”. Ok, off my soapbox.

Melinda

5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification, or any other form of your identity? I feel that yoga compliments everything about me. I decided early on that my yoga was just that. Mine. Whatever I wanted it to be. Once I found out it wasn’t all chanting and twisting your body into contorted poses that is, unless that’s YOUR yoga of course. It’s whatever you want it to be. I believe there are no set rules and anyone can join in at any time no matter what their religion is, who they love, or whatever. But that’s just me. It may be totally different for someone else. I believe yoga is about being true to yourself and your beliefs. It’s about being a good person and doing what is right for yourself, others and our great planet and universe. Being honest, the thing that brings me some grief in relation to yoga is my husband. He totally does not get it. I mean not at all. He knows how it helps my back pain and fibromyalgia but that is really it. One time he jokingly referred to yoga as a cult and my use of essential oils and crystals as voodoo! I laughed because he really thought he was being funny but I did let him know it hurt me a little. I just do my thing and hope that one day he’ll want to practice with me a bit. Who knows!

6. What do you love most about yoga? Hmmm. Most? I guess if I had to choose what I love MOST about yoga it would be the way that it has touched all aspects of my life. I didn’t know this going in but it didn’t take long for me to weave it into every part of me. My body, mind and spirit all get to benefit. I guess some people practice for the physical benefits alone but little by little it has become my lifestyle. I have gotten so much benefit from it in fact that I want to get my yoga teacher certification so I can bring yoga to my little rural town. It’s difficult to find a teacher training close to me without costing me an arm and a leg but I’m determined!

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? I would first ask “what is holding you back?” “What do you think yoga is and how do you want to benefit from yoga”. I started my practice at age 49. I know I had doubts about my abilities and what kinds of physical benefits I would get. Yoga is something everyone can do despite any physical limitations you may have, what your weight is or how old you are. Only do what your body is ready for and don’t think you have to keep up with anyone. Yoga isn’t a competition and you aren’t getting a grade for your practice. Modifications and props are your friends. Find a studio or private teacher. If you are nervous about starting alone grab a friend to join in the fun. Just do it!

Melinda 2

Thank-you, Melinda <3 You can follow her beautiful yoga journey through her Facebook, blog or amazing Instagram. 

Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com. 

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Joanne

I hope you are loving this series as much as I am loving working on it. I have had the pleasure of connecting with yogis who are in different states via email and some who are local. I have to say that being able to meet and connect in person with some of the participants has added an extra layer of amazingness to this process.
This has been especially true of Janet and her mom Joanne. First of all, I have never met a Joanne that was not just simply amazing (I have some great ones in my life) and I knew I loved this Joanne when Janet told me she was interested in “chocolate yoga.” She was referring to the chakras, but I am all about this idea of chocolate yoga!
Janet shared her story last week and I was touched by the way she talked about how inspiring her 74 year old mother’s practice was, even after major surgery. I was giddy to find out that Joanne would actually be visiting Janet the next weekend and agreed to sit with me and tell her story.
Joanne is a 74 year old yogini recovering from bypass surgery, with strength and energy that will inspire you! Joanne is what a yogi looks like.

Janet and Joanne

1. When did you start doing yoga and why? I started going to yoga when I was 70 years old. Janet said I would like it and brought me to a class. (Janet chimes in: “I took her to a heated Level 1-2 class and I looked over at her sweating and thought, what have I done? I have killed my mom! But, after class, she said she loved it.“) I live in Arizona and found a gym that offers great classes. I started going everyday.
2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? I thought it would be too slow for me. I have always been active; aerobics, hiking and lots of exercise. It has been interesting to learn how yoga gives me power over my own body. I can notice my heart beat in my toes. It has improved my focus and done a lot for me in ways that are hard to explain. I can’t tell you whose around me when I practice or what they are doing. I have learned to focus in a whole new way. I often wonder where would I be today if I started doing yoga when I was 18?

3. What is your favorite pose and why? The warrior series. There is so much that goes into those poses, they raise your heart rate and require focus.

Joanne

4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? People might think there is a “yoga body,” but there isn’t. Maybe people think that they won’t look good in yoga clothes, but if you are truly there for yourself, it doesn’t matter what the person next to you looks like.

5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? I don’t do it for any type of religion, I do it completely for me. Maybe I have not found the spiritual part of yoga yet, but I do notice I don’t pick up people’s negative energy as easily. I wish they would teach it to kids in schools!

6. What do you love most about yoga? Yoga gives me strength. It is something I do just for me and gives me energy for the rest of the day. There have been small things that I notice like being able to easily put something in the lower cupboard or putting my pants on without having to lean against something for support.
Yoga helped me recover from bypass surgery. (Janet says, “the doctor first came out and told me my mom would not make it through the night, and then when she did, he said she would never walk again. I stayed at the hospital with my mom and would practice yoga breathing with her when she would wake up and panic because of the tubes being down her throat. This kept her from having to be sedated and I believe got her released from the hospital much quicker.”)
The surgery was 6 hours long and I continued to have blood clots. But, 8 weeks later, I was back doing yoga. I slowly worked my way back and my strength gradually returned. I asked my doctor what I could do for therapy and was told “nothing” because there was tissue damage. I did not want to just sit in a chair and do nothing as the world went on around me. I started my focusing on my feet and moving them around like I was trying to expand a rubber band. I am now working on getting my crow pose back as strong as it was before my surgery!
I am going to tell my doctor when I go back to tell people to do yoga!

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? Yoga can give you more in your life than you can imagine. Everyday is different, somedays I can’t do what I did the previous day, but no one cares if you go to child’s pose. Accept yourself and your capabilities. It gets so important as we get older. You have to have more discipline because there isn’t as much busyness in life with kids and work as there was when we were younger. It’s easy to get lazy, but, if we don’t work the strength of our bodies, we will lose it.
Thank-you, Joanne! It was a true pleasure to connect with you!

Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com.

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Janet

Janet has a strong, consistent practice that inspires me. I can count on seeing her regularly at Inner Evolution Yoga practicing next to her bestie, Lisa. Their friendship is also inspiring to me and a beautiful example of the healing that comes from the support of women supporting women. Janet is 55 years old, a marathon runner and a Republican. Janet is what a yogi looks like.

1. When did you start doing yoga and why? In September 2009 I was training for a marathon with my friend Lisa and she took me to a class at Redlands Community Hospital. I wanted to run a marathon to celebrate my 50th birthday and was experiencing knee problems from all the miles. I was surprised how hard it actually was, I thought it would be easy breezy. I went to Sandrine’s classes at the hospital, and when she opened up Inner Evolution Yoga, I was worried about attending. Could I keep up with “real” yogis?

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? I thought it was for young, skinny hippies. I had an image of liberal people, who did not shower and listened to Bob Marley. I have always been pretty conservative and yoga just seemed so “lucy goosey” for me. However, I immediately felt so openly accepted by others. It has really taught me that not everything is so black and white. I feel myself becoming more tolerant and open. I am Italian and tend to get excited quickly, however, yoga has helped me to slow down and take a breath. I am surprised to find myself practicing even when I do not realize I am practicing.

3. What is your favorite pose and why? Half-moon pose or ardha chandrasana. I remember when the studio first opened and this pose was cued. I immediately thought, “I will NEVER be able to do this pose.” It felt completely impossible. I have slowly worked my way through this pose and now feel strong in it. I have been able to apply this off the mat. I remind myself to avoid saying “I can’t”do something. I kept this in mind during the March 30 day yoga challenge, as we worked our way up to 5 minute plank. It was very difficult, but I knew I could do it! I was consistent in working up to holding it for the full 5 minutes and I did on the last day of the challenge, without dropping my knees!
Janet
4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? I was self-conscious when I first started. I was concerned with what I wore and how I looked. Slowly I realized that I myself was not looking at other people during class and judging what they wore, so they probably were not doing that to me. I feel the environment at Inner Evolution Yoga is very inclusionary.
5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? It started off by conflicting with my conservative, political views. I was raised Republican and my world is very conservative. The only that is liberal in my world is yoga. My Facebook feed is a pretty divided place between my conservative and liberal friends. However, yoga has really helped me expand my world view and realize that you don’t have to fit into one box. It’s helped me be less black and white in my thinking. I have changed more in the last 5 years of my life, than the previous 50, because of yoga.
6. What do you love most about yoga? The way it makes me feel; that I am OK with who I am. When I am on my mat, I feel that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in that moment.
Yoga has helped me with a back injury I had from marathon training. I blew out the L4 & L5 vertebrae and had to get epidurals for the pain. I have not had to get an epidural now for 1.5 years. This was one of those slow, gradual benefits that yoga brought me.
Yoga has been so powerful for the people that I love. I saw how it helped my friend Lisa and I respected it because of that. Yoga helped my 74 year old mom recover from bypass surgery. I truly believe that her practice is what saved her, I was told that she would not make it through the night of her surgery and then that she never walk again. That was one year ago and now she has a thriving yoga practice and is hard to keep up with!
Janet and Joanne
The rest of my family now thinks I am the hippie for doing yoga, but they understand how important it is to me. I have a very steady 4x/week practice and they understand that things need to be scheduled around my classes. Three years ago I went to have my gall bladder removed and actually died on the operating table and needed to be resuscitated. The first thing I remember seeing when I opened my eyes was my son wearing my mala beads around his neck. It meant so much to me to see him there and take comfort in something that was meaningful to me.
7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? DO IT. I love getting people to come to yoga with me. Your poses grow over time and you do not have to do everything everyone else is doing. Child’s pose is always an option.
Thank-you, Janet, for sharing your story!
Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com. 

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Lenny

Look, look! Lenny is a MALE! Men do yoga, too! I have to admit, it has been harder to find men to feature in this series, and it’s hard to find men coming to yoga studios, overall, although I have noticed that slowly shifting. Lenny has an established practice and I frequently find his supportive energy in my own class, or practicing next to me as I attend. Lenny is a man, he is Russian and an engineer. Lenny is what a yogi looks like.

Lenny 1

1. When did you start doing yoga and why? I started in 2008. My girlfriend at the time shamed me into trying it because I was not able to touch my toes. Before going to a yoga class, I had never done much physical activity and was not very active. I took a class at the YMCA and then started going to Inner Evolution Yoga when they opened. I started off by going once or twice per week, but now I attend a yoga class every single day. Even if I am tired, I will still make it to a restorative or yin class. I like the Iyengar classes because of the attention given to proper alignment.

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? I thought you had to be flexible to be able to do yoga, but once I started I realized that yoga develops the flexibility over time. Although it’s mostly women who go to yoga, I did not see it as a “girly” thing to do. I think yoga really compliments a lot of hobbies, like cycling. I try to get my friends who are cyclists to come to class.
3. What is your favorite pose and why? Salamba Sarvangasana or Shoulder stand. It is the only inversion I enjoy. I can do headstand with the support of the wall, but I immediately feel stressed in it. Shoulder stand spoke to me from the beginning.
Lenny
4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? I honestly never thought about it before Instagram. It seems that social media and Yoga Journal have created an ideal “yoga body” and those who may not have it might think you actually have to look a certain way to begin a practice. I started doing yoga when I was more towards middle age and did not care about image as much, so it really has not affected my practice. You don’t have to be a model to do yoga.
5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? It definitely does not conflict with any aspect of my identity. It started out as a purely physical practice, but now has evolved to something more philosophical. I enjoy learning about the Yamas, Niyamas and other ethical principles, they are all applicable to so many situations. You do not need to be any certain religion to simply be kind.
My national origin is Russia, I have lived in the United States since 1990. I do not feel that yoga conflicts at all with my ethnic background. My family is unfamiliar with yoga, but have been supportive of me as I went through a yoga teacher training.
6. What do you love most about yoga? The noncompetitive nature. I concentrate on doing my own personal best. I like being able to see the gradual changes along the way. I have slowly noticed I can bend over better, have better balance and posture and even a straighter spine. It has improved my overall heal and even my mental capacity. I feel like I can think clear, concentrate better and just feel less stressed.
7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? Find a good, supportive studio to help you get started in your practice. Try different teachers, one may speak to you more than another one. Try community, donation based classes before making a financial commitment. Yoga is something you can start with a low initial investment; all you really need is a mat.
Thank-you, Lenny!
Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com. 

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Karen

Karen has a beautiful soul and infectious smile. She never thought yoga could be for her and now she attends class regularly. Karen is 57 and started her yoga practice just a few years ago. Karen is what a yogi looks like.

Karen

1. When did you start doing yoga and why? It was 4 or 5 years ago. My husband, Jim, passed away 10 years ago and I missed him. My boss at the time was a complete tyrant and I felt completely disconnected and unengaged from myself. Everything felt exhausting and it was hard to find joy. I was not suicidal or anything, but felt “done with life.” My daughter, Caiti, kept telling me to go to yoga with her and for Christmas that year, she gave me a ten class pass to Inner Evolution Yoga. I remember throwing it back at her and saying “I don’t want to be the oldest and fattest person there.” Eventually, I made my way to the studio around March. I think the first time I was the oldest person in class and the second time I was the fattest and by the third time, it didn’t matter anymore. I felt at home. The community at Inner Evolution Yoga was extremely friendly and welcoming. Yoga saved my life. Yoga gave me a place to go and belong to, I felt better breathing and moving. I was engaged with life again and with people who were accepting with no expectations.

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? I thought you had to be skinny and athletic to do yoga. I thought people would be chanting and doing weird breathing things. I thought it would be just another thing that I had no clue about. It took awhile for everything to make sense. It felt weird to hear my own voice in class, I don’t even like singing at church!  I took me about 3 or 4 months to say Namaste aloud at the end of class. I still felt like I was a poser and did not have the right to say Namaste.
3. What is your favorite pose and why?Pigeon pose. It feels so good on my low back! I had back issues since giving birth to my son 27 years ago. I would be in bed for days when my back would go out and used to take pain relievers regularly. That has since gone away because of yoga.
4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? Inner Evolution Yoga is such a special place. I never feel like the “fat girl” there. Everyone has such kind souls and I never feel embarrassed. I have visited other studios and can feel the difference, I did not feel as accepted.
Karen
5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? I feel it adds to, not conflicts with Christianity. I see meditation as the same as prayer and never question if yoga is wrong for me. I always pray in whatever the first pose of class is for that day and set gratitude for the rest of my practice.  I remember a very meaningful class that was on Good Friday. Amazing Grace was played during final resting pose. I cried and knew I was in the right place. It’s right where I need to be.
6. What do you love most about yoga? The way it makes me feel! There is not a class that I don’t “Thank God I came”, afterwards.  Even if the class was difficult, I still feel so good when it’s over.
7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice?
JUST GO. Everyone should do yoga, even if it’s for ten minutes per day. Find a place that speaks to your soul and GO!
Thank-you Karen for taking time to connect and share! <3
Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com.

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Loleta

Loleta is a retired middle school counselor and gives THE best hugs after each class. Loleta did not always love physical activity but finds safety in her yoga practice. Loleta is what a yogi looks like.

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1.When did you start doing yoga and why? I started doing yoga in July, 2010 because my daughter, Mona, kept urging me to give it a try. She had been practicing for several years and had become a real devotee. I suppose I did it out of curiosity; and maybe to shut her up, the way mothers do sometimes. My first class was a community class with Phil, and all I remember is how HARD it was! I don’t think I had poured out so much sweat in my adult life. As I think about that time, though, there were other factors in play. For about 10 years I’d been walking/jogging on a track early in the morning. I’d hated every minute of it, but it was my only form of exercise. For a while a little voice inside me had been saying that there were better ways for me to exercise. And since I’d retired the year before and didn’t have to go to work every day, there was no reason for me to go to the track every morning@ 4:30. Now I believe that deciding to give yoga a try was a case of “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? Once, when I was in a class that was pretty intense, the teacher said, “And people think we just sit around and chant,” which is probably one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding yoga. When I began my practice, I didn’t know what to expect, but I probably didn’t expect it to have as much of an impact on my life as it has.

3. What is your favorite pose and why? As for poses, it would be easy for me to list poses I don’t like; but trying to name my favorite one is sort of like asking a mother to name her favorite child. I love the richness and safeness of child’s pose, and I love the poses that are relatively easy for me. But I appreciate the challenge of poses that make me work. One of the many things I love about yoga is watching myself get better. Poses that I couldn’t quite “get” at the beginning of a class are easy by the end of class. With other poses I can see progress over time.

child's pose

4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? When I first began practicing yoga one of the teachers talked about listening to our bodies. I thought that was something I’d mastered in childhood; but after practicing for nearly 6 years, I realize that listening to your body isn’t something you master. You just learn to listen more carefully. Before I began my practice, I never thought much about my body beyond how it looked; and I didn’t like the way it looked. Although I may never love the way it looks, now I love and respect my body. It has been good to me even when I wasn’t good to it.

5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? My view of yoga is that it isn’t just one thing. Although I know very little beyond the asanas, I believe that anyone can find something that will make his or her life better. It seems to me that race, religion, age, gender, lifestyle don’t matter, yoga has something for everyone.

6. What do you love most about yoga? It’s so hard to say what I love most about yoga. I could go on for hours about the things I love about it. When I replaced my early morning trips to the track with yoga, I said that yoga is good for the body, the mind, and the spirit; but at that point I had no idea of how good it would turn out to be. I was never good in PE, and I hated it. For me, yoga is the opposite of PE. There’s no competition, even with yourself. There’s just finding your edge. That brings me to another thing I love about yoga. Even though there may be 30 people in the room, your practice is yours alone. No one is watching or comparing you to anyone else or to some standard you have to reach. Which brings me to kindness. Everyone I’ve met in yoga is kind and caring. How often do you find yourself if a group of people who truly love and care about each other? Yoga extends into every part of you, from becoming aware of the real power of your breath, to the way you deal with frustration, to consideration of your place in the scheme of things. Yoga changes your perspective and re-orders your priorities.

7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? If someone were hesitant about beginning a yoga practice and asked me for advice in 5 words or less, I’d say the same thing my mother said about eating broccoli: “Try it, you’ll like it!” And then I might go on for another 500 words…

Thank-you, sweet Loleta!

Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com.

What Does A Yogi Look Like?-Jessica

 I “met” Jessica a few years ago during an online book exchange. We quickly become virtual buddies, but have actually never met IRL (in real life). One of the amazing things about technology is that we have been able to have great conversations about travel, veganism and body image, even though we live miles apart. You can visit her blog by clicking here. Jessica is a fitness instructor, a vegetarian and a world traveler. Jessica is what a yogi looks like.
Jessica
1. When did you start doing yoga and why? I don’t remember exactly but I’m sure I started because I’d heard so many good things about it.

2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting?The first time I went the instructor kept associating each pose with “the season” (it was mid-late December) and talked about how different poses let in the joy of the season or opened you up to receiving the blessings of the season. I was quite turned off by it.  It took me a few years to try it again because I wanted a more physical and less spiritual practice.

3. What is your favorite pose and why?As boring as it sounds, my true favorite pose it forward fold as I do it all throughout the day to relieve pain in my back.  But, other favorite poses include tree and bird of paradise. Tree pose is something my family has adopted and has a lot of special meaning.  Bird of paradise is the most difficult pose I’ve ever managed. I know there’s not supposed to be any competition on the mat but when I saw one of the guys in class do the post (which I had thought I’d never be able to do so I’d never tried) I thought, “Well, if he can do it then I’m doing it.”  And I did. I’m not exactly proud of that but I am glad that it gave me the motivation to go for a pose I never would have otherwise attempted.
Jessica 1
4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice?I can talk a good game about having a positive body image and feeling comfortable with oneself but truthfully, when I tried taking a picture for you to include with this I hated them all!  Fortunately, I’m able to let all of that go when I’m on the mat and honestly don’t care how I look (although I’m sure I secretly hope everyone else thinks I look good).  I think it’s difficult to truly feel like you don’t look a little silly or even ridiculous contorting yourself into some of the poses. But that’s not what it’s about.
5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? I don’t feel like yoga conflicts with any part of me.  I’m an atheist and I don’t see yoga as anything related to religion. For me it’s purely physical.
6. What do you love most about yoga? When I’ve been away from it for a while and go back, I almost hate it. By that I mean I hate how difficult it seems at first and how much of a struggle it is.  Even if I feel better after I do it.  But I do it because I know I will feel better and that the more I do it the better I will feel.
7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice?Even if you hate it the first time or ten, keep going.  It doesn’t matter if your hands don’t reach the mat or if you fart going into downward dog.  I’ve taken a retired US Army soldier who had several physical issues due to his service and he left the first class cursing my name and threatening my life. Then he came the next week and went and bought a mat and blocks.  After a month or so he started telling others about how good he felt. It’s not a cliché to say that everyone can do it and I whole-heartedly believe that everyone can benefit from it.
Thank-you, Jessica!
Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com.