The numerous health benefits of yoga continue to be more and more widely known. Many of us would like to stay active, but are not quite sure which physical activity would suit us best.
This is where I wanted to feature various topics on yoga this month, as it is a total mind, body and soul experience. Perhaps no other physical activity can provide so many benefits for us, with so few physical risks or damage.
Thus, as our monthly theme on yoga continues, I wanted to bring you some different perspectives on the practice on yoga, so you can get to know better all about this fantastic activity.
Today I have a special guest on Evolving Wellness, Stacey Shipman of StaceyShipman.com – who is a yoga instructor, feel-good living guide and wellness expert.
Stacey is passionate about helping adults and teens feel more relaxed and confident in their lives. She speaks and writes on topics related to stress relief and relaxation, public speaking confidence, and self-esteem and body image and today she is here to share with us some excellent information about the practice of yoga.
Evita: Hello Stacey and it is so wonderful to have you here to share your expertise, advice and information with us as a yoga student and teacher.
Can you begin by telling us when and how you first got interested in yoga?
Stacey: I first started practicing yoga at the gym in 2004 at the request of my husband. I started it as simply another physical practice. Up until that point my primary method of fitness included running and weight training. Yoga was a new challenge.
I began practicing vinyasa and power yoga, which made sense given my “Fast paced” fitness lifestyle at the time. I used to leave for savasana, the final relaxation, thinking “who has time for this!” The more I practiced, the more I realized how important the silence is. Soon, I didn’t have enough time for relaxation.
Evita: That sounds very much like I know most people feel today in our fast paced world. When I first started doing yoga, savasana (corpse pose) did feel a little strange just to lay there, but quickly it has become a favorite for me and a delicious part of my day.
How did you get into teaching yoga? How many years have you been teaching, and where can people find your classes?
Stacey: I would arrive home after every yoga class on top of the world! I had so much “feel good” energy. I wanted to share it with everyone!
I’ve been teaching for about 5 years. I teach a couple of classes in my local area (Massachusetts) and I’m also planning to create a “virtual” yoga studio with video and audio downloads. This will allow me to share yoga with a wider audience in a time/cost effective way.
Evita: Yes, I can so relate to that. Yoga just truly makes a person feel wonderful. There is a sort of release that I know most people feel from doing each class, and our vibrancy, clarity and joy for life seems to pick up.
What do you love most about teaching yoga?
Stacey: The best part is at the end of class when students look at me and say, “That felt SO good.”
More recently a student shared that when she walks up the stairs of her house she had to hold the railing. After starting yoga classes her balance improved so much she no longer has to hold on to the railing!
Evita: Yes, I can so relate to that feeling! I don’t have any injuries or health problems myself, but I have known the most people also to improve or heal their back problems, increase core strength, posture and so much more!
What do you love most about practicing yoga and yoga itself?
Stacey: How it makes me feel – physically and mentally.
Yoga is a practice I turn to when I’m stressed, when I need answers, when I need some inner peace. And I turn to more than the physical part of it. Yoga releases tension – physically and mentally. Yoga has also taught me lessons in strength, confidence, patience and flexibility.
Yoga helps me feel “in control” over my life. When I feel tense, I turn to yoga for peace and “control”.
Yoga is a way of life and so much more than a physical practice. The non-physical is not taught as much in this country. Yoga is a philosophy that starts with being kind to yourself and others. I naively believe that if we all practiced yoga or some form of quiet contemplative practice and allowed space for more compassion of ourselves and others, the world might be a more peaceful place.
Evita: That was so beautifully put Stacey. It is incredible indeed how much infusing stillness into our life DOES change our thoughts, words and actions. With stillness comes an increased conscious awareness, and with that, a whole new way of living is born.
What is the greatest challenge you have overcome because of yoga?
Stacey: Learning to slow down! Seriously.
I’ve always moved quickly – in body and mind. Yoga is my reminder to slow down once in a while.
Yoga also helped me create more body awareness. Even though I exercised frequently, turns out I exercised too frequently – compulsively. Yoga helped me listen more to the needs of my body so I could take care of it more effectively.
Yoga has also helped me heal old wounds from my teen years and rebuild my self-confidence.
Evita: Thank you so much for sharing that, I know it will provide a window of help way for many to know that we can overcome so much with yoga, whether physically, mentally, spiritually or emotionally.
What in your opinion are the greatest health benefits of doing yoga?
Stacey: So many…too many to list!
But yoga is known to help high blood pressure, stress, anxiety, depression. It helps athletes, helps build and increase flexibility, and day-to-day stress relief.
I also believe it helps creativity and general enjoyment of life. It is the ultimate “feel good living” activity because it nurtures all parts of you. And that’s just to start.
For me, it’s a feeling of integration – nurturing my body, mind and inner self.
Evita: Thank you so much for sharing all that.
So how about so many of those who have heard about it, are curious, who have perhaps thought about trying it, but have not yet done so.
What advice do you have for people who have never tried yoga?
Stacey: Start slow! And it doesn’t matter if you can touch your toes.
Find a qualified teacher – someone who has at least 200 hours of study, and start with a beginner class.
Though hard to do, remember we are all different and move differently. Some people can touch their toes without blinking, others can fly up into headstand. The beauty is yoga doesn’t discriminate and offers something for everyone!
Evita: Wonderful advice! I find too that yoga makes us learn so much about our bodies. All of a sudden we are activating muscles we never knew we had, and we quickly learn our body strengths and weaknesses.
What tips can you offer for avoiding injuries in yoga and getting the most health benefits out of it?
Stacey: Leave your ego at the door. And if you’re new tell your instructor.
More people get hurt because they let their ego guide them. For example, many people want to touch their toes (maybe like the yogi next to them) and try desperately, resulting in a pulled back or neck and shoulder pain.
Also, some instructors like to adjust students. Feel free to say “No thank you” until you are completely comfortable with both the practice itself and the instructor.
In the end, if you have been curious, give it a try! You have nothing to lose except some tension and stress!
Evita: Stacey thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, experience and expertise here on Evolving Wellness. It was a pleasure to have you and I know many of our readers will greatly benefit from all that you have shared here today.
Although breaking from classes for the summer, Stacey will be creating online videos, and will be back teaching in the fall. Find out more about her classes or enjoy her writing about yoga and feel good living on StaceyShipman.com.