Yoga – It’s not a fad!
It’s here to stay and for good reason. Be Moved recently connected with Lesley Fightmaster of Fightmaster Yoga and she was kind enough to bestow her thoughts and wisdom on why yoga is a big deal.
But before we dig deep and explore the yoga craze, let’s get to know our expert –
Lesley Fightmaster is a certified yoga instructor and on the faculty of the YogaWorks teacher training department. Lesley is the yogi behind Fightmaster Yoga on Youtube, where you can find over 200 videos to start or enhance your practice.
Be Moved had a chance to sit down and chat with Lesley about any myths or misconceptions that hold people back from starting their very own practice.
But before we dive in – I’m offering a precautionary warning! Once you start watching Lesley’s yoga videos on YouTube, you’ll be hooked!
Q. What are some of the health benefits from doing yoga that people may not know about?
Lesley: People get a better sense of who they are. I find that most people, when they practice yoga, become nicer people. Personally, overtime, my skin has become thicker. Meaning, I don’t take things so personally, but at the same time my heart has become bigger – I feel more and I’m more in touch with my emotions.
A unique benefit from a regular practice is the ability to detect something that may feel off or wrong in your body – early enough to go to the doctor and get it taken care of. This is because those who practice yoga are more in tune with their bodies. With our sedentary lifestyle (sitting at a desk) we lose our connection with our bodies – yoga is a pathway for re-connection.
Q. What are some common myths or misconceptions about yoga?
Lesley: A common misconception is that yoga is a religion or that you have to practice a certain religion. Yoga is not a religion, instead it is a philosophy and it’s open to anybody. There is nothing about yoga that will interfere with your faith – you can practice any religion and be a yogi at the same time.
Another common myth about yoga is that you have to be flexible to practice yoga. A core aspect of practice is to make the body more flexible and stronger – meaning, you can start practicing no matter how strong or flexible you are.
Q. Many of us can be shy when trying a new exercise, especially in a group setting – How is the yoga community different from other exercise practices?
Lesley: The practice of yoga is really about the connection with your breath and your body. There’s no kind of “pushing” or over-straining in yoga. In the yoga community– the people are, for the most part, much more mellow. A yoga class is not a place that encourages competition.
Note: The issues you have in your personal life will show up on the mat. For example: If you’re a competitive person, you will be the one looking around the room wondering why you can’t do a certain pose like another classmate.
Hatha Yoga Happiness – A Free 30 Day Yoga Program.
Q. Yoga philosophy maintains that we are our own teachers – With that said – What advice would you give to someone who is trying yoga for the first time?
Lesley: “Listen to your body. The body talks to us – using sensations.”
If you’re experiencing pain in a posture – it means your body is screaming at you to stop.
Sometimes it can be difficult for people to distinguish pain. Because in reality, pain is just one word. There are so many words we could call pain. For example, we can have a posture that is stretching the body and we can experience pain – but this is much different than when we experience a sharp pain or when we feel the posture or movement is too much.
TIP: You should be able to keep your breath nice and steady in a posture. If you find yourself in a posture and find it difficult to keep breathing or maintain a steady breath – then your body may be saying you’re going to deep into the pose.
Q. We often see beautiful and modelesque type of bodies practicing yoga in the media – Which can be intimidating to almost anyone! How would you suggest someone cultivate a mindset that is open to this practice?
Lesley: “A yogi can look like anybody. Anybody who is putting their posture with their breath or combining their movement with their breath is a yogi. We come in all shapes and sizes.”
I keep all my mistakes in my videos because I want people to know:
People are not perfect – and people should know that a yoga teacher makes mistakes too! And the yoga teacher falls out of poses as well. Which is completely human and this is an important message to share with my audience.
Q. Yoga and the breath – some say that’s where the magic is – Could you explain why connecting to your breath is so important during your practice and when you’re going about your daily affairs?
Lesley: In the Ashtanga tradition, they say the breath is the practice. Yoga can be seen as a moving meditation – by linking the breath with the movement.
The reason why this is important is because we have so many daily stressors in our lives. We could be working and typing something up and all of the sudden we start posturing our bodies in a fashion that tightens up the body.
And the first thing that happens when we tighten up our bodies is the breath goes away. We end up taking really shallow breaths. But if we take a moment to take a big breath our blood pressure drops and our heart rate lowers.
We need a breath practice because we live in a world that is full of stress and our bodies don’t have the ability to release the stress we experience without doing something.
In a daily yoga practice – the breath is super important. If we can keep our breath steady during a challenging pose – then we’re going to be able to take that off of our mats and into our daily lives. (Like sitting in traffic after you were just cut off by someone.)
The more we practice connecting the breath to movement on our mats – the more likely we will use this practice in our daily affairs. It’s muscle memory and training.
Q. If you were to give a few tips to someone who is new to yoga, what would they be?
- Go in with an open mind. Let go of whatever you think the yoga class is going to be like.
- Don’t worry if you hate it. If you try a certain type of yoga and you don’t like it – do a little research and try something else. Use the same approach with teachers.
- Don’t worry if you’re doing the poses correctly. A yoga teacher will help ensure you don’t do anything that will cause you harm. If you’re practicing at home where a teacher can’t see you, be sure to stop immediately if you experience any sharp pain. (If you’d like to make sure your alignment is correct, you can contact Lesley via email to schedule an online session, or you can check out her Align course here.)
- Nobody cares how you look when you’re doing the poses. Nobody is paying attention to you when you’re in a class – because they’re just paying attention to themselves.
By practicing yoga you set aside time to focus on yourself and to grow from the experience. I will admit from my own experience, yoga has changed my life and for the better. I know many of you reading this may be reluctant or resistant to jump into the yoga craze, but it’s important to know that yoga has been around in for over 5,000 years. This practice has withstood the test of time.
Take your time with your practice, post your questions below and know that you’re about embark on a whole new journey. Namaste friends.
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” ~The Bhagavad Gita
Yogi behind Fightmaster Yoga and Faculty of the YogaWorks teacher training
Be sure to check out her website to learn more about Yoga and how to get started.
If you’re looking for a course to help you with your alignment, click here to learn more.