Looking to Incorporate Yoga Into Your Life? Tips and Inspiration from Some of My Favorite Teachers.

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In this month-long total immersion in my yoga practice, as I get my certification to teach yoga – there really isn’t much else on my brain besides just that. Yoga!  I find whenever I mention yoga, either here or on my Facebook page, I tend to get a lot of the same questions from people about yoga, the practice, where to start and all that comes along with it. I know this is a nice long post, likely intimidating as a reader – but, I can promise you if you have been wanting to incorporate a regular yoga practice into your life and you just don’t know where to start, maybe you are a tad nervous to just jump right in, there are some amazing thoughts and tips here for you. If you have lost touch with your practice and you need some lovely inspiring reminders of what your yoga practice can do for you, read this. If you just want to know what some people see in it or why so many people are drawn to yoga, take this all in. Regardless of why you read this post, I can assure you, it will inspire you to get onto your mat, whether for the first time or after some time away.

I asked seven of my favorite yoga teachers, some from my past, some from my present, the following two questions:

– What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

– How has a regular yoga practice changed your life?


Yoga Teachers

James Brown – American Yoga School, Venice Beach, CA

What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

First, I would say, “Congratulations!”

Start with a beginner class. You might stay at that level for two weeks or ten months or a few years or forever. But you will know, if you start there, if, when and why to move on. I’d also recommend that you look for a class that does not bill itself as “flow” for your first few classes. Start with classes that teach you the basics before flowing. Flow classes tend to be light on instruction.

Try different teachers and classes until you find one that works for you. If you don’t feel good about yourself at the end of the class, move on to another teacher or class. Know that there are many formats and styles of physical practice, and within any style, every teacher will be a bit different from every other one. No matter your physical ability, the teacher should be able to instruct you in a way that you feel that you are already successful. While fancy poses may take a long time to master, a good teacher makes it clear from the start that the level of the pose has nothing to do with the quality of the practice. I have met many beginners who were more advanced, because of their attitudes, than more seasoned practitioners who could do more impressive things with their bodies. Find a teacher who teaches the poses without making the poses themselves the focus.

Set achievable goals. You don’t have to start by going every day. I started with a once-a-week course and that was easy to manage, so I stuck to it and 20 years later I am still at it.  And if you fall off the wagon, just get back on. The yoga will always wait for you. Give yourself plenty of time for it to really stick and to become part of your life.

How has a regular yoga practice changed your life?

I can’t really think of any ways that it has not improved my life. The most profound difference is that I am happy. I feel more connected to others and I am content with the imperfections in my life.

Less profoundly, I am aging differently from the generation that I watched age before me. I am almost 50 and my body is still getting more functional each year than it was the year before. I know that things have to turn around at some point, but the age when that happens still seems to be quite distant.
An interesting affect of yoga practice is that it gets me to make better decisions in the rest of my life, particularly with issues of health and diet. The physical practice I do has made it more clear to me how those things affect my body, so I make better choices.


Yoga Teachers

Ramona Tamulinas – Yoga World Studio, Long Beach, CA

What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

Beginning a yoga practice is a unique, personal experience. Some people decide to practice because of health reasons, physical reasons, emotional reasons, wanting to look like a hot yoga girl, it’s a good way to meet girls (yes, I have been told more than once that is why someone started), improving flexibility, your boyfriend/girlfriend says it’s a must if you want to keep dating… the list goes on and on.

I would recommmend exploring the studios in your area and try different teachers until a place and a teacher resonates with what you are seeking. Once you find that teacher, study with them in a class setting and if your bank account allows – book some private sessions. Private sessions allow you to feel secure and comfortable and they help your teacher know you better. It is most important that you found a place, a teacher who allows you to feel comfortable and at ease. I believe deeply in a practice that builds from the foundation of comfort and ease. Yoga, if you jive with it – leads you down a magnificent path of self transformation. Loving where you begin is therefore vital.

How has having a regular yoga practice changed your life?

To me yoga is more than asana. It is service and compassion to my community. Therefore my yoga practice has taught me to embrace my strengths which are being of service and compassionate.

Before yoga, and sometimes even since finding it, I felt I didn’t have a place. I felt out of place in so many social settings, in so many realms of popular culture I searced for a place to belong and I couldn’t find it. I have always been an introverted person and one who lead internally with my heart. In this crazy world that encourages the worldly and external – I often felt lost. When I found yoga, I was full of self-doubt and wanted to be anyone else but me. I remember telling my friend who took me, “I am already flexible and calm. I need to become tough and strong.” Well yoga did that. I can say practicing has allowed me to stay sweet, calm, and flexible but allowed me to embrace the strength and toughness inside me. In a way, yoga helped me find my inner rebel.

At times I stray from practice and I notice myself questioning this inner strength, but my inner strength would realize how important this wild practice supports me and encourage me back to wards it path, back to my mat, back to teaching, back to learning. It is vital toward my life as anything inside my physical being.

It is as important as my heart, my brain, my blood, everything within me is supported by yoga. For me yoga lead me to the path of embracing my true self, my connection with the universe and my purpose. When I was a young girl the father of my church told me, “I want you to remember five words. I am beautiful, thank God.” He said “every time I see you I am going to wave with five finger to remind you”. He is gone now, but yoga has reminded me of that lesson everyday.


Yoga Teachersphoto by Rhea Anna

Elyssa Bourke – East Meets West Yoga, Buffalo, NY

What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

If someone is interested in starting a regular yoga practice it helps to find a place that’s a right fit and will keep you coming back. A place that’s comfortable with a teacher or teachers who support and guide you. There are so many different styles of yoga and types of teachers. I encourage people to try different people and places until they find the right fit. Then enjoy the path you’ve chosen.

How has having a regular yoga practice changed your life?

My regular yoga practice has had so many different influences on me in different times of my life. When I first started practicing it was physically therapeutic in helping me find balance between strength and flexibility. It also helped me see my mind in a new way. It was as though someone showed me the off switch to all of the extra stuff running through my head. I credit my yoga practice for getting me through chiropractic school and beyond. And now it keeps me grounded and helps me to be a better mother and person. I truly don’t know where I would be in my life without my home practice and all of the teachers I’ve learned from along the way.


Yoga Teachersphoto by Rhea Anna

Kathleen Engelhardt – East Meets West Yoga, Buffalo, NY

What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

It might be intimidating to step into a yoga studio for the 1st time, but remember that everyone was a beginner at one point. I’d recommend dabbling with a few styles and studios in order to find a practice and teacher that fit your needs. You want to find compassion and kindness within the practice and certainly within your teachers. Probably consider avoiding a mean teacher, this sounds weird, but they are out there. Researching styles and varieties of practice will only help a little bit because the magic of the practice is in the experience.

How has having a regular yoga practice changed your life?

yoga has changed my life to the point where I cannot even imagine living without it! The awareness and focus during the practice of linking breath and movement makes me feel alive. I feel excited each time I step on my mat because I love to move through challenging sequences that bring me into the present moment and have the effect of making me feel more open and centered. My practice makes me a more confident, compassionate and humble person. My practice also makes me feel more focused when I’m with my children. Yoga has also connected me to so many amazing people who play such an important role in my life. It’s through my yoga practice, that I feel grateful for all of the love and joy in my life.
Yoga Teachers

Vyana Marie – Private Teacher, Oakland, CA

What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

For me, coming to the mat first thing in the morning helps me stay regular. Not only does the body find a rhythm with practicing at the same time everyday, but it also helps settle your mind for the coming activities. If you come to your mat straight from bed there is little time for your mind to chirp in and talk you out of practicing. Set up everything you need the night before so you can roll out of bed and onto your mat. If you have a hectic schedule or kids, wake up 30 minutes to an hour early. You may feel exhausted when getting out of bed, but after your first sun salutation you will feel so good. Listen to your body as you move. I find it’s easiest to do this when you’re still slightly lucid from sleeping. Moving before the ego has waken gives you an opportunity to move with your heart. We all say ‘listen to your body’ but it’s very difficult when first coming to the mat. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Remember, you don’t have to be the best yogi in the world. Take modifications, move slowly, and always find your breath.

How has a regular yoga practice changed your life?

Growing up in the world of competitive dance gave me a very harsh view of my body & it’s limits. After fracturing my back forced me out of the dance world I began to practice yoga. Yoga taught me compassion with my body, it taught me to respect my body, and most importantly it taught me how to truly love my body. Yoga gave me space to sort through my emotions. It taught me respect for silence and stillness, which isn’t common when you come from a large Italian family. Yoga gave me a sense of awareness for my life, my body, and how the decisions I make effect those around me. Yoga changed the fabric of my life. It has sent me down a path of respect, love, and compassion. Yoga has not only changed my life, it has forever changed me. In every motion I make, everyday, I carry such deep gratitude for my practice and my teachers.


Yoga Teachersphoto by Rhea Anna

Sara Piper – East Meets West Yoga, Buffalo, NY

What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

If you’re going to take classes in a studio, take your time to find a space you like and a teacher or teachers that you connect with. Think of it as a month long experiment, surf around until you find something and someone that resonates with you. Yoga is for everyone, you don’t have to force yourself to go or to like it. Once you find a studio that feels like home and a teacher that inspires you, the rest is easy. And if you’re looking to start a home practice, or do some home practice in addition to taking classes, set the bar low: think 15 minutes a day at first. Get on your mat, take a moment to breathe, and do some sun salutations, or whatever you can remember from your classes. It won’t be long before one pose calls up another, and your practice lengthens. If the first time you embark on a home practice you go to your mat with an hour and a half long laid out sequence from a book, the process can be daunting, and not fun, and you might not get back there again. So all in all, find a teacher you like #1, and #2 set realistic expectations, and grateful expectations, that you will enjoy your yoga!

How has a regular yoga practice changed your life?

Yoga brings levity and emotional balance to my daily life. It gives me the fortitude to handle life’s challenges. I had a friend say, “it’s my little white pill” meaning it’s like a mood stabilizer, or an anti-anxiety med. I’d agree with that. I had another friend, just yesterday tell me that he’s feeling uninspired in life, bored, wondering if he’s depressed. “Do you ever feel like that Sara?” Sure, haven’t we all? Not in a while though, because yoga makes that go away for me. A daily shot of moving, breathing, being present with body and breath, and existential crisis disappears. Thank god. Oh, and it’s so fun! Yoga very literally makes life better. Period.


Yoga TeachersLyndsey teaching with Africa Yoga Project 2012

Lyndsey Fryer – Yoga Shala, Sacramento, CA

What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

5 minutes on your mat, doing yoga, is YOGA. Start from where you are. If in the middle of your first 5 minutes, your phone dings, you remember you have something in the oven, etc…you’re only human, and you’re working towards something. If you commit to just a little bit more each day, your practice will grow. You’ll find more time and less excuses.

If doing yoga in public is your thing, find a studio that feels good. Making plans to meet someone at yoga is the ultimate in accountability. Soon enough you’ll be practicing next to new friends, saying weird things at the end like ‘wow, you have great energy’ haha, I promise!

My last bit of advice, if you fall off the wagon, dust yourself off and get back on. Don’t worry about how, or why, or how long, just roll out your mat and start again.

How has a regular yoga practice changed your life?

Oh goodness, in all ways. But most of all, it’s given me a sense of family, no matter where I go. Yoga has taken me all over the world, both as a student, and as a teacher. It helped me heal a wound that felt deep and permanent, which was the story I used to tell that ‘I don’t belong anywhere.’

It started with the poses…feeling strong…but now yoga is in every moment. Red lights. Tough conversations. Total joy and opportunity. It’s in all that I do.
I breathe. I move. I fall. I fly. It’s all yoga, and I’m grateful everyday I found my way to the mat.


Yoga Teachersphoto by Rhea Anna

Kate Rogers – East Meets West Yoga, Buffalo, NY

What advice can you give someone looking to start a regular yoga practice?

For anyone looking to start a regular yoga practice, I would tell them this: take it one day at a time. Yoga has so much to offer and your body is different on any given day. Don’t expect it to always to what you want, but learn to listen to it, be patient with it…and practice. Practice, practice, practice. Like Pattabhi Jois said, “practice and all is coming.” Your practice will look and feel different every day, and stuff (good and bad) will come up, but getting to the mat is the hardest part. Everything else happens from there.

How has a regular yoga practice changed your life?

Yoga is basically the best drug I have ever done. It is amazing and perfect and even when I hate it and am frustrated or injured, I love it. It gives me the tools to work through anything, in life – on and off the mat. It’s the way I tap into a sense of peace and well-being no matter where I am or what I am doing. As a person who thrives on chaos, yoga grounds me and centers me like nothing else. It is a journey that I’m on for the long haul, and it has taught me to honor my process, to not compare where I am at in my practice or my life compared to anyone else. It has taught me how to accept myself where I’m at, and to accept others where they are as well. Simply put…I.love.yoga


9 Responses

  1. So great! I love all the different perspectives that each of these yoga teachers offer. A regular yoga practice is life changing. I love how Ramona says that yoga is more than asana. This is something I’ve been pointing out to my friends, family, and students. The second I realized that my life began to shift!

  2. holly says:

    is there any kind of yoga that I can do as a senior citizen, who cannot get up and down from the floor without great difficulty ?? I’m hoping there’s something that can be done, sitting in a wooden chair. (I have one bad knee and one hand has partial nerve damage.)

    thank you.

    • Emily says:

      Hi Holly,
      I’m a yoga instructor in North Carolina. I just wanted to suggest that you check in your area for any Chair Yoga classes. There is quite a bit of yoga that can be done in a chair or using a number of props to assist you in moving around. There are also books, dvds, and YouTube videos that offer guides to Chair Yoga, but if you’re just starting out, there’s no substitute for getting instruction from a yoga teacher in person. I would do a search for yoga in your area, and maybe call around to any yoga studios and just ask if they offer chair yoga or even gentle yoga. You can explain to them what kind of conditions you’re working with, and they should be able to let you know if they have a class that’s right for you.

      I hope this helps!


  3. Emily says:

    Thanks for posting this! It’s great information from people that obviously love their practice. Quite inspiring. I’d like to use this post to supplement a blog post I just wrote for some beginning yoga students. I will link to it if that’s okay. Also, good luck with teacher training! It’s an incredible experience!

    • tastyyummies says:

      Hey Emily, I am so happy you loved this post and these incredible teachers! That would be lovely if you wanted to share a link to this post, thank you!
      Thanks for your well-wishes, too. I am loving everything about this journey to becoming a teacher!

  4. Maggie says:

    Great post! I’ve been going to East Meets West Yoga for the last 4 months or so and I’ve fallen totally in love with yoga. All of the teachers are amazing, especially the ones in this post! If any readers are in the Buffalo area, I couldn’t recommend this studio and their instructors more highly.

  5. […] I was finishing this post, a blog that I follow, Tasty Yummies, posted Looking to Incorporate Yoga Into Your Life? Tips and Inspiration from Some of My Favorite Teachers. In it, Beth of Tasty Yummies asks some of her favorite yoga teachers two questions: What advice […]

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