Yoga: Not just for Instagram Models

By Warrior1Yoga - December 4th, 2022 in Yoga

by Erin Howlett

A brief history of yoga, what it really is, and where to start.

When I started practicing yoga in 2015, I did not start it with the intention that I was going to be a spiritual gangsta of some sort. Or that I would be able to do these super bendy twisty things that we see Instagram models do all the time. No, I started doing yoga because of a breakup.

I was a 29-year-old female with no athletic ability. The last time I played a sport was in 1996 in elementary school volleyball, when I got the wind knocked out of me.

Despite being terrified that I would be laughed out of the room, I decided to sign up for my first Hot Flow yoga class at Warrior One Yoga Studio. After one hour of gasping for air and taking more breaks than I would if I were hiking, I had a new addiction. And eventually I became a yoga instructor myself.

A little history on yoga: from about 1700- 1100 BCE, the earliest known writings of yoga were documented. They are known as the Vedas. These ancient texts from India describe the essence of yoga and its practices. Today, those texts have been compiled and edited down to a few foundational works that yogis all around the world follow- the most famous being Yoga Sutras
Mark Stephens, in his book “Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques”, explains that the Vedas (meaning knowledge) define yoga as “yoke” or as “one.”

Stephens writes: “The intended of yoking is that of one’s mind and the divine, a self-transcendent quality creating a pure state of consciousness in which the awareness of ‘I’ disappears into a sense of divine essence.”

Montrelle Henry in low goddess (left) and holds warrior one pose (right) for photos on April 7, 2022. Photo credit Noe Vier/ Evolvecore.

Today there are many forms of yoga from Ashtanga, Iyengar, Hatha, Bikram, Vinyasa, Power, and many more. Some are more advanced than others. However, Monique Williams, 45, yoga instructor at Warrior One Yoga Studio in Bakersfield, California commented that a restorative yoga class is just as effective if you want a good workout and are a beginner. In a traditional restorative class, you hold poses longer than in a conventional yoga class, while some may use props, and you learn to connect your breath with each movement. Williams has taught over 800 classes, and she still attends restore classes as she says they are necessary for her body to recover.

It is essential to connect every movement with breath. With every inhale you are moving muscles away from each other, and every exhale you are bring muscles closer together. Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health website gives a wonderful description on how breath work within restorative yoga works: “breath rate directly affects the vagus nerve, which is central to the nervous system response. During the stress response, the sympathetic nervous system is triggered, and we are thrust into survival mode and all the physical and mental states that go with that.” Essentially it is a trickledown effect that affects other systems and in turn burns calories.

So how does one get started in yoga when there are so many choices, so many types, and so many studios?
Montrelle Henry, 43, yoga instructor and vice principal at a local school in Bakersfield states: “I found a niche where I am able to make yoga accessible to people like me. Who are intimidated by it…… And so that changed everything.”

Henry teaches Flow yoga classes at Evolvecore.

“Yoga is everything to me, it is EVERYTHING,” states Henry. “My whole life, yoga seemed like something that would not be accessible to me. I am a black woman. I am a fuller figured black woman, and I am not naturally flexible.”

Erin Howlett in low goddess for photo shoot in April of 2021. Photo credit Warrior One Yoga Studio.

Both Henry and Williams recommend anyone who is interested in yoga to start with either restore or a beginner’s class. The importance of taking the correct level class, Williams says, is “so you don’t get injured. I think if somebody went to a class that is way too advanced for them and they are not ready for it, number one, they are going to hate it because it is going to be so overwhelming and, number two, I just think they are not going to want to come back after doing that.”

If you have ever been curious about yoga and wanted to try it, go for it, and try it a few times. Try different classes with different teachers and styles until you find the right fit for you.

As an instructor myself, I always recommend listening to your body. If your body is uncomfortable breath through it, but if it is screaming, then listen to it and don’t do that pose. It is preferred to have a certified instructor to help prevent injuries but if you are unable to access a studio with a certified instructor there are other options such as apps and books by those who are certified in yoga to create your own yoga practice.

Montrelle states, “I just want people to know you can have it, and if you can’t find the space to do it, make your own. Just make your own.”

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