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How did you start practicing yoga?

I have answered this question, in various forms, a number of times but my most detailed answer can be found here.

How long have you been doing yoga?

I started practicing Bikram yoga semi-regularly in fall 2011. Even though I maintained an inconsistent practice for the next two years, I didn’t begin practicing yoga (literally) every day until summer 2013. In total, I’ve been practicing for just over five years, though my most substantial development (in terms of alignment, balance, and strength) has occurred over the past 4 years.

Have you always been naturally flexible?

Um, NO. Aside from childhood dance and gymnastics classes (where I spent more time focusing on our costumes than pirouettes), I never spent any time focusing on flexibility. However, my flexibility has dramatically increased since I began practicing yoga. In my opinion, practicing yoga daily is one of the keys to greater flexibility. Also, because of the way heat helps your body loosen up, I think hot yoga can especially help improve your overall flexibility.

Where do you practice yoga?

My favorite yoga studio is located in my living room. It consists of my yoga mat, a few upcycled props, and my Samsung Galaxy tablet which plays music if I’m doing my own flow or classes via yogaglo.com. I often prefer classes taught by Kathryn BudigAmy IppolitiGiselle Mari, and Tara Judelle. I generally take classes rated level 2, but I occasionally take classes rated level 2-3.

When I go to outside classes, I usually prefer hot, vinyasa, or power flow yoga. Though my favorite Durham yoga studio has closed (R.I.P. Bull City Yoga), I occasionally attend classes at Hot Asana Durham or Bikram Durham if I feel the need to sweat out my practice.

Who takes your photos?

Unless otherwise noted, I take all of my own photos. For most of my yoga photos/videos, I use the camera on my iPhone 7. For most of my photos pre-2016, I used the camera on my Samsung S3 mini + self timer camera app. I edit using the apps snapseed or vscocam (but mostly just snapseed). In addition, I shoot most of my outdoor yoga photos using my GoPro Hero3, and my pre-2016 videos were typically shot using my Canon Powershot.  I shoot most of my food photography with my Canon Rebel XT, using a 50mm f/1.8 II lens. I shoot exclusively in natural light, though I occasionally use a (very sophisticated) piece of white foam core to bounce light.

Photo Credit

Christine Hewitt

How do you come up with your own yoga flows?

When I began practicing yoga at home, I based my practice on my favorite postures from the Bikram Yoga series. From there, I researched postures I wanted to tackle and began integrating preparatory postures for those postures into my practice. Eventually, I built up a range of poses that felt comfortable enough to integrate into my own flows. I also draw inspiration from the flows and classes I practice via yogaglo.com.

Where did you get your yoga props/mat? Wait a minute, is that a dog leash being used as a yoga strap?

In my world, if it looks as though I’m using a dog leash as a yoga strap, I probably am. I am a big believer in upcycling, and my home yoga props are usually just crafted out of whatever items I have at my immediate disposal. For example,

Yoga Mats:

My 'ride or die' mat is the Liforme. It is the Cadillac of yoga mats, and it's totally worth the cash. It's perfect for all types of yoga environments, and it's travelled with me all over the world.

I also love my Jade Fusion Mat, though it's pretty heavy and rarely leaves my house. It's thick and very wide, perfect for a larger bodied practitioner, and it's extremely grippy.

I also enjoy Manduka’s Black Mat Pro- it’s thick, wide, and luxurious, though not quite as grippy as the Jade. I used this mat during my Yoga Teacher Training and it holds a lot of fond memories.

My old hot yoga mat is The Mat by Lululemon. It is dual sided, perfect for hot and non-hot yoga, and provides excellent stability during balance postures.

My back up mat is a pink 1/16” mat that used to be my dad’s pilates mat and which has traveled with me for the past couple of years. It is super thin and smelly, but it has been my happy place since I began practicing.

Yoga Blocks:

Now I have fancy Manduka and Gaiam Yoga Blocks, but my first two blocks were:

  • two cell phone boxes bound with packaging tape
  • a Star Wars VHS box set bound with packaging tape

I really want to lose weight and get healthy! How much weight have you lost because of yoga?

This is a very sticky topic for me because I hate equating weight loss and overall health and wellness. While I think there are a number of legitimate health reasons to lose weight, I don’t think being physically smaller is a necessity to achieve better overall health. I definitely don’t think it’s a necessity to practice advanced yoga postures. HOWEVER, it would be completely hypocritical for me to ignore the weight I’ve lost as a direct result of my yoga practice.

For context, with a combination of Weight Watchers and almost daily gym exercise I lost roughly 25 pounds during my last year of undergrad (2009-2010). However, during my first two years of graduate school (2010-2012), I gained back the 25 pounds I lost AND gained an additional 25 pounds. Over my ~2.5 years of practicing yoga, I have managed to lose the majority of my grad school 50 pounds but I don’t weigh myself frequently so I’m honestly not sure about my actual weight loss.

However, the real changes I’ve noticed in my body are not weight related. I used to suffer from near constant mild lower back pain- this pain is essentially nonexistent now. Also, I have much better muscle definition, stamina, endurance, and my breathing has improved dramatically. Not to mention that my mental clarity has improved greatly, and my mood shifts (which used to be a little unpredictable) are much more stable. These wellness improvements are MUCH more important to me than my weight loss because they have more of an effect on my daily life.

If I can encourage you to do anything, ask yourself “How Do I Feel?” rather than “How Do I Look?” Often (just kidding, ALWAYS), the answer to “How Do I Feel?” completely informs your answer to “How Do I Look?”

Where can I find cute yoga clothes for curvy bodies?

I buy my yoga clothes EVERYWHERE but my favorite pieces are by Lineagewear,ManifestaFractal 9Malesh Activewear, and Kobieta. I have also found great leggings and crop tops at Forever 21. Although, let’s be honest- I’m usually just practicing in my American Apparel or Hips and Curves underwear.

Photo Credit

Zoe Litaker