"How Yoga Relieved My Anxiety & Gave Me a Bigger Purpose"
We all need an escape from our lives sometimes, even if you enjoy what you do.
Are you a yoga fanatic or a yoga skeptic?
Yogi or not, I think you will find today’s post motivating — whether you’re looking to switch up your fitness game or become more mentally stable, I’ve learned that yoga has the unique power to expand your mind in ways that cycle classes, HIIT workouts, and reading for pleasure simply cannot do.
Courtney Ciandella, a Jersey Shore yoga instructor, discussed with me how the benefits of yoga reached far beyond her fitness expectations, and how they can do the same for you.
Here is our conversation.
“I started practicing yoga about eight years ago and quickly noticed its benefits beyond the physical aspects that originally drew me to the practice. A long-time sufferer of anxiety that I only realized I had after a painful breakup in college, I didn't know how to manage my anxious thoughts.
As a result, I often distanced myself from people, hiding what was truly going on. I've recently started opening up more about my anxiety and yoga has been a big part of that because it's given me the tools to manage it instead of ignoring that it exists. I decided to gear my teaching toward helping others who may be struggling with the same feelings — helping them improve their mental and physical health being my main focus.”
Tell us how you first got into yoga & why you decided to start a business based on the practice.
Upon walking into my first yoga class, I thought I would absolutely hate it. No one was more surprised than I was that I actually enjoyed such a different style of exercise than what I was used to. Growing up, I was very athletic (I was even on my college tennis team), so being introduced to yoga — a practice that encourages listening to your body and matching slow, steady movements with the breath — was a very different world for me.
I signed up for my first yoga class out of pure curiosity while seeing it offered at my local gym. I was immediately intrigued and loved how open and relaxed I felt after. I began to check out some other yoga studios in the area, wanting to experience various styles. Soon I was hooked attending classes 4-5 times a week.
It wasn’t just the physical benefits that attracted me to the studio each week, either. After awhile, I realized how much yoga was calming my anxiety — something I had struggled with for years. I was learning the tools to control my anxious thoughts and take care of my mental health in ways I didn’t know were possible.
After years of an ongoing practice, I decided to take the leap and get my yoga teacher certification. I was determined to help others experience the same overwhelming relief that I felt and provide ways to help them manage their mental health. Now I am an experienced yoga instructor making living a healthy lifestyle my top priority.
What advice do you have for women looking to relieve their anxiety in a natural way?
Don’t underestimate the power of your breath. Oftentimes, it’s the simple method of focusing on your breath that can relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety. Establishing a daily meditation practice coupled with a routine of yoga and movement can really do wonders for your mental health.
We’ve read it in every magazine — yoga is amazing for your body and mind. But…any type of exercise can do that. What’s different about yoga?
I don’t want to mislead people into thinking that just practicing yoga a couple of times a week embodies a healthy lifestyle. Yoga is a lifelong journey, not a miracle practice that will provide you with all the benefits you’re looking for after taking a class or two.
And I don’t think it should replace any other fitness regimen. By incorporating yoga into your routine, you can enhance your performance in other areas of your life. I’ve had students tell me how much they’ve improved in their CrossFit classes after adding a few yoga sessions to their week. And avid runners who shaved minutes off their running time because of the openness that yoga provided their bodies.
Personally, I’ve noticed not only that I feel like I can physically do more since starting my practice, but my mind is clearer, more focused, and my everyday stressors are much more manageable. It’s matching the breath with the movement, going deep within yourself and emerging in a whole different light.
I love that you offer free consultations to see if you are the best fit for your clients. Is finding the right yoga instructor like finding the right therapist?
I 100% believe the instructor makes the practice what it is. If you don’t connect with your instructor, it makes it a lot harder to connect with yourself and your body. I’ve practiced with instructors that made yoga the complete opposite experience of what I expected, making me feel tense and more anxious than before I walked through the door!
Sometimes that happens where it takes a couple of classes before you feel fully grounded on your mat. But it’s worth exploring. You wouldn’t give up on therapy after one session, would you?
I have tried yoga before and didn’t like it (sorry!) What do you say to someone who says yoga isn’t for them?
Yoga is not for everyone! If you force yourself to like it just because your mom or your boyfriend are into it, you will probably dislike it even more. I’ve asked many of my friends if they’d like to join a yoga class with me and they couldn’t be more turned off.
I don’t take offense to it at all. It’s a different type of practice than they’re used to, so it may not be their cup of tea. But yoga has been phasing more and more into other exercises, so sometimes they’re probably doing yoga and not even realizing they’re doing it. Do what works for you!
What else should we know about you?
I feel like people get the impression that I live in my yoga pants and am constantly practicing yoga and meditating all day long. But I actually have a lot of interests off the mat. For one thing, I’m a huge beach bum. I live at the Jersey Shore so the summertime is primarily spent lounging on the beach or hanging out on the boardwalk with friends.
I’m also kind of a book nerd — getting lost in a book for hours is a regular occurrence for me. I love to stay active as well — running, cycling, and doing anything that gets me moving when I’m not behind my computer screen writing.
In a post-Covid world, I’m really looking forward to traveling again. Every year my friends and I take a trip to visit a new city, so the more we’re stuck at home, the more we are itching to get out of town and explore other places. We all need an escape from our lives sometimes, even if you enjoy what you do like I do.
This is Courtney. You can follow her on Instagram here.
Thank you for reading today.
Yesterday I talked about the new mind-care trends guaranteed to improve your mood and wellbeing, including making a “bliss list” and shouting your gratitude, and explained how the most important indicators of success have nothing to do with money, as told by the one and only Arianna Huffington.
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