Guest Blogger - Kristy Robinson, Yogi

We all have different reasons why we come to the mat; to help with stress, to get healthier, to find inner peace, to develop more flexibility. I too, had my reason: Bulimia. Two-years ago I was a sports reporter covering the Pittsburgh Pirates. I covered spring training, home games, some road games and even the minor leagues. From the outside I looked like I had it all -- the cool job, a huge social media following, I was breaking stories left and right -- but inside I was in so much pain. My outer happiness was only a cover up. I thought that if I had "it all" that I would finally be happy. Little did I know that happiness can never be found in the things outside of you, it has to come within.

In the Winter of 2012 I was let go from my job. Naturally I was devastated because I did enjoy covering baseball, I grew up playing the game, and I worked my butt off to get to the position I was in, but unfortunately I was doing it all for the wrong reasons; fame, money, happiness, "success." When I reflect back, losing my job was in fact the best thing that could have happened to me. It forced me to spend a year freelancing (which I actually slowly lost interest in) as I dug deep into who I was and why I was unhappy.

When I first started practicing yoga several years ago, I could only hold Warrior 2 pose for a few seconds. My body was so tired from all the abuse I put it through; over-exercising, binging, purging, starving myself to attain the unattainable idea of perfection. The first year I practiced a beginners power flow DVD as well as restorative yoga and meditation. I started to feel a powerful, constant drawing to the mat. Once you begin to connect body-breath-mind, something starts to happen. I began to feel a sense of clearer self-awareness, a sense of being more fully alive, I felt better, more conscious, more clearer. As human beings we yearn for a happy, wakeful, meaningful life and it became a powerful motivation to continue to practice.

I felt inspired and needed a change of scenery so I packed my bags, let go of any fears I had, and mustered up the courage to journey down from Pittsburgh, PA., to St Petersburg, FL., with no real plan other than the calling in my heart. I started over in a city where I knew one just one soul, and took a risk that I needed to find peace and my Dharma, the reason each of us exist.

Over the past two-years I stepped away from what others may view as "success" to embark on a different journey. You see, society dictates who we need to be and the type of lifestyle we need to live in order to become "successful", therefore many of us are pushing ourselves to the extremes to achieve this goal. While having dreams and a vision for your life is extremely important, so too, are the intentions behind them when. We can quickly lose sight of the truly important things in life and experiences along the way if that intention becomes malicious or blurry. Individually we all need to figure out what success means to ourself -- without outside influences, without EGO --and we must learn that success is not the key to happiness, rather happiness is the key to success. I now believe that if you truly love what you are doing, then you are successful.

I recently graduated from my Yoga Teacher Training with bigger plans in mind. I believe everything happens for a reason. Had I not struggled with an Eating Disorder for so long, I would never be able to make the impact on others in the way that I can now. I am currently teaching yoga to Athletes and the youth/teens, at Studios in the St Petersburg area, and have my eye on starting a non-profit that can bring free yoga programs into schools with the emphasis on self-love and body image.

I hope that my story has inspired you enough to give it a try. I hear the excuse so often that someone is "not flexible enough" to do yoga. That's like saying that you're not dirty enough to take a shower. Yoga meets you where you are. You don't have to already know how to touch your toes -- that's why you go to yoga, to open and stretch your mind and body so that you can. Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Find a yoga studio - I put this first because having a teacher to help you is important. Home practice is great, don't get me wrong, but there is no one there to give you hands on adjustments or correct what you may be doing incorrect. They will be able to give you advice and modifications (if needed for your practice) or what poses are great for an injury you may have. Lululemon has a great app called 'the OM finder.' It picks up your location and the closest studios to where you are.

  • Home Practice - Like I mentioned above, home practice can be great; when you're traveling, or wanting to work on a specific pose or flow you created. It's great on days you sleep in (hey! It happens!) and can't make it to class or don't have the money to purchase classes at a studio. Yogaglo.com is a great site with so many great videos to choose from. Youtube has a pretty awesome selection of free videos to try. Kino McGregor and Kathyrn Budig are favorites of mine!

Even just getting in a quick 15 minute daily practice will make an impact on your health and well-being.

Here a few beginner poses to try for yourself:

Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
  • Benefits: Strengthens and stretches the legs and shoulders, calms the nervous system, eliminates stiffness and back pain, boots circulation. 

Begin on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your hands shoulder-width apart.
Stack your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your wrists.
Curl your toes under, lift your hips, and straighten your legs.
Push into your palms to draw more energy into your lower body to help elevate your pelvis.
Press firmly down with all 10 fingers.
Keep your arms straight and rotate your outer upper arms inward to broaden your upper back.
Draw the front of your rib cage in and press your legs back.
Extend your heels away from your toes and pull them back toward the floor.

Pigeon Pose (Kapatasana)
  • Benefits: Opens the hip joints, provides a powerful opening for the glutes and piriformis muscle, massages the digestive and reproductive organs.

Begin in downward facing dog.
Step your right leg forward and slide your foot toward your left, working to get your shin parallel to the front of the mat.
Keep your back leg straight as you lower your pelvis to the floor.
Roll the outside of your leg down by pushing into the outside edge of your foot. Even out your hips.
Keep your front foot flexed.
Option to fold forward, resting your head on a block, your hands or the floor.
Repeat on the opposite side. 

Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasna)
  • Benefits: Strengthens the back, bottom, and hamstring, helps alleviate stress, calms the brain, improves digestion, stretches the chest, neck, spine and hips.

Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
Lift your hips off the floor and interlace your fingers beneath your lower back.
Rock your shoulders under your chest and press into your feet to lift your hops up toward the height of your knees.
Keep a slight lift in your chin and allow your bottom to be soft.
Your knees should stay in line with your hips as you rotate your inner upper thighs downward to broaden your lower back.

XOXO, Kristy

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