Finding Zen requires solitude | Flexibility is key | A quiet studio is the best place to take a class
Revo Ambassador Kristin Niemi busts all these misconceptions about yoga and redefines what the modern yogi looks like. She also gives a huge community of yoga enthusiasts daily glimpses into her practice through her website and social media platforms. Below, the ultra-busy yogi and mother sheds some light on how what may be a hobby to some became a life-changing practice for her.
Revo: What encouraged you to first take up yoga?
Kristin Niemi: 10 years ago I threw my back out, and it made me realize how I wasn't taking care of myself. While I looked fit, my insides told a different story. I had two bulging discs in my back and a heart condition, yet I wasn't working out like I should. Once my back started to feel better, I took up yoga on the recommendation of my doctor. My first class forever changed my life. I realized working out didn't need to mean clanging weights and being out of breath. It could mean your body, breath, and mind working together to give yourself a true full body workout. Then, four years ago, my body tested me again and I decided at that moment to make yoga more a part of my life and I became a yoga teacher alongside my full-time job.
Revo: How do you think yoga has benefitted you the most- physically, mentally, spiritually?
KN: Can I choose D. All of the above? But really, I would have to say mentally first. While I started yoga more for my physical health, I've realized a drastic shift in my mental state in the meantime. I am a much happier, much more positive, and much more [of a] level-headed person since I started practicing yoga. And the physical benefits are certainly a close second. I've never felt better or healthier as I do now, after practicing yoga for ten years and teaching for over three. I haven't had any heart problems over the past five years since practicing, and my lower back is so much stronger than it used to be.
Revo: Where is your favorite place to practice yoga and why?
KN: Outdoors! While I love to practice in a yoga studio with other incredible yogis, being outside in the fresh air can't be beat. And if I'm near the ocean, it makes it that much better. I try to practice outdoors at least twice a week - enjoying the fresh air and the sounds of nature surrounding me. Whether it's for 60 minutes or five minutes, getting an opportunity to really take in nature in the best way I know how, with yoga, is an incredible way to practice.
Revo: Has there ever been a time where you haven’t been able to practice yoga for a while? Did you feel a significant difference?
KN: I taught and practiced yoga up until I was 38 weeks pregnant with #yogababy! Throughout my pregnancy, it was incredible watching my body change and seeing my yoga practice change with it. I then had to take a break from 38 weeks pregnant to six weeks postpartum. With split abs, known as diastasis recti, and a c-section, my body truly needed to rest up, and I obliged. It allowed me to fully take in time with my new little nugget and all the joys and learning that came along with becoming a mom! Once I was cleared to exercise at six weeks postpartum, I realized my practice would have to be different- I couldn't just leave the house for an hour class anymore and that the best way to practice wouldn't be alone, it would be WITH #yogababy. And boy has that been a fun journey!!
Revo: Being a full-time mom hasn’t gotten in the way of practicing yoga! How did you approach involving your baby with your daily practice?
KN: I'm a full-time mom with a full-time job as well as being a part-time yoga teacher. It's a lot, but I wouldn't have it any other way! My approach for my yoga practice now is one of doing what I can. It's the same philosophy I take on being a mom. Do your best, do what you can, and stay happy. Yoga with #yogababy has been such a journey - it all started with him and I teaching a Mommy and Baby yoga class at our favorite local studio. He was so small and enjoyed every second on the mat and in my arms during class. Now, #yogababy is an energetic little man who typically will run circles around me as I practice, but sometimes stops to join me in a downward facing dog. Every day, we practice together, whether it's a hot second in between him running around, or whether it's teaching class together for an hour, it's our time, and a time we can spread our love of yoga.
Revo: What is your favorite piece of advice for new yoga students?
KN: It's YOUR practice. A lot of people think yoga is all about flexibility, and headstands, and crazy poses. But it has nothing to do with all that. You don't need to be able to touch your toes (some days I can't!) or flip upside down (inversions still scare me a little!). You just need to get on your mat and breathe. It's not about what the person next to you is doing or what the teacher in front of you can do. It's about what your body can do and whatever your body needs.
Revo: You’re the mom of an energetic baby, work full-time during the workweek, and teach yoga classes part-time somewhere in between. What are the 5 items that never leave your [diaper?] bag?
KN: When I'm heading to take or teach a yoga class, I never leave without my mat and a bottle of water. That's literally all I need. I don't need anything special, but just knowing that I'm heading to practice surrounded by amazing energy is all I need. Now, when I teach with #yogababy, my yoga bag takes on a whole new meaning! Then it's filled with snacks, a binky, a blanket, diapers, wipes, etc. etc. Whatever I need to keep #yogababy happy, and at times distracted :)
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