As we approach 2023, you may find health and wellness at the top of your New Year’s goal list. With your time already being stretched thin with work and family obligations, it may seem like a daunting task to add time for health and wellness. However, by practicing yoga three to five times a week for 15 minutes, you can experience mental, physical and emotional health benefits that can check a number of goals off your list.
Meet Stephanie Miller-Kopyar, a yoga teacher at The Green Lotus Yoga Studio. In Stephanie’s Community Celebration, she tells us about her journey discovering yoga, the benefits of yoga and how to start building a yoga practice that works for you.
Q: Tell us about your health and wellness journey. How did you find yoga and begin your practice?
I found yoga about 15 years ago while living in NYC. I was working two jobs and stressed as much as I loved the big city. I was mentally and physically drained and knew I needed to make some shifts in my life. I had heard that yoga was great for stress relief, so I decided to try a class at a studio in my neighborhood. The style of yoga this studio offered was pretty unique. It was based on an ancient Korean mind-body practice. It was a blend of martial arts, tai chi and yoga. They taught very specific breathing techniques that coalesced with the exercises. I had never felt the healing power of the breath before this experience. The movements weren’t based on particular poses, but rather exercises that moved energy from your head into your lower body, so you felt more grounded, in control of your emotions and more clear-minded spiritually. I noticed a huge boost in energy, vitality and focus. I felt my neck and shoulders unlock and, honestly, a renewed sense of self. I was hooked!
Q: What are the benefits of yoga?
The benefits of yoga span from physical, mental, emotional, to spiritual. Yoga…
- Improves strength, mobility and flexibility
- Aids better sleep
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Improves circulation
- Improves concentration, focus, balance and coordination
- Boosts self-confidence and joy
- Improves high blood pressure, sciatica and diabetes
- Regulates and balances the nervous system
- Improves energy, vitality and respiration
- Reduces joint pain and inflammation
- Improves joint flexibility and function
- Develops inner awareness and equanimity (mental calmness)
Q: How have you seen yoga positively impact people? Are there any real-life stories that you can share?
I’ve seen yoga positively impact hundreds of people of all ages, both mentally and physically. I’ve worked with all sorts of ailments, from a broken hip to a broken heart. I’ve seen sciatica pain go away; I’ve worked with frozen shoulders, digestive issues, asthma, anxiety and addiction recovery. I’ve watched people completely reverse their diabetes with diet and a daily yoga practice.
Think of your body as your car, your breath as your fuel, and yoga as your mechanic. If we don’t fill our tank, we run on low until we’re empty and eventually stuck somewhere. Yoga (your mechanic) is your regular maintenance that sustains the longevity of your body (your vehicle).
Q: We find that there is a stigma around men practicing yoga with many considering yoga as an activity only for women. What are your thoughts about this and how can we break the stigma to encourage everyone to try yoga?
I believe the media and marketing may have played a big role in making yoga appear only for women. I think as yoga became more popular in the West, clothing companies saw a huge opportunity to monetize. I just read an article in The Economic Times that shared yoga pants built a $48 billion industry. For a long time, every magazine you picked up, every billboard, every social media post, and every ad on TV or YouTube channel featured women in yoga wear. So, by unconscious design, we’ve made yoga a woman’s practice. This is slowly changing but will certainly take some time to undo.
With any stigma, I think education is the only way to break it. We have to educate people on the real intention of yoga, its purpose and its benefits. We have to be really conscious of our advertising and express that yoga is for every BODY. All ages, all races, all genders.
Q: How would someone find/start their yoga practice?
I always recommend finding a local studio. Start with a beginner's class and try to go at least 1-2 times per week. Taking online classes is also an option, but there's something special about taking a class in a group setting and in person. You'll find a community of people that strengthen and support your wellness journey. Learning from a professional also ensures safe alignment.
Q: Is yoga accessible to people of all ages and abilities?
Absolutely. It is versatile and completely customizable. It can be done sitting in a chair, lying down, standing up or seated on the floor. Yoga ages with us. There are many different styles that can cater to every stage in our life.
My Sanskrit teacher passed away from bone cancer. She could barely move and refused any pain medication. She used her knowledge of breathwork and chanting to help her through her last days. I will never forget her telling me how grateful she was for the knowledge of yoga. Yoga is not just an exercise; it's a fully integrated science that bridges your body, mind and soul. It's a sustainable lifelong practice that can change and evolve with your circumstances.
If you are looking to add yoga into your health and wellness routine, there are many gyms and studios in the Lebanon are that offer yoga classes. Try out a few to find the right one for you!