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Why I Love Yoga - Reality Check from an NBA Head Coach

Last year I was asked to speak at career day at an elementary school. My initial thoughts? Why would they want me? I just wear yoga pants all day and tell people what to do. I was kind of embarrassed. There are many more important jobs out there and they asked me. Later that afternoon, I went to the Brooklyn Nets training facility to teach a yoga session for the players/coaching staff. I told head coach Kenny what I was going to do and I told him I didn’t know why they asked me. He stopped what he was doing and looked me in the eyes and asked, “Do you love what you do for work?” I said yes. “Do you get to make a difference in people’s lives?” Yes again. “Ok then, I know why they asked you. Those are measures of career success.”

I reflect on that conversation often. My job is so fulfilling. Many students share their journey and how yoga has helped them. Being trusted to hold space and guide people through their yoga practice is not something that I take lightly. I currently teach about 25 classes per week, and I prepare for each class. Being present and mindful is a responsibility and I am with my students 100% of the time.

For me, teaching yoga is a form of meditation. I come out of teaching classes feeling rested, restored and energized. That is because I don’t have a single second to let my mind wander. I am remembering poses, doing the same thing on both sides, watching my students physical alignment as well as energetic changes, adjusting students on both sides, timing class with my music, and more things I am probably forgetting. That means, I don’t have time to think about my to do list, future plans, etc. Any mindful practice can give you the same benefits of a seated meditation practice. FYI, I do meditate daily as well, anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on the day.

I love yoga because it is a sustainable form of movement. Living in NYC I’m fortunate to be able to try every type of workout I can imagine. Yoga lives under this big umbrella, but there is so much underneath there. There are many different types of yoga (vinyasa, iyengar, ashtanga, hatha, etc), and every teacher has their own style within the different types. Yoga has options to align appropriately with your current physical/mental limitations. Several years ago, I went through a phase where I only wanted to take restorative classes. Fast forward to now, and my personal practice has changed.

Yoga moves with you throughout your life.

The more you practice yoga, the more you are able to incorporate beneficial movement into your daily routine. I don’t have the opportunity to take group classes every day for myself, but over time, I’ve learned what stretches I need for my body every day. When I reach for something on the ground, rather than rounding my spine, I hinge from my hips (mimicking a forward fold in a vinyasa). This helps to stretch my back and hamstrings. I stretch throughout the day, partly on instincts at this point, using my breath to guide the movements.

Yoga has become my life. I live it every single day, and I can’t imagine it any other way.

Steph Armijo (E-RYT 500)


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