By: Stephanie Fiorentino
“But what about that expensive nutrition degree?” my dad asked as I excitedly rambled about my upcoming yoga teacher training. “I thought you were a dietitian . . . now you want to teach yoga too?”
Yes dad, I want to teach yoga too!
I’ve been working in the health and wellness industry for the last decade – first as a personal trainer, then as a dietitian, now as both. And over the years I’ve learned that integrating nutrition and physical activity is the first meaningful step towards improved health. Going on a diet or participating in a fitness challenge may have short term benefits but these isolated endeavors typically fizzle. Building a lifestyle around enjoyable exercise and sustainable nutrition means doing the work of figuring out what feels good in your body and what’s realistic for your schedule/budget/life. And speaking of building a lifestyle, I’ve also found that real health, the kind that includes both physical andmental wellness, requires a little introspection too.
Enter yoga – the perfect combination of physical activity, self-care, and mindfulness. When I un-rolled my first mat ten years ago, I thought yoga might be a nice compliment to my strength training program. When I walked into Bare Feet four years ago, I was looking for stress relief. And since I’ve been practicing consistently, yoga has become a true path to self-awareness. (I’m totally enlightened now in case you were wondering.) Yoga has been a powerful force in my life and it’s something I want to share with my clients. And since I’m already embracing the freelancer lifestyle, I figured why not add a yoga credential to my resume?
So, what will yoga offer my clients that personal training doesn’t? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good lifting session in the gym, and I’ve experienced the benefits of functional movement training first hand. But for many of my nutrition clients, yoga is simply more accessible than other types of workouts. It’s less intimidating to hang out in the back of the BFPY studio than it is to attempt adjusting a weight machine that you aren’t totally sure how to use. Yoga is more affordable than personal training. And most importantly, yoga is usually (though not always!) less intense than other group fitness classes.
Maybe you’re thinking, “but wait, don’t you want your clients doing intense workouts?” . . . actually no, not really. I want my clients doing workouts they enjoy, that leave them feeling accomplished instead of beat-up and overly sore. If you’ve tried a HIIT or studio cycle class, there’s a good chance you left feeling like you were gonna puke and a better chance you were sore for three days after. Maybe you thought that was great! But the simple reality is, most people don’t – especially if they’re new to fitness. I want my clients to feel good during and after their workouts. Because the better they feel, the more likely they are to stick to a fitness routine.
And now on to the so-called “woo-woo” of yoga. The meditation. The breath. The part at the end where you kinda take a nap. The psychological benefits of yoga are real and profound. (Yes. Profound.) You can’t begin to improve your health without a little reflection and self-awareness. Ask yourself –
Is five hours of sleep a night really sufficient? Or are you exhausted all the time?
Do you honestly enjoy stale break room donuts? Or are you eating them because they’re there?
Does your social media feed inspire you to live your best life? Or is it giving you anxiety?
Yoga takes you inward. When you begin practicing, you may notice new sensations in your physical body. As you continue practicing, your thoughts will begin to slow down, giving you more space for reflection. You’ll find you’re less reactive and are better able to cope with the frustrations of daily life. And over time, it becomes easier to recognize the relationships/activities/foods that are serving you versus the old patterns that are holding you back. The more connected you are to your body and mind, the easier it is to make choices that truly enhance your life.
I used to think that helping people live healthier lives meant encouraging them to eat all the right foods and do all the right workouts. Yoga has taught me that true wellness is about so much more than physical health. I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned!
Stephanie Fiorentino is a registered dietitian, certified personal trainer, and soon to be yoga instructor. Visit foodwonderful.com to learn more about her approach to sustainable health and wellness.