Earlier this year, we started thinking about everything going on in the world and how entrepreneurs experience stress daily. We wanted to figure out a low-impact non-time-intensive solution to help reduce some of this stress. After much consideration, we landed on yoga, which can benefit entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs. We couldn’t think of anyone better to provide us with the depth of insight necessary to begin practicing yoga than Kerry Armstrong, veteran yoga instructor, and international yoga retreat leader. Armstrong has been teaching yoga for 12 years and is certified in Power Vinyasa Yoga ERYT, Yoga of Awareness, YACEP, and Reiki 2. Her retreats are a place where people can dive deep into their internal practice through the tools of vinyasa yoga, kundalini kriya practices, meditation, and breathwork.
MP: Yoga and meditation are often seen as the same. How are they different?
KA: Yoga is a way of being; yoga means ‘yoke’ or ‘union.’ Having a yogic lifestyle or being a yogi means you have invoked the union within yourself, similar to connection or contentment.
Meditation is a type of practice. There are several ways to meditate, either through silent discovery, repetitive mantras, affirmations, or guided awareness practices. Meditation aims to achieve the vibration of ‘Anahat,’ also known as the ‘unstruck sound.’ This is a development of alignment within yourself and the source of creation and vibration that you are.
How does yoga differ from Pilates?
The yoga practices can consist of asanas which are sets of postures, breathwork, and self-inquiry through meditation. Pilates is a strength conditioning practice focusing mainly on the physical body. However, many Pilates practitioners use the physical practice to release the endorphins held in the body’s form to access a more positive vibration within themselves, which can bring an elevated state of awareness to the individual, allowing them to feel the “yoga” within themselves.
What are the psychological health benefits of practicing yoga?
When you have a clear mind, you tend to act from a happier place. Everyone has three minds: (1) the negative mind, (2) the positive mind, and (3) the neutral mind. The neutral mind, also known as the “balanced mind,” is generated by the action steps within thoughts to create a balanced state within the positive mind and the negative mind. Meaning, if you have too many thoughts generating a negative vibration, the formula is to add more positive vibrations to achieve the neutral mind. When we have a neutral mindset, we tend to act versus react. The presence of the neutral mind gives us the space to act in situations with grace, ease, and trust in oneself.
What are the physical health benefits of practicing yoga?
Yoga detoxifies the body, oxygenates the prana or chi in the body, and increases the vitality within our cells.
What should someone looking to start practicing yoga for the first time know?
The practice of yoga is the practice of becoming your best self. There are many ways to become your highest potential. You can do physical practices, and you can use positive affirmations, mantras, or meditations. You can journal, eat healthily, and take care of yourself through various types of nature activities, friendships, and self-inquiry explorations.
My advice is to find a practice that inspires you and commit to it. Become committed to yourself, show up for yourself each day, and set your intention of who you want to be in this world.
There are many different types of yoga. How can someone determine which type of yoga is right for them?
I believe this is an evolutionary question. From my experience, each type of yoga practice will serve the individual depending on what they are going through in their lives at that time.
For Example, a hard physical power vinyasa class used to fulfill everything I was looking for in my yoga practice. I used to get on the mat for 2.5 hours a day and penetrate every cell of my being with a hot, sweaty, and fast practice. That served me well for many years. However, there came a point where the physical practice of yoga wasn’t serving me as much anymore, so I started practicing breathwork because I didn’t need much of the physical benefits of yoga anymore.
As I started exploring breathwork practices, I found kundalini yoga, which expanded my existing physical practice into a more pranic practice. This activated my energy body, also known as the chakra system, and elevated my intuition. As a result, most of my current practice is a mix of physical, breath-based, and mantra chanting.
A mantra is a repetitive sound current that elevates the consciousness to the vibration of the meaning of the words, leaving oneself to experience that vibration within their mind, body, and spirit.
My suggestion is to start your yoga practice anywhere and see what type of practice resonates with you. You may stay with that one practice your entire life, or it may evolve over time. Trust your gut and go for it every day. The most important thing is to be consistent over time.
How can someone who has never practiced yoga start doing so successfully without burning out?
The phrase “burning out” relates to the fire element. To not burn out, we have to add the water element to bring balance into the practice. If you are generating too much fire element through physical exertion and pranic buildups, substitute some of those practices for a more water-based practice that brings flow and cooling down like yin yoga, creative journaling, long vowel mantra experiences, or add in cooler food types, such as like greens.
How often does one need to practice yoga to realize its benefits?
That is a personal question because the practice of yoga is based on the individual. Therefore, the benefits of yoga will be realized at different times for each person.
Are there any resources you could recommend to people looking to explore yoga more?
Look for workshops within your existing community. Seek presenters that interest you. Ask your community or teachers if they know of any other teachings on subjects that inspire you or might expand you. You never know where these interactions may lead you. You can also research large retreat centers like Kripalu Yoga Center (East Coast) or Esalen Retreat Center (West Coast) to see what modalities are being highlighted.
Do you have any exciting new workshops or retreats coming up this year or next?
In 2022, I am leading a week-long retreat from April 30th – May 7th in Nosara, Costa Rica. It will be held at the astonishing Blue Spirit Retreat Center. We will explore the realms of yogic practices to align you with your life’s purpose and your unique expression. I lead with a mix of modalities weaving together physical vinyasa practice with kundalini breath and movement practices to generate a creative process. There will be mantra music offered, wonderful healthy food, and a community feel.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
How grateful I am for yoga in my personal life. The practices have allowed me to accept and love who I am. The daily practices help me to get through the difficulties of life with grace and ease. Not to say that yoga makes life less challenging, but the tools of yoga have helped me elevate, empower, and expand myself. I pray that wherever you are in your life, you add in a practice that helps you deal with your life from an elevated point of view.
Cover photo courtesy of Kerry Armstrong
View this article in the September 2021 issue of MP.