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Ignoring the Yoga Ideal.

Alignment-based yoga for all ages and stages

As a teenager, my best friend’s mom, Ruth Sturt, amazed me. First off, despite being older than most of my friends’ moms, she had a six-pack (even as an athletic teen, such a tummy eluded me!), and connected with and listened to us angsty teenagers like few adults did. She took daily vitamins, made smoothies regularly, ate a ridiculous amount of raw veggies, and practiced a “sacrilegious” activity called yoga.

When her daughter and I were 16, Ruth decided it was time to introduce us to yoga. She set up a studio for us in her loft, led us through a calming yoga flow, and masssaged our temples during final relaxation. It was strange but beautiful.

I practiced yoga--much to my skeptical mother’s dismay--on and off from that point on. I attended various yoga classes in college, took my first hot yoga class when I lived in NYC, and attended classes in Europe when I found them on my travels. While abroad, I learned of Ruth’s untimely death: a freak car accident while vacationing in Mexico. After her death, my yoga practice became an homage to her for many months, and she still pops into my head during yoga. I am forever thankful for all she shared with me.

In my late 20s, congenital hip issues combined with years of exercise and pavement running led to chronic hip pain. After trying a plethora of both alternative and traditional remedies, I discovered that a consistent yoga practice was the only thing that kept the pain at bay. It was then that I learned the healing powers of yoga--both physical and emotional.

When I was pregnant with my first child at 31, I decided to finally become a yoga teacher. I started my 200-hour yoga teacher training through YogaFit, the largest registered Yoga Alliance school in North America. At one training, I remember pumping in my car during breaks as I had just given birth to my first-born, and I ended up bawling during group discussion because I had left my newborn for the first time to do something for me. Now my over-reaction seems silly, but at the time, the guilt was all-encompassing.

I taught and practiced yoga through both pregnancies, and yoga supported me immensely during the subsequent postpartum baby blues. I still use yoga to battle my tendency toward depression. As long as I practice at least five times/week, I am able to keep my physical pain at bay and maintain my mood. (Side note: I fully recognize that many people need both exercise and medication to treat depression.)

When people meet me, they often comment on how “easy-going” and happy I am. This is all thanks to yoga as I am NOT naturally a laid-back person (my husband will attest to this!). While I have always been smiley, I’m inherently type-A and prone to depression. Yoga helps balance out my perfectionist natural tendencies. But don’t let that fool you--I still freak out and obsess over stupid things like any other type-A mama! The difference is that I am able to observe those thoughts and reactions and adjust accordingly. Yoga has helped unite my mind and body, allowing me to become more introspective.

As a naturally thicker, bigger girl, I have wrestled with the Western projection of the stereotypical yogi. I spent years trying to contort my body to fit this ideal, but now I firmly believe we are not meant to transform our bodies just to fit an asana (yoga pose), but rather we should use the tools at hand to make the pose fit our own individual bodies. No two bodies are the same, so it makes sense that our yoga practices won’t be exactly the same either. My favorite thing to say in class is to remind students, “It’s your body and your practice--do what works for you.” For this reason, I give options throughout class, frequently use props, and offer modifications for challenging poses.

I have been able to maintain my yoga practice through pregnancy, surgery, injury and illness. Yoga, in its many forms, can work for all yoga levels, every stage of life, and every age. Yoga truly has been life-changing for me, and with each class I teach and video I make, I hope to share some of those therapeutic benefits with others.

Erin Schoen Marsh

Erin has been teaching yoga since 2012 and is a

writer/editor and mother to two young children.

Her yoga moto is “Your body, your practice” as

she firmly believes yoga is an individual practice

and must be adjusted as needed.

Instagram: @the.yogi.writer

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