Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern
Buttery toast, rich olive oil, fluffy soufflés—have you started drooling yet? Surprisingly, we were on our mats when yoga instructor Chrissy Carter brought these images to mind, making us dream about our next meal. The ex-Wall Streeter-turned-yogi commonly references food during her classes to help students visualize and execute poses, which we experienced firsthand to celebrate the launch of her new Gaiam DVD Beginning Yoga. Ready to say om…nom nom?
How did you first discover yoga?
I danced in college and the professors would use yoga to warm us up. I became more serious about it when I graduated and worked on Wall Street. I had a crazy-intense job, so I would go and do yoga as a way to relax and check in with myself. It was a demanding career and I felt like I needed some me time; yoga really gave me that.
Why do you think it’s important for people, especially women, to practice yoga?
I think yoga puts us back in our bodies. It gives us an opportunity to let go of all the expectations that we have and all of the things that we have to be to everybody. It also allows us to have a place where we can practice self-acceptance, and for women, that’s always a challenge. We’re always measuring ourselves us against some sort of outside expectation. And to come on your mat and be like, “I’m going to do what I can do today, and that’s OK.” Beyond the physical benefits of having those strong, supple muscles, I think the connection emotionally and mentally is so much more powerful.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I would say it is really clear. I am passionate about giving people the tools that they need to be their own teacher. I want to give everybody a backstage pass into how to do these poses effectively and safely for their particular body. I use humor so that people don’t take themselves too seriously, but I also take the practice really seriously because I think it’s a perfect place for people to apply it to the bigger picture: how do I react to not being able to do this pose, and how is that similar to how I react when things fall apart in my life?
Even though your DVD is targeted toward beginners, do you think more advanced yogis would benefit as well?
I think so because of the degree of instruction and the degree of alignment that I bring into the DVD. I’m not just leading a practice; I’m teaching the poses with a lot of careful, thoughtful instruction. For someone who has an intermediate or even an advanced practice, it’s always a good idea to go back to the basics. And as an advanced practitioner, it can be really hard to have a beginner’s mind—to be able to see your practice with fresh perspective. We tend to practice the things that we love and avoid those that we don’t like. Or you get really good at something, and you just go on autopilot. You forget to open your eyes and experience it in the present moment, and that’s what this DVD is all about.
During the class, you used a ton of food similes. What’s that about?
I do it all the time! I recently went to the French Culinary Institute and did an intensive course, and I learned how to make soufflés. In order for a soufflé to rise up, it has to have something to climb. You have to bread it or put butter and cheese in the inside so that the soufflé can climb, so I relate that to the lengthening of the side body, like climbing up through your side waist. I talk a lot about spreading the collarbones like pats of butter on really warm toast.
That’s a good one—very appetizing!
Yes, my students always leave hungry! But I think what it relates to is that I really want people to be able to apply an action they may not understand to something they understand in their life. Like, “I get butter on warm toast. I don’t know what she’s talking about with the collarbones, but I get the butter and the toast thing.”
What does being fit mean to you?
Fitness means that you take good care of yourself. For me personally, self-care and self-indulgence is a really fine line to try and learn. So being fit, does that mean you have killer abs and the body of your dreams? No, it’s about being OK with the ebbs and flows of life and doing your best in those moments to accept yourself and to find the balance that allows you to care for yourself with whatever you have going on. Sometimes, the word fit can be just one more thing you add to your list. Like, “Oh my gosh, on top of all of these things I have to be fit.” But just do what you can do, and whatever you practice, you get better at.
Now you tell us: Do you like practicing yoga at home or at a studio?