Lara Cupido led the Yoga session at the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds event hosted by Young Women in Business, Toronto chapter. We caught up with her to hear more about her and learn about the benefits of yoga, especially for young and busy professional women.
What do you think the biggest benefit of practicing yoga is?
That’s a great question – though since there are plenty of benefits of practicing yoga, it’s a tough one to answer!
Everyone has their own reason to practice, which is one of the very reasons why I love yoga so much. That said, there are two benefits of practicing that I believe are the greatest: not only does yoga strengthen your body (yoga teacher training put me in the best shape of my life!), but it strengthens your mind as well. It helps you get in tune with your body so that you can better understand why different pain occurs both physically and mentally, and how to avoid or ease any tension. Mentally, it teaches you to focus: focus on your body, your practice, and on the present moment.
What about benefits specifically for working women in offices?
Since yoga helps you get more in tune with your body, you can learn specific postures that help open up areas that you may be tightening due to your work life. For example, there are weeks that go by where I am sitting in front of my laptop for 8+ hours a day. Naturally, my back wants to hunch over, which closes up your chest area and shoulders. Thus, soft back bends that help open up the chest and shoulders truly aid in balancing your body and maintaining alignment.
What drew you to yoga and what inspired you to become an instructor?
I’ve taken dance lessons my whole life and used to work out at a gym. However, I never really liked yoga. I always thought it wouldn’t be an intense enough workout (boy, was I naïve…).
Five years ago I decided to join my family at the weekly yoga class they regularly attended. After the class, I felt good. I can’t really explain or pinpoint exactly what it was, but I loved how I felt. And I knew the instructor’s perspective, helpful attitude and radiating energy, aided in this feeling. She truly wanted the absolute best for her students, and helped them be the best they could be. She singlehandedly altered my idea of yoga.
On her last day at the gym, I decided it was mine as well. I joined a yoga studio so that I could learn different techniques and practice more often. Shortly after, I decided that the only way to further deepen my knowledge of the practice was to become an instructor myself. In becoming an instructor, I would be able to help others feel good about themselves, just as Karin helped me do. That is what truly drove me to search for a teaching program in the city.
I then turned to Yoga Tree Studio, which offered a great teaching program composed of elements such as physical training, anatomy, and meditation. To my surprise, I found out that Karin was one of the lead instructors who would be teaching the training program. After one quick phone call to Karin, I recalled the energy that she exuded through practice, and I was sold. Needless to say, the Yoga Tree training program was one of the best experiences of my life, both physically and mentally.
Looking back, I now wish I could go back to when I was younger, during my dance years, and do physical activity properly. Yoga teaches you how to breathe properly, how to align your body, how to strengthen your core, how to stretch properly, and the list goes on.
What is your advice to those who are new to yoga?
Be open. Truly be open. With your eyes, ears and mind. Losing any premeditative judgments, or judgments that arise in your mind through practice, is critical. I often hear two things from new students: 1) Yoga is too hard, I’m not flexible! Or 2) Yoga is not intense enough of a workout. And here are my thoughts to those two misconceptions:
1) Many people tell me that they cannot practice because they are not flexible, but my response always is “that’s why you should practice! See you Sunday morning!”. Everyone is on different levels and that is OKAY. That is normal. That is how the world works! Everyone, at any given moment, is at different stages of their life, they learn at different times, and progress in different ways. However, what is important to you is what YOU are feeling, where YOU are at, how YOU can improve. And that is something that can be taken from the mat into your everyday life.
One of the biggest teachings in yoga is to lose judgements on things, on others, and on yourself. So ultimately do what makes YOU feel good on the mat. If you keep that mentality, you’ll notice progress quicker than you ever expected.
2) As I mentioned earlier, there are many misconceptions that say that yoga isn’t hard core enough. Actually, yoga is a full body work out. Many different muscles are targeted in each posture. It’s about learning how to use those muscles so that you can strengthen them. Almost all of my new students who say that yoga is too “easy” tell me after class that it is “actually really hard!” Again, be open!
Do you have any suggestions for how young professional women can fit yoga into their busy schedules?
I completely sympathize with women who feel as though there are not enough hours in one day – so much so that there have been months where I lose my own practice. I’m an interior designer by day, so my schedule is super hectic as I am often running around the city to meet clients, suppliers, and contractors, while teaching nights and weekends. By the time my work day is over, I feel as though I don’t have any energy or time to practice. What’s funny and ironic about that is that when I do fit in a yoga practice, I have so much energy. Yoga improves energy, respiration, and vitality.
I think what is important is to figure out what is the best time that works for you. After trying different class times, I realized that an early 6:30am class helped me to feel accomplished and energized for the day. Fitting it in at a regular time every day (or a few times a week) and thus creating a routine, will help you to stay committed. Once you do a class, you will be amazed at how your time and day opens up. You’ll be able to carry on with your day with a clearer mind, which will be a key factor to your productivity.