Swapping Business Suits for Yoga Pants: An interview with yoga instructor Chrissy Carter

egKCN0-Zj5lY7hLbfzF5e6MM55V-4HsLJKP8o3AYU1oAs a former Wall Street exec, Chrissy Carter has seen her fair share of the fast life. And yet, the world of sales and stocks wasn’t Carter’s true calling, so she traded her business suits for yoga pants and embarked on a new journey of self-discovery. Now, with 10 years of yoga instruction under her belt, this businesswomen-turned-yogi is ready to release her newest DVD: Yoga for Belly, Butt & Thighs. 

You haven’t always been a yoga instructor – tell me a little about your background and what led you to make the switch.

Before I became a full time teacher, I used to work on Wall Street as an equities sales trader, managing stock orders for institutional clients. I was right in the middle of the action and I had a lot of fun. It was also extremely stressful, not only because of the nature of the work and the environment, but also because I knew deep down that I wasn’t where I belonged. I felt unsettled knowing that I wasn’t able to access my potential in that career. I turned to yoga as a way to reduce my stress, but what I found was that it took me exactly where I needed to go—inward.

Do you remember when you were first introduced to yoga? What was your impression? 

I was first introduced to yoga in college by a dance professor who used yoga postures to warm us up for class. I remember being intrigued and not knowing why. The standing poses made me feel strong, but the breathing made me feel calm. I don’t think I’d ever experienced that union before. I was already on the path of self-understanding but didn’t yet have the tools to start digging. Yoga gave me the tools to excavate and study myself with patience and compassion.

You’ve been teaching yoga for 10 years – what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in yourself over that time period? 

I’m more tolerant. I feel like I’m learning how to sit with reality—to look at my life and myself in the eye—and breathe. I believe that yoga has given me the gift of self-acceptance.

Do you have to be an avid yogi to gain benefits from yoga? 

No. Even a little bit of yoga can help us create space in our bodies and minds. The postures constitute only a small fraction of what yoga is. Practicing kindness, honesty and devotion, for example, is just as important as practicing Downdog. The Bhagavad Gita reminds us that “On this path no effort is wasted, no gain is ever reversed; even a little of this practice will shelter you from great sorrow.”

Tell me about your newest DVD Yoga for Belly, Butt & Thighs — what makes this DVD unique?

The belly, butt and thighs are all integral parts of core stability. Core stability is sometimes confused with abdominal strength, but the truth is, great looking abs are useless if they don’t understand how to communicate with the rest of the body. Core strength is really about integration, and a strong core is one that anchors you to your center when you’re being pulled away from it. It’s not just about strength, it’s about knowing how to apply that strength so you can better respond to the moment at hand. This DVD is unique because it targets each area and then teaches you how to integrate and apply this strength to yoga. It’s designed to empower you by teaching you how to move your body as a strong, cohesive whole. 

What part of this DVD’s launch are you most excited for? Are you nervous for the launch at all? 

I’m excited for the launch! I’m excited about what I hope are the surprise benefits of strengthening these problem areas: more agility, confidence and a deeper connection to our center. I hope to help people feel more anchored in themselves.

What’s the benefit of doing yoga at home?

Doing yoga at home helps to strengthen your intuition by encouraging you to listen to the teacher within. A home practice invites you to go at your own pace and investigate what resonates with you in that moment. The great thing about practicing with a DVD is that through the repetition of practicing the same sequence you can get a real sense of your own growth. You can also pause the DVD if you need to rest or if you want to linger a little longer in a pose. You can also rewind and listen to an instruction again, or try the pose again.

What’s one quick tip from your DVD you can share with us today?

Building strength and awareness in the body takes time, patience and practice. When you tune into your breath, it will teach you how to create ease and space in the body, especially when a pose (or life!) becomes challenging.

Your philosophy is to “live yoga on and off the mat.” What do you mean by that?

To live your yoga is to abide in the heart of your experience. Living your yoga means taking the tools you learn on the mat and applying them in real time—in the midst of washing your dishes, or in the process of creativity, or in the heat of an argument. My yoga practice becomes relevant when I can access my own truth in everyday life, and to live my yoga is to put my practice into practice where and when it matters most.

About Chrissy Carter

Chrissy Carter has been teaching yoga for 10 years. She is currently a senior teacher, teacher trainer and anatomy teacher at YogaWorks in New York. Chrissy is passionate about teaching intelligent yoga with clarity and compassion and believes in creating a space where students can practice self-awareness without judgment. She is known for her ability to demystify postures and yoga philosophy, encouraging her students to live their yoga both on and off the mat. Chrissy has appeared in Yoga Journal, The New York Times and Whole Living Magazine, and is a featured talent on GaiamTV. Beginning Yoga (Gaiam) was her first DVD and her second title, Yoga for Belly, Butt, and Thighs, will be released September 2014.

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