inspiration Random Recommendations yoga

Beyond the mat: 5 new reasons to take yoga (stretching & relaxing not included)

“Yoga!?” I exclaimed incredulously. “No way. I’d be bored out of my mind. I need something faster paced.”

That is what I told my friend when she encouraged me to come take her yoga class about 5 years ago.
At the time, we were fitness instructors at a 5 star spa in Las Vegas and I taught Spin, Bootcamp, kickboxing, Body Pump, and any other class you could think of – except for yoga.

Yoga, I had ignorantly and incorrectly assumed, was a snore-fest that was mainly for people that didn’t actually want to work hard.

“I think you’d be surprised Jen,” she replied. “Your mind and body could probably really use it…and it’s not as easy as you’d think.”  

Reluctantly I walked into the yoga studio, grabbed a mat and set it up – where else – facing the mirror.

“No, we don’t face the mirror. Turn your mat towards the wall.” 

What? Don’t face the mirror? How else am I going to see what I’m doing and, if I’m being brutally honest, stare at myself? I turned my mat to face the bare wall and we began.

I remember trembling and sweating profusely as I tried to hold the elementary poses she cued during that 45 minute class. Me, the self proclaimed Fitness Queen was unable to hold a static lunge for 5 breaths. I kept losing my balance and my heart was obnoxiously pounding at what I was certain was an audible level to fellow participants. By the time class was over I flopped down to my mat in a sweaty heap and immediately fell asleep during Savasana (the final meditation). Oops.

When class was over I told her, “That was HARD!!” She just smiled at me.

The short and skinny? That class led me to another, which led to another, which led to a full blown obsession with yoga over the next 5 years.

My newfound passion led me to yoga certifications, reading The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, quizzing my yogi friends non-stop about different styles of yoga, learning as many Sanskrit words as I could (and tattooing one of them on my arm), teaching 6 classes per week and taking an additional 5 classes on my own at the delicious studio in Las Vegas which quickly became my sanctuary and place of refuge.

I filled a notebook full of cues I had picked up from other instructors along with different flows and poses all drawn out with stick figures. I loved to teach yoga each morning and couldn’t wait for my own practice at the studio in the evenings.

I had never spent so much time in my own head as I did those few years and at the risk of sounding like a total quack, yoga ended up changing my life. Groundbreaking moments during all of this careful introspection oozed over into my personal life and permanently altered my path.
Since I obviously feel very passionately about its benefit, I’d like to give you some other incentives to try yoga that are different than the typical you-need-to-stretch-and-decrease-stress argument.
Let go of your ego
Life is not a competition. This may sound like I’m stating the obvious but this was a relatively new concept for me not too long ago. You see, I am naturally competitive and have been since I was young. I remember racing to be the first one done with my assignments, to get the ball at recess first, and to be first in every line we ever formed. This mindset stuck with me on into adulthood and carried over into my fitness life as well. As silly as it sounds now when I revisit it, I always wanted to lift the most weight, use the most resistance in Spin, and work harder than anybody else in kickboxing.

That mindset worked for awhile but eventually always trying to push myself to my absolute breaking point to impress others… well, broke me.

One of the core principles of yoga is to let go of your ego. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Our ego is typically what drives us to attempt ridiculous feats of strength when we know damn well that our body isn’t ready for it. Ego is what pushes us to run that extra mile when that little voice inside of our head warns us that our knees just don’t feel quite right today but we ignore it and end up injured. Yoga reminds us to let go of our ego, listen to our body, and ignore what everybody else is doing. After all, our fitness journey isn’t for anybody else but ourselves, right? Right!

Ditch the mirror
Neither of my two favorite yoga studios (Yoga Sanctuary in Vegas and Centered City in Salt Lake City) have mirrors in their studios. Nothing will teach a person proprioception quite like deliberate movement without a mirror.

You know what is even better than the benefit of enhanced proprioception? Not being able to narcissistically stare at yourself in the mirror (guilty as charged) or having the ability to criticize your reflection (also guilty) during your workout, neither of which are fruitful and both of which are huge distractions.

The mirror is not only unnecessary, but it can be a hindrance; no mirror means…

No judgement
Almost every instructor I’ve ever taken from, and something I also tell my students, is that there is no room for judgment in yoga… or anywhere else, for that matter.

This means that not only are you are not allowed to judge anybody else in that room but you also aren’t allowed to judge yourself.

It doesn’t matter what your neighbor is doing, what your ego wants you to do, what your body did yesterday, or even what it may do tomorrow – it’s about what is best for it, you and only you, right now in this moment.

How wonderful would it be if we could carry that thought process over into other aspects of our life? Doing what is best for us and resisting the urge to compare ourselves to others? Blissful!
Slow down
For years I was a go-go kinda gal. Not the kind of girl that wears furry knee high boots and pasties while dancing on a table, but rather the kind that couldn’t ever slow down.

I operated on the sole belief that more was always better. More kickboxing, more running, more lifting, more, more, more, go, go, go. I was such a busy little bee that I never slowed down enough to turn my awareness inward.

When I started practicing yoga – closing my eyes, listening to my breath, moving slowly but with intention – I noticed I was chronically exhausted, sore, and stressed out.

I never had a chance to notice those things before because I continuously buried all of my internal chaos with more activity.

Food for thought: when is the last time you allowed yourself silence, listening to and focusing on only your breath for an extended period of time? (And no, sleeping doesn’t count.) This silence and internal focus will bring all sorts of things to the surface. You may become aware that your body is exhausted, you’re emotionally drained, your joints are sore, and/or your mind is cluttered – all factors which can be quite detrimental to our health, but how can you fix it if you aren’t even aware that those things are going on?

Yoga is wonderful at uncovering what is going on at a deeper level.

Listen to your body
Up until a few years ago I thought listening to your body was for sissies and real champs always push through – push through the pain, the fatigue, and the injuries. You’re taking a day off from training? Pffft. What a nancypants… right? Au contraire!

Yoga has taught me that you don’t always have to go balls-out. Although my favorite styles of yoga are Ashtanga and other aggressive Power Flow types of classes, there are times when that isn’t what my body needs and now I’m quick to take a Restorative class or a Level 1 class when I need it.

You will get much more benefit out of listening to your body and bringing it down a notch when need be than you would if you continued to force it.

One of my fave studios: Centered City Yoga in Salt Lake City
So there you have it. 5 different reasons to take yoga that aren’t the ol’ “stretch and relax”rigmarole. Don’t get me wrong, stretching can be great and relaxing is always wonderful but there is so much more to yoga than that.

I’d like to encourage you to take some yoga – there are a ton of different styles all with varying intensity so try a few to find one that works best for your body and personality.

Indulge and go to a specialized yoga studio – not the gym! For the most part (and there are exceptions) the instructors are much more educated and knowledgeable and can give you the personal attention that you’ll need.

Confused on the different styles of yoga? Check out my post, “You Can’t Be Good at Yoga, and Other Things You Need to Know Before Starting to Practice” that will help guide you and give you some basic info that you need in order to get started. 
Do you take yoga? What are some of the benefits yoga has brought into your life? I’d love to hear from you so drop me a line below!
This article is dedicated to my amazing and talented yogi friends that have taught me, helped me, and continue to inspire me: Lance Hoagland, Christen Carol, Angelique Marquez, and Nikeela Salazar.


  • Reply
    May 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Incredible post, Jen! You are so right on with all of those benefits, and I wish more people take up a yoga practice, as it really can be transformative. I am about 2 weeks away from receiving my 200 hour certification, and going through the process has been the most enlightening and life changing experience of my life. My gift to myself at the end will be a sanskrit tattoo. For now Im thinking it will read "Stay strong and breathe". (hopefully thats not too long). What word did you get?


  • Reply
    May 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    This is just the kick in the butt I need to try yoga again. I have the same mindset you had before you started and I need to give it another chance. Also, I am way to competitive so this was perfect for me to read! Thanks for all that you do Jen!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    May 29, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks Tara! My falling head over heels in love with yoga has been the most surprising aspect of my fitness journey. Never in a million years would I have thought I'd be so addicted to something.
    I hope you can find a studio in your new city that you'll love!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    May 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Hi Marci!
    Congratulations on your upcoming 200 hour cert.! What a huge milestone that is!
    I think the gift of a sanskrit tattoo is a wonderful idea and sounds like it'd be very meaningful to you.
    My tattoo is Isvara Pranidhana, which I'm sure you know (but I'll write it here in case somebody else reads this and doesn't know) it is one of the Niyamas that means "Surrender to God". There is quite a story that goes with why I chose that but it's a long one, so I'll just say it's very meaningful to me. Maybe one day I'll do a little write-up on why I chose it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    May 29, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Definitely give it another chance. I suggest finding a specialty yoga studio – don't go to the gym – and try a few different styles and a few different instructors until something resonates with you. As much as I love yoga, I'm absolutely partial to a few specific styles and there are some classes and/or instructors that just aren't right for me. I think what turns a lot of people off about yoga is that they go and try one class, one style, one instructor, and it's not a good fit for them so they bag yoga as a whole. 🙂

  • Reply
    Tara @ Sweat like a Pig
    May 29, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I love this! I started yoga thinking the same thing as you – that it was a boring snoozefest! But I grew to really love it. I moved and haven't done it in three months as a result. I really miss it and need to find a new studio!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Hi!!!! i have gotten away from my Yoga practice & I have missed it…mentally more than physically!! I recently started back but this really just shows me how much i have missed it!!
    thank you so much!!!
    this is so well written & actually the best thing i've read in a very long time!! i even took notes girl!!!
    thanks for being so fabulous!!
    Mandy Stafford

  • Reply
    May 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    hey jen,
    First, love the new site! Second, i have been wanting to get into yoga more as an accessory to my strength training and mostly for the "slow down" aspect of needing some dedicated mental rejuvenation. A lot of my dynamic warm up and stretching days are modified yoga poses. I have a lot of friends who do all types of yoga, so there are opportunities to attend classes all over the place but i turn them down because i'm concerned about the lack of coaching. Often these classes are so full and i don't want to over do it or injure myself trying something way too advanced without a proper knowledge base (you know, like you don't do a loaded squat when you haven't mastered your body weight). What do you recommend for someone who has pretty good flexibility, but really knows nothing about yoga poses and technique? Do i start with some at-home stuff? Is there a specific type of yoga that's best to start with? THANKS!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I've been teaching for 20 years – this is a great post! I also came from the fitness industry (but had prior experience with yoga, albeit from a book my mom gave me in high school) and once I realized what yoga did for me I never looked back. the benefits just keep coming!

  • Reply
    May 29, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    My love for yoga started in a gym – the teacher had a reputation for seriously kicking students' butts – and that she did! Her classes were really, really hard. Since then I have been practicing at a heated power yoga studio for the last two years and it really helps me so much in every aspect of life.

    It helps me physically because of all the reasons you listed (just today I took a class and it no longer hurts to walk after my half marathon on Sunday.) It helps me calm down in moments of stress. It helps me realize that I need to enjoy every moment and be IN that moment.

    Theres about a zillion other things I could say too, but then this comment would be too long!!! I love that you are a GGS with an affinity for yoga!!!!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    May 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Hey Miss Mandy!
    Thank you so much for the kind words – it means so much! I'm glad you are getting back into your yoga groove.
    Missed you girls this weekend! Hope you had a blast!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    May 29, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Hey Erin!
    Great questions! I'd recommend that you head to a specialized yoga studio. Typically the instructors there are required to have a much higher certification than gym instructors and includes extensive anatomy knowledge and hundreds of hours of practice and teaching.
    Once you find a Level One class (or better yet, an Intro Class), I'd ask some questions of the instructor: What is their background, how much training do they have, etc etc, and even express your concerns with coaching.
    Aside from that, if you've been strength training and into fitness for awhile you will likely have the discernment needed to know what is okay for your body and what is wrong. You are also free to sit out any pose that you aren't comfortable with; take Childs Pose and rest there until you are ready to join back in.

    I hope this helps and I hope you find some yoga that you love. It's been a life changer for me and is a wonderful compliment to my strength training program and general fitness!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    May 29, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    Thank you for the kind words, especially coming from a fellow yogi! 🙂
    Wow, 20 years! That is incredible. What a journey you must have had so far!
    Yoga has been such an addiction for me. The feeling I get on my mat is unparalleled!

    Thanks for taking the time to drop a note!

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    May 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    Hi Kyra!
    Ohhhh hot yoga. That was something I got hooked on for quite awhile myself. It certainly gave me some much needed mental toughness and I found myself just craving that time in the studio.
    Realizing to enjoy every moment and be IN that moment is so crucial and I can absolutely appreciate that!
    Thank you for the kind words and there will definitely be more yoga posts coming soon, especially now that I'm back at one of my favorite studios! 🙂

  • Reply
    Jen Comas Keck
    May 29, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Hey Lili!
    Something to think about when it comes to yoga is that there are numerous different styles and no one style is better than another. You may benefit from looking into a Hatha style yoga class, a Restorative Yoga class or a "Soft Flow" type of class, rather than a Vinyasa class (flowing with a lot of movement coordinated with breath). I'd also highly recommend that you take an Intro to Yoga class, which every studio offers. That should help you get familiar with the area, the basic movements and what to expect.
    If I can be of any more help, please let me know! It really sounds like you could benefit from some gentle yoga to help decrease your stress 🙂

  • Reply
    May 30, 2012 at 7:51 am

    I tried yoga once, and I was intimidated and found it to be very hard. Recently I started taking BodyFlow, but I found it would hurt my leg weight training, so I stopped. I have been wanting to try yoga again, I'm stressed all the time, probably even when I sleep, which makes it even harder for me to accomplish my goals.

  • Reply
    March 13, 2013 at 9:16 am

    i used to take the free flow yoga classes at my gym for a year and enjoyed it but my classes are on those nights so i have not gone in 2 years….so this past christmas a local very well known yoga studio did a groupon deal so i bought 10 classes for me and 15 for my mother who is inactive and unable to do many 'cardio' type workouts which depresses her. we finally jumped into the beginners class this past saturday and WOW. we were both drenched in sweat and even I was sore! my mom was a soldier but i know she was having trouble letting her ego go during the exercises due to her own limitations (like arthritis in her wrists). its hard to not be hard on yourself. i hope she will learn in the next 14 classes and maybe will even be hooked 🙂

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.