Host: Welcome to the Lifelong Wellness podcast, where we talk to wellness professionals from so many walks of life from around the world and get their insights to living healthier. I’m your host, Wes Malik. Now, close to five millennia ago, humankind living in the Indus Valley and the subcontinent realized they needed to discipline their minds. The earliest texts, main vagus, mention yoga as a means to accomplishing this about 3000 years ago. And over the thousands of years it became part of religious teachings in India. In fact, the Gita, which is a religious Indian text classifies yoga in three ways, Karma yoga, the yoga of action; Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion; Jnana yoga, the yoga of knowledge. And to talk more about yoga, we have with us Carolina Herrera Florez who is a best-selling author, health coach expert, lifestyle consultant and personal yoga teacher, and she believes in “Make your 10 minutes of personal yoga fun”. Welcome to the Lifelong Wellness podcast, Carolina.
Carolina: Thank you. Thanks for having us.
Host: So, we've all heard about yoga. It's on television, it's in movies, we see yoga centers around us, but if somebody stopped you at the store and said, “Hey Carolina! What is yoga?”, how would you explain it to them?
Carolina: Isn’t that crazy how it’s everywhere and it’s such a big word, I think, and that's a great question. I think yoga is usually a word that comes from the Hindu tradition that means unity and basically body, mind, soul and spirit altogether working together and lifting up, making your day a little better. I know it has more of traditional meaning for some people than it does for us here in the Western side of the hemisphere and that's how I got to know yoga. Growing up here in the States and all these studios started to pop up and it was super fun. I used to go to yoga classes and it just felt like a nice workout.
Host: So let me ask you a technical question, how does yoga fit into living healthier?
Carolina: Basically, the discipline of yoga teaches you to move along with your breath. We know breathing is one of those essential life-holding things that we humans do but we seldom, if not never, stop and say “Okay I'm going to take a deep conscious breath”. What it does for your brain is, it basically tells your brain to slow down because your brain is one of those organs, that is the headquarter for your self. If you think about your brain, it’s like a busy city where there’s all this smoke going. You got things going on the backside, things going on the right side. Taking a deep breath, just a deep breath, is like cleaning up some of that smoke and just making sure that your cells and everybody's getting food basically and oxygen and you’re clearing up some connections. It’s a regular practice that we do, the brain does it to increase that oxygen level and clear things up and give your brain a little lookout.
Host: Where does all the physical part of yoga coming, and it's definitely physical because you have to have a yoga mat, you have to wear the proper yoga clothes and you have to go somewhere to do yoga. I should actually explain I've never done yoga. I have no clue about yoga at all so you need to explain it really simply to me. When I see that you have to have the clothes, the mat… It seems very physical.
Carolina: Yeah, it can be. You don’t need to be anywhere special to take a deep breath. One thing that makes me kind of nervous when I go to a yoga class is, most of the time people are worried about the space and what they look like; have I got the right attire, do I look good, am I showing, all of those things. In all honesty, that is why personal yoga is so important because you have to really understand that if you go to class, you’re not there to look pretty, you’re not there to whatever. You’re there to breathe and share with the community your breath. You need to understand that breathing is the number one thing that you have to have down before you get to any pose or to any space.
Host: When you say breathing, can you give me an example of breathing in yoga?
Carolina: Sure. We know that Pranayama, this is the breath of fire. This is what they call the life breath and it’s a 5 second breath to inhale and a 5 second breath to exhale. It’s very simple. You have five fingers and so with your five fingers you can count five seconds to inhale and then five seconds to exhale.
Host: And that's the beginning of yoga!
Carolina: That is it!
Host: It’s very simple. It sounds very simple but I’m sure it gets very complex. What are the benefits of starting out simply breathing for the mind and the body?
Carolina: The benefits are as immense as your practice can take you. Like anything, and you've heard this many times, you have to have a small beginning to make something really worthy, great and amazing. Same goes for any type of exercise that you are trying to start, I think yoga can give you those tools when you are really focusing on your breath. When you focus on your breath, ultimately you’re going to feel relaxed and any of the benefits are basically you’re going to find calm, you're going to get more clear, focused. According to whatever it is that you're dealing with to, you’ll try some other benefits.
Host: I get afraid starting yoga because it kind of seems a little daunting to me. It’s actually to me personally, I think it looks very difficult. I've never done it. Meaning all of the poses and there's different names for them. And whenever you see it on television or media, it's always very healthy people who are doing yoga. If a person who may not be as healthy or fit or a little different. I guess, it seems daunting. So what would you tell those people if they had a desire to start yoga? What advice would you give them?
Carolina: I certainly encourage them to read my books and see if they find any inspiration in them. Also, if you really want to start something new and fun you have to start with yourself. When you go to a yoga class, just be clear that this is a practice that’s for you and you’re the only one that’s going to walk away with benefits. You can’t go there expecting to go to a pose or to look like anybody else, but you can go there expecting to feel a little different, to try something new and that's the biggest, major way. First of all, you’ve tried something new. You got involved in a different tribe or community or whatever you want to call it. You are the one that walks away with great experience and you tried your breath. You gave it a try.
Host: Your books, I like you to mention them and I like to ask you a couple questions about them. They’re best-selling books on Amazon. “Learn, Commit, Grow: With Personal Yoga” and “Wellness Core Secrets” and we we want to read these books, but could you tell us a little bit about them starting with the first one, “Learn, Commit, Grow: With Personal Yoga”?.
Carolina: Yes. This is my first book and I was extremely not aware that I was going to write a book. This was someone telling me “Okay, this is what you should do” and I was like “Okay sure!”. It's an introduction of myself, who am I, why personal yoga, what makes it be my passion. It's a bit inspiring to learn a little bit about your personal yoga teacher and where she's coming from. And then “Wellness Core Secrets” is a guide that I created basically for myself at the beginning to have that I go by when we’re talking about with a 7-day course that you can take with me, to walk you more through what a 7-day course week works like with us. And then, if you wish to take it a step further then you can work with me 10 weeks and I only do that class once a year and so you have to sign up and forward it.
Host: They say you make 10 minutes of personal yoga fun. I would love to ask you, how do you make yoga fun?
Carolina: Oh my gosh! Creativity, you know. When you're working with yourself and you’re finding out how do you enjoy your 10 minutes I’ve come up with, and so have my students, ways to really make the space be interesting and fun. For example, we created a yoga calendar, some of my students just send me pictures of what they're doing and it's pretty cool because one of them just sent me like a little succulent garden, so cute. You know, I also make things fun and it's like you work for it and then you spend your time there breathing and being mindful of your spacing and then you see the little things that you have around that that make that space be fun. Another one of my students has a kid and she has a spot where she labeled it and says, “Okay, this is your fun spot” and they can’t go there and she just has fun.
Host: Okay. Their physical space and their home becomes the fun spot for yoga. You just mentioned that you have a seven-day course in your workshop. Is yoga different? In different places, do yoga teachers do different things? And if so, what is your technique or how do you pursue your workshop or how do you instruct your students?
Carolina: Yes. Every teacher has their own style, I’m glad you asked, and there's many different styles of yoga. It’s wide announced in India where it comes from and then it comes here and it’s like you can do beer yoga and all those things that some people try out. My personal yoga class emphasizes on understanding, first of all your breath, your benefits, how to make that space fun and organize yourself to your 10 minutes so that you can actually make it a habit out of it and enjoy a lifetime commitment of it. And then we work on the actual poses to understand what they are. What are some contraindications? Say for example, I'm not going to make you do the table top position if that’s what the standard variations are for your own body. So we talk about each pose and we talk about how to safely get there.
Host: And this is all within 10 minutes, is that correct?
Carolina: Yes, that’s correct.
Host: Is that all it takes to do yoga every day?
Carolina: Yes, it does and sometimes one minute does it. With that breath, if you got it down, if you practice it, it's a practice like brushing your teeth. It takes about five minutes to brush your teeth and you still have your teeth cleaned.
Host: It becomes like an automatic thing that you do every day. You meet with a lot of students. You have a lot of students in Dallas. You meet with so many people. What did they tell you about their lives and do they tell you what yoga and what they experience with yoga when they first started out. Did they find it difficult? Did it change their lives when they started incorporating yoga into their wellness routine?
Carolina: That is a wide question. Most of them aren’t like me. They started it because they went to a class and they liked it. Whether they are triathletes or they work out a lot and they just don't make stretching part of their routines. So, one of the biggest takeaways for me, as their teacher, is they really need someone to support on-going safe practice for them to work on specific muscles that they’re working with. A lot of bikers, I get a lot of bikers here in Dallas, and so lots of quad work and core exercises.
Host: I did not know that athletes or people who do exercise would actually turn to yoga. And you briefly mention that it has benefits because they stretch. If you could explain a little more how does that help them in being better athletes?
Carolina: When you work on a regular basis with your group of muscles like for example a bike or a dance, it is important that you keep your muscle and bone connection safe because they contract over a long period of time and contracted and it becomes hard. Stretching is like putting a little bit of WD-40 in there so that it keeps you healthy while you're exercising.
Host: I like that analogy. Is it ever too late to start doing yoga?
Carolina: It’s never late, never late. If you think it's too late for you, start with the breath and then take it from there.
Host: You briefly mention breath and you told us the fire breath. Is that correct?
Carolina: Yes, (it’s) Pranayama.
Host: Pranayama, so that's five seconds in and five seconds out. How many different ways of breathing do you tell your students? Are there just one or are there many?
Carolina: We’re working on the one for now.
Host: Okay and that's what you suggest to everyone. What if you’re afraid of hurting yourself? What if you're afraid that you can’t do it or you might injure yourself?
Carolina: Like with any practice, if you are afraid, if you think that there's something wrong with you that wouldn't go with the practice, in that instance like with anything, I encourage you to dig in a little deeper to see if there's any medical condition that's keeping you from going to your breath, for example. I would encourage you to work with a physician or a professional that's a bit more specialized on what may be happening so that you can continue with a practice like that. And so in that instance, you have to start there.
Host: We talk about the physical aspect of yoga because it's a physical thing, you're breathing, there's poses, some are easy, some are difficult, it's good for stretching, it’s good for the body. It started out with the mind and focus many thousands of years ago. That's what yoga was all about, about discipline of the mind, about quieting it, about calming it. There're many different ways people have explained it over thousands of years, but it definitely has a spiritual connection or mindful connection. What you experience when you do yoga in terms of that aspect, not the physical one but the mental one.
Carolina: I experience a level of calm. I understand that the breath is something that’s working out with my nervous system and so it's really pairing me up with my main vagus nerve. I’m able to have my heart rate come down so my stress is absolutely low when I finish at least five minutes of personal yoga. On a spiritual level, I do try to keep the two separate because I didn't grab with yoga or with the Hindu tradition and every time anybody talks to me about it, it just becomes confusing. All of a sudden it’s like this new language and i just don't understand it. So i don't teach that piece. I don't understand it myself. If you think that is something that you want to immerse yourself into and feel or be part of, then that's your call. I think, it comes with a cultural background. It comes with a growing up piece with it and understanding all the pieces because there is a lot of little things to know and to understand.
Host: So personally, you felt more relaxed. It eases stress and that's the positive impact it has on your mind. That's what yoga does for you, the breathing does for you. What does science say about yoga?
Carolina: Science says that if you adapt to yoga and if you have a person that’s trained and that's giving you simple sets of poses that you can do, this is a beneficial routine to add to your day. It needs to be carefully adapted sets of poses that you can work with every day and be consistent with it for it to be beneficial to your health.
Host: You are a registered nurse and you work as a nurse as well.
Carolina: I work as a health coach.
Host: You work as a health coach. Has anyone come to you with a specific problem like specific physical ailment or injury or something that's causing them concern or problem that they have and then you’ve helped them through yoga? Is there an example?
Carolina: Yes, many. I'm trying to think of like the most common one is girls when we have our period. It just tends to be discomfort and so with yoga, you can ease that discomfort. You can work on the lower abdomen, round to make the pain go away or give you more energy when you're having some of those symptoms. The more you do them the better. So there was this one time, well many times, the girls come to me and ask me for that.
Host: Is there any specific type of yoga that helps with menstruation?
Carolina: Basically, working with your breath, that type of yoga the one that I do which is Pranayama slow poses, slow type of practice. You don't have to go into any sequencing or fast moves and you work with low back pain. I personally do that for low back pain, I stretch a lot of my glute area and my low back area to strengthen and to work with improving that posture.
Host: What other problems have people come up and told you about that they wanted to help recover from with yoga?
Carolina: Lots of my bikers come to me with neck because they’re biking and they’re hunched over.
Host: I’m assuming their neck and shoulders require attention.
Carolina: Yes, and so it's nice to talk about some postural exercises that they can do and this is great when they come up with this question for me because not only do they use them after they workout, but one of them just told me, “Every time I look at my cell phone. I reminded myself of my posture. The exercises that you taught me work. When I look at my cell phone and then I’m reminded to do my 10 minutes because I’m hunched over. My posture is in a bad position”. And that happens a lot.
Host: Let's talk about people who are interested who have never done yoga before. Do we have to go to a coach? Is it necessary to go to a place where they teach yoga? Is this something that we can do at home? What is the procedure? How should we start with if we’re interested in it?
Carolina: Yes, I’m glad you asked. There's a lot of ways now and yoga is a practice of yourself and the universe, basically, and nobody else. But, if you really want to start, you have to have some tools and one of the things he could do is go to a beginners’ class. If you are looking to get involved with more people and learning, what studio looks like you can stay there or if you're like me and like to use technology, you can also do that. Youtube has a lot of varieties and everybody's got their Youtube videos in there that you can try. However, with personal yoga, what we’re really trying to aim here for is that you do this on your own, you and nobody else. You and your space and nobody else for 10 minutes and have a lot of fun with it.
Host: So, you can learn this from you, go to your classes and then you actually tell people to do it on their own for 10 minutes every day in their safe space. Are there fun spots?
Carolina: Yes, there are fun spots.
Host: How do you uncover the secrets or how to uncover the secrets to make your personal yoga last a lifetime rather than just doing it for a couple weeks or a couple of months. How can we just get into a routine which is long-lasting?
Carolina: Okay, so that's an awesome question. Nobody has ever asked me that one before but I think I laid it out pretty well, where if you read my first book, you're already getting to know what personal yoga is. If you read my second book, then you’re really thinking, “Okay, maybe I should try this”. Now, if you’re really serious about it, then you can go and do the seven days with me. And if you're really serious for a lifetime commitment of them then you are in for those 10 weeks of personal yoga where you and I will be talking every day for 10 weeks. If you can't make that connection for 10 weeks then we can do it again the next year because that's what we do every year.
Host: Your books are available on Amazon: “Learn, Commit, Grow: With Personal Yoga” and your second follow-up book is called “Wellness Core Secrets”. If somebody wants to get in touch with you, do you have a website or can people send you an email?
Carolina: Yes, there's many ways how you can be connected with me. We have a podcast, too, where you can leave us messages, or any questions that you may have on each of the episodes. It’s called “The Best Personal Yoga” podcast and is available on Spotify, iTunes, Tinker, everywhere. And we have a website, www.wellnesscoresecrets.com. If you want a freebie and you want to connect with me, you can go to thebestpersonalyoga.com.
Host: Do you mainly stay in Dallas in the Texas area, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area or do you visit other parts of the country for yoga?
Carolina: I mainly stay in Dallas but my programs are online. With personal yoga, you will be starting online.
Host: Have you made any Youtube videos or have you videotaped your sessions? Anything like that?
Carolina: No, but we are launching our Youtube channel to give you a picture of what my personal yoga space is shaped like and you’ll have artists around the world giving you , and it's a really soothing type of thing to include in your personal yoga space to make it fun.
Host: Is music a part of yoga?
Carolina: For some people it is and that's one of the reasons why personal yoga is important, too, because for example, if you go to a yoga studio, they will have tables and ushers and all these cool people singing songs while they’re reciting the yoga poses that you should be getting into and that can be distracting of your breath. It's important that you have down your breath before you make it into a yoga studio. Some other yoga studios have meditation type music on and then some others don't have anything on. Its silent yoga and then they have the teacher to the class.
Host: To someone like me who has not been to yoga class and has limited knowledge about yoga, there's a lot of things in my head. There’s a lot of myths, misnomers, preconceived notions that might be incorrect. I hear things like hot yoga. I don't know what it is. Maybe you could care to explain in detail or a little bit what it is and what some of the myths are?
Carolina: Sure. There are many styles like Pasa yoga and Kundalini yoga and so many more. And those are types of yoga that come to us from tradition. If you go to a hot yoga class at a regular studio that charges you for a class, you would be sweating a lot in a room that's high temperature with some humidity component to it and you are going to be listening to music, you are going to be flowing with the rest of the group.
Host: And that has certain advantages or benefits and is different from regular yoga?
Carolina: Yes, it’s definitely different and the advantages have to be according to where you are allowing yourself to go into each pose and making sure that you are keeping yourself safe. Those classes shouldn't be for pregnant women. They shouldn't be for people that have dehydration or that may have some blood pressure issues where they can drop. You have to really ask before you go into a yoga class. What is it? Is there any contraindication for anybody before you try anything, because you are working with the body in a very inward kind of way. You are working with the breath, first of all, and then you work with muscles and bones and all those things are different from your regular run or your regular walk or your regular bike riding. You ask before you even get to that yoga space.
Host: Living healthy and wellness means different things to people. What does it mean to you?
Carolina: Living healthy means staying out of the hospital. I don’t have any conditions that need to be treated every month or so. Wellness has a lot of areas. I can be financially well, I can be emotionally well, I can be spiritually well. It all fits into like a bank account of accounts that I have to check in with every week to make sure that there some sort of balance to them.
Host: Getting back to you again, is it a good way to lose weight? A lot of people are very concerned about their physical appearance and want to look better and the first thing people want to do is lose weight or lose inches. Can yoga help?
Carolina: Yoga is a tool, but yoga won’t make you lose weight. The only thing that will make you lose weight is if you're eating right. There’s that bank account. If you eat more than what you should be eating today, you’re never going to lose weight. You can do exercise to help out. You can do yoga to calm yourself down if you’re finding that you’re needing a practice to figure out what to do or what your relationship is with food, then that's a good place to start. It’s not a magic tool to help you lose weight.
Host: Does yoga help with physical mobility and flexibility or is that a myth?
Carolina: It helps with physical mobility and flexibility where you are working with your joints, your breath, your oxygen is getting into the muscles in a way it crunches weight, you're working with your lungs so it’s giving you that clear passage and it’s making sure that your oxygen is getting to where it needs to go in a very effective way. I think of those days when I used to work at hospitals and people just got out of the surgery, the first thing they give you is that little thing to breathe into to keep your airways open and to keep everything functioning well. So with yoga and if you do that on a regular basis during days when we’re busy or driving, we’re working, we are like in surgery all day and we never really breathe.
Host: I’d like to ask you a couple of personal information, if that’s okay Carolina?
Carolina: Sure, go ahead.
Host: How did you discover yoga? When did you first hear about it and first get into this. What’s the story behind that?
Carolina: That’s written in my book but I’ll tell you how. I came to the States, I was young and I was very eager to make it. I went to school, became a nurse and I was a busy nurse. I was just never stopping and I injured my back. I had to have surgery and after the surgery, there was this one moment where a studio opened up and I decided to give it a try. I was like you, very skeptical. What if I injured myself and things like that? It was a hot yoga studio who had been amazing and I went to the first class and it was like the biggest medication I have never had. I felt great. I was in for 12 years as a student and then I decided to become a teacher three years ago.
Host: Did that involve any prep or special learning that you had to do?
Carolina: Yes, I spent 200 hours on the mat learning the beginner’s yoga and that's why I teach beginners.
Host: Nursing is a very demanding profession across the world. Are you still practicing? Are you still working as a nurse?
Carolina: Yes, I am.
Host: How do you manage such a demanding profession alongside your workshops that you have and writing and coaching people?
Carolina: Ten minutes every day. The workshops have to be scheduled. The interviews have to be scheduled. I’m a busy caregiver professional/ yogi that likes what she does. That's how I manage. I like it. Sometimes it doesn't feel like I’m actually working but I think it has to do with the trajectory of how things have evolved. I tried many professions before I got to healthcare. I understand healthcare is part of who I am because I like people and I like yoga so it kind of works out.
Host: That is wonderful, Carolina, thank you so much. Once again, your books are “Learn, Commit, Grow: With Personal Yoga” and “Wellness Core Secrets”. They’re available on Amazon. Your websites are?
Carolina: thebestpersonalyoga.com. You get freebie there. wellnesscoresecrets.com. Your seven days of personal yoga are there. And if you want to listen to me further talk about personal yoga, go to my podcast. Spotify, iTunes, Encore, we’re everywhere and so many other ones.
Host: And now for the all-important one last question before we let go of you, what is your secret to living well?
Carolina: My secret to living well, wow! That is very personal. I personally enjoy being with family and friends. As long as I have contact with them, I’m well. If they’re well, I’m well. We’re all well.