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Finding Her Om: Q&A with Yoga Instructor Jessica James (+ Giveaway)

Jessica James

Yoga instructor Jessica James never set out to teach yoga. “Yoga kind of found me, and it has been a love affair ever since,” she says.

Jessica was an actress in  television commercials before she transitioned to teaching yoga 10 years ago. “It [acting] was fun and if yoga hadn’t happened, you would probably still see me selling products on television,” she says.

Now, Jessica is dedicated to yoga, saying her practice evolves all the time: ”It started with general shapes of poses and, as I continue to grow, my alignment has gotten more sophisticated,” Jessica says. “My understanding of my own anatomy has deepened and yoga for me now is about the transformation that the subtle work can bring. The beautiful thing about yoga is that it is an infinite evolution, so next week it may evolve into something different.”

Here, Honestly contributor Jessica James answers some of our questions about practicing yoga:

Q: Tell us about when and why you started practicing yoga?

JJ: I started out doing Kundalini yoga when I was 18. My dad was a priest growing up, so I was really drawn to the gathering of people for something sacred. Then I found a power yoga VHS tape and started practicing hatha yoga at home. When I found a yoga studio with a heated practice room, I was hooked! Yoga is one of those things that when you are ready to hear the yoga call, you answer.

Q: You recently wrote a blog post for us about online yoga classes and how they can be a great way to fit yoga into everyday life. What are the benefits of online yoga classes versus going to a class?

JJ: My favorite part of online yoga is that it gives you the power to practice even when your schedule can’t accommodate a studio class. Life can get so hectic sometimes that getting to a studio is not an option. Online yoga can empower you to practice every day and a daily practice is incredibly transformative.

Yogi Jessica James

Q: How many days per week should a person practice yoga to get the full benefits? Is there a perfect amount of time one should dedicate to yoga daily — 20, 60, 90 minutes?

JJ: Well, traditionally yoga is meant to be practiced every day for an hour and a half, but that is a tall order for many of us. To start, I recommend three times of intentional practice a week. The beauty of yoga is that your body starts to crave practice, so chances are once you get going you will find your own natural rhythm. Shoot for an hour and fifteen minutes a day, but do what you can. I believe consistency is more important than duration.

Q: What is your favorite style of yoga and why? Do certain styles of yoga fit different moods?

JJ: My favorite type of yoga is an “alignment flow” because I am personally working on structural support that my post-baby body calls for. I started in Kundalini, I then went to power yoga, then inversion flow, and now Smartflow. Flow classes and hybrid classes like Hot8 classes are great for fitness and weight loss. Kundalini is great for emotional and energetic uplift, while restorative is powerful for passive opening and relaxation. It is important to explore different styles and teachers when you feel you have hit a plateau or might be losing interest.

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Q: If we want to combine cardio and yoga, like going for a jog and then taking a yoga class, which do you recommend doing first?

JJ: I recommend cardio first. Your body responds best to stretching when warm. Also Savasna, the resting pose at the end of the yoga practice resets your breath, heart rate, and body temperature to normal. This way you can approach the rest of your day feeling refreshed not depleted.

Jessica James - We Heart Yoga Prenatal Flow DVDQ: When a woman becomes pregnant, should she keep up with her same yoga routine? 

JJ: When a woman becomes pregnant, she should keep up with her same yoga routine with a few modifications. She needs to keep her body temperature low, so if she practices in a hot room she should take a lot of breaks. She should also stop twisting and jumping and be sure to consult her doctor. Often a woman’s yoga practice can deepen during pregnancy because it is one of the few activities still available to her. So you can practice every day if you want, just be sure to educate yourself on the dos and don’ts. My prenatal yoga DVD addresses a lot of these concerns and offers safe and fun ways to practice during pregnancy. But, ultimately, listen to your body and practice from a place of self-love and care.

Q: Are there certain yoga poses pregnant women can’t or shouldn’t do?

JJ: Limitation and precautions are really very personal. I recommend avoiding twists and anything that puts pressure on your belly. Some women will avoid deep backbends and inversions during the third trimester, but many women practice the whole way through. Pregnancy is not a time to tackle new poses, it is more about maintenance. So if you practiced inversions and deep back bends before you were pregnant, you might want to consider modifying them, and if necessary, putting them on the shelf until you begin to rebuild your body with your baby at the side of your yoga mat. I recommend a “soft practice,” where you practice at about 80% of your energy level and rely heavily on props. I have many resources on my Web site about yoga safety during pregnancy. And, of course, consult with your doctor.

Q: Should pregnant women take prenatal yoga classes, or can they just pop into any yoga class?

JJ: I recommend prenatal yoga classes for someone new to yoga, and for the seasoned yogi, a modified practice in a normal class is fine.

Q: How does yoga benefit women during pregnancy?

JJ: Yoga is great during pregnancy for many reasons. I loved it because it helped me manage weight gain and prepare for labor. My favorite gift of prenatal yoga was learning to work with my body during intense physical sensation. I learned how to approach the physical burn of a stretch or long hold with a calm mind. This translates as body memory during labor and delivery, and I relied on it during my natural home birth.

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Q: For someone considering becoming a yoga instructor, what advice do you have?

JJ: Do it! Becoming a teacher has changed my personal practice so profoundly I can’t imagine my life without it. Take a teacher training course and then start teaching friends. Many new teachers have a hard time getting started because the vast amount of yoga information available can be intimidating. “Why am I qualified to teach” you might ask yourself? Keep in mind that the poses themselves are so effective and powerful that, when taught simply and well, you will become a superstar in no time. Let yourself be a guide and your classes will be inspired.

Want to find your om? Enter to win Jessica James’s Prenatal DVD, a $150 gift certificate to Carve Designs, and a mindful mama package of Honest goodies (body oil, organic belly balm, organic nipple balm, prenatal multi-vitamins, and DHA/Omega-3).  

To enter to win this “Mindful Mama” Giveaway, simply enter a comment by using the Rafflecopter entry form below telling us why you’d like to make yoga part of your life. You also have the option (although not required) to earn two bonus entries by subscribing to our blog and liking our Facebook page. No purchase is necessary to enter to win. This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents 18 years and older. The giveaway will run until 11:59 pm PST Sunday, April 13, 2014.  One winner will be chosen at random. Read the complete giveaway rules here to participate.

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This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of exercise, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.

Jessica James has been practicing yoga seriously for 12 years, and for the last 6 years she has developed yoga sets that sculpt the body and clear the mind as a teacher. During her second pregnancy, Jessica shared her own experience with a unique fitness based prenatal yoga program. She has completed 3 yoga alliance certified teacher training courses and currently lives in Malibu, CA with her family.

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