Yumie Britt, a Los Altos resident who celebrated practicing 1,000 days of yoga Feb. 27, said the regimen is more than physical.
“For me, yoga is medicine,” she said. “It’s about mind, body, spirit. Everything is connected in your body, so it really requires everyday practice.”
Britt wasn’t always interested in yoga; she found all of her previous experiences with the practice too slowly paced. She discovered what interested her 10 years ago when she began taking a Zumba class at the American Legion Hall in Los Altos. Not only did Zumba offer her rigorous movement, it also helped her with the postpartum depression she experienced.
When the movements began affecting her knees, she dove into yoga once again; during that time, her perspective of yoga grew.
She began to attend classes at Yoga of Los Altos, finding the value the practice brought to her life.
The yoga she did, Vinyasa flow, was fast-paced and allowed her to use her entire body and raise her heart rate the way she wanted. Britt also found that yoga is a lifestyle.
“It’s not Lululemon,” she said with a laugh.
While some people may practice it at most two times a week, Britt said yoga is aimed at bringing the mind, body and spirit together through the movements and should be undertaken daily.
The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which refers to uniting or joining something, according to the Yoga Institute. Yoga is believed to have originated in India circa 2700 B.C. In addition to the movements, or asanas, associated with yoga, it includes meditation and breathing exercises.
“Yoga is like a lifestyle,” Britt said. “It’s not about exercise. It’s a lifestyle and holistic.”
After attending classes at Yoga of Los Altos, Britt decided she wanted to become a certified yoga teacher.
She had to teach 200 hours of yoga to earn her certification, and her longtime friend and neighbor Neelam Goyal was her first student. Prior to becoming certified and the pandemic, she would visit Goyal’s house and, in addition to spending time with one another, teach her friend yoga.
“Yumie came every Thursday morning at 8:30 a.m. for 6-12 months to teach me one hour of yoga,” Goyal said in an email. “We did yoga but also socialized and connected. It was fun to be part of her growth in yoga.”
She said having Britt lead her in activities was a win-win; Goyal got to be part of Britt’s yoga certification journey, and she was able to remain active.
“Although I don’t crave yoga, I noticed my body strengthening, and that was exciting and positive for me,” Goyal said.
Britt earned her certification in 2020, right before the coronavirus lockdown pushed many people to work from home and stay indoors. Yoga of Los Altos also closed before she could teach her first class, preventing her from implementing her teaching skills on a large scale.
As almost everyone hunkered down indoors, however, many of Britt’s friends sent her messages asking for advice about how they could care for and help themselves.
Britt suggested yoga, and 10 days into the lockdown, she began teaching some of her friends remotely. She scientifically de-signed her course for balance, flexibility and strength, all of which she said are important for any other sports or physical activities her students might do.
“It was a great opportunity for me to keep practicing my yoga teaching skills,” Britt said. “And also a bunch of my dear friends … were so confused and disoriented. They just lost structure in life and a bunch of them were sending me, DMing me, for self-help and how to get through COVID.”
Goyal supported Britt and encouraged her to teach classes online, even offering her friend the use of her premium Zoom account when Britt’s yoga sessions would be cut short because of the 40-minute meeting cap.
Britt taught approximately 10-12 people at most during her pro bono Zoom classes, with many of her students tuning in from various locations around the world at the same time. Over the course of the past three years, she estimates she’s taught 50-60 people.
“It’s small, you know, very small, but I’ve been doing this consistently every day to teach my friends and the community,” she said.
Britt plans to hold yoga retreats with her students in the future and held one Feb. 25 to commemorate her 1,000 days of yoga.
Britt said in an email that yoga helped her survive and thrive since she first began doing it daily, and helping others also helped her heal.
“Yoga is medicine,” she said. “Yoga gives you strength, flexibility and balance to your mind, body and spirit."
Goyal, who doesn’t attend the yoga classes but sometimes tunes in to support her friend, said she’s proud of what Britt has accomplished.
“It has turned into a win-win situation, which is the best kind,” Goyal said in an email. “She derives as much joy and positivity from her teaching as her students do. There is no plan to stop or to hit a number, this is now her lifestyle."
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