As we continue to work from home, it’s important that we find moments of peace and serenity. In celebration of International Yoga Day on June 24, we sat down with yoga instructor Chloe Millar to discuss everything from mental health benefits of performing yoga to reasons why yoga is an attractive exercise to many people in this day and age.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
NFP: What attracted you to yoga? Are there any key moments?
Chloe Millar: For me, just the moment I got on my mat, it was as though everything else could wait. And just noticing all the changes in my body. Not just physically, but mentally as well.
I was a very inflexible person. I realized that doing yoga is not just about your body, but your mind as well. So, I thought that letting everything else go for the 15 minutes or two hours that I was on my mat was important.
NFP: What are the benefits of practising yoga? You mentioned some of the physical elements and flexibility. Are there other benefits?
Chloe: I do work in a demanding job, aside from teaching yoga. So, before I started yoga, I was constantly having chronic back pain, I wasn't sleeping well. And when I got into regular practice, I realized that back pain that I always had, wasn't there or wasn't as bad. So, in terms of chronic pain, it was gone. I felt stronger and stronger. I even started sleeping better.
Also, coming back to finding your breath is important. It's about calming yourself down. I'd say it's not just about the physical practice, it's more of a mental practice every day. Whether you’re on your mat or not, I definitely do see that I can handle stress better. I don't really let things bother me all that often anymore.
When I wasn’t practising, I was very anxious. I guess you could say, I was high strung. I see the whole mind-body benefit of yoga; it is not just physical, for sure.
NFP: Can you talk me through the process of you becoming a certified yoga teacher in Bali?
Chloe: It was always a dream of mine to do that. One day the stars aligned, and I got into the program. When I went to Bali, I thought that, ‘OK, it will be teacher training, I'm going to school and when I come back, I'll be a yoga teacher.’ But when I went it was kind of a bigger experience than I ever could’ve imagined.
I learned so much about myself that I didn't know. And while I was there, I became more certain that I do want to teach yoga, and I do want to share this practice with everyone. When I got home I was happy that now I can teach yoga. I was more grateful for the experience of all the growth, learning and just having that time to learn more about the practice and the history behind yoga.
NFP: That’s interesting. It sounds as though the actual moves aren’t the only thing you learned in Bali. It has more to do with the experience itself. Am I correct?
Chloe: 100 per cent. Coming back to the whole social media thing — you see pictures of beautiful poses, you see people doing these inversions or splits. Then you think, ‘I wish I could do that too.’ And I don’t know how to tell you how much I practice handstands.
When I first started, I would spend hours on end trying to perfect a handstand. Ever since returning from Bali, it’s not about the poses anymore or the practice on the mat. It’s about more. It’s about yoga practice in general. And like I mentioned, how do you approach challenges or how do you deal with stressors? It’s not just about doing warrior three on the mat.
NFP: If someone is interested in picking up yoga, where can they start?
Chloe: There are many yoga classes online. If someone asks me, ‘how did you get into yoga?’ for me, my first yoga class was at Dalhousie University. It was a class of around 40 or 50 people and the instructor was using Sanskrit terminology. I had no idea what was going on. I got overwhelmed. I remember I left saying I’m never going to a yoga class again. So just because you go to one class, and you hated it, or you had no idea what was going on, I usually say, ‘Well that’s it. That class just wasn’t suited for you.’ Maybe try a different class and different instructors.
YouTube is a great resource, especially during COVID times when there are no classes available in person. You can just do it in the comfort of your own home and kind of see what you like and what you don't like. But I do suggest eventually if you do start doing yoga at home to try a class in person.
NFP: On International Yoga Day, will you be practising any yoga?
Chloe: Yes, I’ll definitely be doing my own home practice. Since, I’m on maternity leave, I’m not currently teaching right now. But you put a bug in my ear, maybe I’ll host a pop-up class in the park if it’s a nice day out.
Chloe Millar is a yoga instructor located in Summerside, P.E.I. She can be found on Instagram @thelittleislandyogi.
Disclaimer: Chloe Millar is not affiliated with NFP in Canada.