In the beginning, yoga was nothing but a job requirement for Krystal Norris-Garth, something she just had to do to stay in compliance. Working as a recreational therapist at a mental health facility, she was asked to become a certified yoga instructor, something she wasn’t opposed to but never saw as more than that.
Now, Norris-Garth is a public health educator with the City of Houston Health and Wellness Team, and her job is to bring awareness to employee needs, making sure we have access to the tools and resources we need by creating health and wellness programs and classes — one of which is yoga.
Although classical yoga has other elements, it has become a popular way to promote physical and mental well-being, especially in the United States where its practice emphasizes physical postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana).
Norris-Garth had an early casual introduction to yoga. Then in 2018 the hospital where she worked offered yoga as a wellness benefit to patients. Her first thought was: “I am not flexible,” she said. Although she did not think she was the right person for the job, she decided to go with it.
Once she started practicing, she noticed a difference. Far from being just a benefit for her employer and patients, it was one for herself. After going through a learning curve, she realized the effect of yoga on herself and the potential for it to be a wellness resource for the community.
“It’s more than just physical exercise, it can help you relax, fight depression, and anxiety,” she said.
With the popularity yoga has gained in the last few years, it was easy for Norris-Garth to practice more often. Little by little she started going to yoga classes perfecting what she had learned until she felt comfortable enough to offer free classes at parks and different establishments around the Houston area.
At this point, she became an advocate and decided to start her own practice to share the knowledge with her family, friends and community.
It's easier with yoga
“You don’t have to think about balance, it comes naturally.” Krystal Norris-Garth
When it comes to work-life balance, Norris-Garth can easily tell how she applies what she does in yoga to other aspects of her life. In a session, the focus is on your breathing and poses. At the same time, you relax and give your body and mind space to be quiet and eventually reset to keep going.
In moments of distress, Norris-Garth finds herself applying yoga breathing exercises to stay calm. It now comes naturally to her everyday life. Yoga teaches being consistent and being present. You also learn to put yourself first and learn your limits, strength and flexibility. Without knowing it you build resilience. Your focus is on the moment, what you can do, what’s in your hands to handle, and when to let go.
Norris-Garth also shares another lesson with her yoga students: the perception of constant change in yoga — just like in life. Change is always happening, and even though we are aware of this, we are normally very skeptical and unexpecting about it.
The practice of this mindfulness discipline has been studied in different fields, including psychology and medicine. Indeed, the American Osteopathic Association – in an interview with Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician, and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor — recommends it not only for patients with current illnesses but also as a prevention method.
“The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” Nevins explained. “Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.”
Other benefits associated with yoga include flexibility, muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, energy and vitality, maintaining a balanced metabolism, weight reduction, cardio and circulatory health, improved athletic performance, and protection from injury, among others.
People can easily integrate yoga into their lifestyle. Yoga can enhance balance in other aspects, plus practitioners can decide how and when to do it, starting with a 10-minute morning session to be energized for the day; a full 30- to 60-minute session to decompress, let go and reboot; or a short and simple nighttime mindfulness stretch to get ready to sleep.
Don’t hesitate, just go for it!
Working for the City of Houston as a public health educator with the Health and Wellness Division, Norris-Garth’s supervisor soon realized the potential she had being a certified instructor and decided to include yoga as part of the Wellness resources the City of Houston offers to all employees.
“It’s a healing journey for yourself, that brings structure without even noticing it and it connects to your day-to-day life,” Norris-Garth said.
As a health advocate, Norris-Garth wants to share her knowledge with the community. She said she also wants to build more communities by making sure that no one is left out and understands that yoga is literally for “everybody.”
For those who are hesitating to start or are new to yoga, Norris-Garth’s advice is:
- Have an open mind, anybody can do yoga.
- It’s alone time that you spend with yourself, and it allows you to reset.
- We get so busy we forget that our bodies and minds need time to do nothing.
- You don’t have to be flexible; just be open to continue.
- Keep in mind poses can be modified and mastered with time and practice.
- Be open to change.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, Norris-Garth said, “Give yourself grace. Yoga is a personal practice. Never judge or base someone else’s practices on what you are doing.”
Learn more and join Krystal for free yoga sessions at cohemployees.org/yoga