Get to know our student of the month, Andrea Bell!
Q: How did you get into yoga?
I’m originally from Denver and I was really into sports when I lived in Colorado. Everyone is. I got into triathlon when I was in college. I started doing yoga because stretching was boring and I was so bad about doing any kind of maintenance ever.
Then I moved to New York for grad school [in 2005] and I didn’t really do yoga for ten years.
During my twenties, I did four Ironman races and I got really burnt out on triathlon. I was tired of the competition. I can’t even imagine that mentality now.
Q: That kind of training can take over your life.
Yeah. It was like: get up every weekend, do a hundred-mile bike ride and then, the next day, a 50-mile bike ride and a ten-mile run. I had no life. I was just doing that and going to school.
The other thing is that once you’ve done four Ironmans there’s nowhere to go. It was like, “I’m not ever going to get faster or better than I am now.” I needed a new thing that wasn’t so ego-driven and wouldn’t be just about the discipline.
Q: How did you find Bread and Yoga?
Once I stopped doing triathlon, I REALLY stopped. For about half a year, I did not move. Things started to hurt. It’s ok if they hurt because you’re using them. It’s another thing if they hurt because you’re just sitting for 13 hours a day.
So, I started actively seeking out yoga. I had moved [Uptown} about a year before and I found this place and it was perfect. There was so little of the posturing that you get in some of the Downtown studios, some of which I had tried.
My very first class was with Meghan. I remember she made us hold every pose for so long, just like she continues to do now. I came out [of class] and I was like, ‘Thank God.’
Q: That class was over?
No, that I had come! For the first time in months my body hurt in a good way instead of in a crappy way.
My fiancé had never done any yoga and he started coming with me too. The studio has such a welcoming, community feel. That’s what we love the most about it and about the neighborhood.
Q: What physical benefits have you found from your practice?
When I went to yoga in Denver, it was very aerobic, much more like a gym. When I came here I realized how little I actually knew about body mechanics. At, Bread and Yoga…they start from real basics and alignment and things that transfer over into your real life. I probably did yoga more frequently in Denver, but my posture has changed the most here.
Q: How do you notice that in your life?
Running, sitting, walking, living!
We went to India to visit [my fiancé] Abhi’s family and did yoga in Goa. The instructor said that for two years, his master only let him do standing floor exercises, no balance poses, because it was about learning the mechanics. I feel like it’s that kind of really solid foundation that we were able to get here. We’ve learned way more from these teachers than from teachers whose classes ostensibly seem more advanced.
Q: Bread and Yoga also tends to be a more spiritually focused than some studios. Is that something you were seeking out?
It wasn’t the reason that we started here but we enjoy it. The spiritual aspect here doesn’t feel like it’s been tacked on in a surface way. Things in the studio feel more integrated than that. The teachers are such experts and passionate “yoga nerds,” as they call themselves, and that goes a long way in feeling like you can learn from them. It’s like therapy to go to yoga. We live better. We’re more balanced.
Q: How has moving to Inwood changed your life in New York?
It’s made me spend a lot more time on the train! But I’m a lot happier. Every time I go downtown [to teach at Parsons] I realize what a pressure cooker it is. I’m always grateful to come back up here, which is so much more neighborhood-y. It feels like someplace that you can have a home.
Q: From what you said earlier, Bread and Yoga is tied into that sense of community for you.
Definitely. It’s kind of the one-two punch of Bread and Yoga and Darling Coffee. We go to these two places and we know people and it’s really comfortable and familiar. It’s what makes you feel like you belong in the neighborhood rather than that you’re just passing through, which is what New York can very easily feel like.
This is definitely the first neighborhood I’ve lived in where I’ve known people on the street. I run into people from Bread and Yoga all the time and say hi to them and that kind of thing. It’s easier to feel like an integral part of a community here.