Some people might see an injury as an ending. But, for University of Miami senior Miranda De Gasperi, it was the beginning of a fulfilling new journey into the world of yoga.
After the frequent gym-goer suffered serious injuries to her knee and shoulder, De Gasperi found that high-impact exercise was off the table. Intent on seizing the opportunity, her “yoga nut” best friend finally dragged her to a class after months of protest.
More than two years later, De Gasperi, who is double majoring in ecosystem science and policy and studio art, has improved her practice, earned a teaching certification and planned to lead a series of classes here in Miami— until she found herself in quarantine, just like the rest of us.
The Hurricane recently caught up with De Gasperi, who shared one of her own at-home routines with us (keep scrolling!) and chatted with us about getting her start in yoga, why we should all be doing it and how it can help students cope with social distancing.
It only took one class at Prana Yoga in Miami for De Gasperi to be hooked.
“It helped me stay in shape and get more toned, stronger and flexible while having a low impact on my joints,” she said. After a year of practice, the athlete decided to take it to the next level by completing a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training course at Prana Yoga, the same gym that started her journey.
“Yoga changed my life so much for the better that I wanted nothing more than to share its magic with more people,” De Gasperi said. “Doing my teacher training was the first step to that.”
She described the experience as “amazing” and elaborated on the different aspects of the tradition she covered during training.
“We learned about the history of yoga as a philosophy,” she said. “As well as asanas (yoga poses), anatomy and alignment, pranayama (breathwork), meditation, mindfulness and energetics.”
For De Gasperi, Yoga is much more than stretching; it’s a way of being.
“It made me live a more mindful life,” she said. “On and off the mat. It made me more compassionate with myself and others, and it made me appreciate my body and stop hating on it.”
Something for everyone
“I think everybody can get something out of it,” she said. “A lot of people think they can’t do yoga because they’re not flexible, but that’s like saying you can’t go to the gym because you’re not ripped. It will help you become more flexible, strong and mindful whatever point you are at.”
With so many different types of yoga out there, De Gasperi said she believes there is something for everyone. Whether you’re a powerlifter, a fitness newbie or somewhere in between, she suggests looking into different types of yoga classes to see what fits your goals.
In fact, for athletes and hardcore fitness enthusiasts, yoga can be an especially important supplement to regular training.
”If you’re a heavy lifter, yoga will help loosen and restore your muscles to increase range of motion and flexibility,” De Gasperi said. “In addition, if you have an injury and need to rehabilitate it– or even just want a gentle stretch after any sports training session– restorative yoga is for you.”
“If you’re looking for an intensive workout, try hot yoga or yoga with weights,” she continued. For those looking for a more peaceful practice, de Gasperi recommended searching out a class that is focused on breathwork and meditation, which can help yogis ease anxiety and work on mindfulness.
Ultimately, De Gasperi emphasized that “the goal is not crazy splits or handstands.”
“It’s finding that inner peace, gaining more control over your body and mind, getting stronger, and whatever else you personally want to get out of it!”
Bringing it back
De Gasperi has spent the last few weeks in Venice, FL, where she has been practicing yoga daily during quarantine. “It’s a great way to stay active and relax,” she said. “Especially in a time of so much stress and uncertainty.”
Now more than ever, De Gasperi said she believes that individuals should pay close attention to self-care and wellness.
“Social distancing,” she said, “can be very difficult and take a toll on mental health. It’s super important to keep ourselves active in body and mind while isolating.”
She encourages everyone to move around and get some exercise, whether it’s yoga, dancing, a workout or even an energetic spring cleaning.
“It’s a great option because it can be super low impact and meditative, or it can be a full-on toning workout,” she said. “Whatever you feel you need that day, you can find a yoga practice to fit your needs”
De Gasperi added that yoga is perfect for social distancing because it can be performed anywhere without special or costly equipment.
“If you don’t have a yoga mat, try it on a towel,” she added. “You can even just try meditation or some relaxation breathing techniques sitting on a chair, on a cushion or on the floor.”
She also suggests that students looking to try yoga search up some routines on YouTube or Instagram. In fact, according to De Gasperi, “a lot of amazing instructors are offering free online classes during this time too. So, it’s a good opportunity to give it a try without spending money on it or committing to a studio.”
As far as YouTube goes, she suggests checking out videos by AloYoga and Yoga With Adriene. For Spanish-speaking yogis, De Gasperi recommends, @fiofuentesyoga on Instagram, who will be posting free Instagram live yoga classes for the next few days in quarantine.
De Gasperi also shared one of her own flows with us, so feel free to keep scrolling and give it a shot.
“Remember to do what feels good to your body and be kind to yourself,” De Gasperi said.
De Gasperi’s Quarantine Flow
This is a super simple, super easy routine. It will provide a nice stretch and help relieve stress or anxiety. Take at least 2 or 3 full breaths in each pose. The whole routine takes about 10 minutes.
Start sitting with crossed legs and a tall, straight spine. You can also start sitting on a chair or on bent knees. Place your hands on your thighs and close your eyes (or keep ’em open, whatever feels good to you).
Breathe through your nose slowly, inhaling and exhaling for even lengths. Focus on your breath– on your chest rising and falling, on the air moving in and out of your nose. Don’t worry if you get distracted, be kind to yourself and just keep returning to your breath.
After a few breaths, inhale deeply and twist to the right from the abdomen on your exhale. Ground your sit bones and don’t strain your neck or shoulders. Lengthen your spine on each inhale and twist a little more on each exhale. Return to the center on your exhale and repeat to the left.
Take child’s pose. Make sure your toes are touching. Your knees can be together or apart, apart gives a deeper stretch to the low back.
Inhale deeply and walk your hands to the right, bowing the left side of your body. Come back to center on an exhale and repeat to the left.
Come up to a tabletop position. Make sure your wrists are under your shoulders and your knees under your hips, keeping your spine neutral. Push your hands into the floor.
Inhale into cow pose: drop your belly, lift your chest, open your heart.
Exhale into cat pose: round your back, tuck your tailbone gently and tuck your chin to the chest. Go back to cow and repeat as many times as you want, always returning your focus to your breath.
Come back to neutral spine tabletop. Inhaling, lift the right arm up and open your chest.
Exhale and bring your right arm through to the left side, between your left arm and thigh. Rest on your shoulder and breathe gently. Come back to center and repeat with the left arm.
Take child’s pose again for a few breaths and, when you’re ready, turn and lie on your back with your knees bent. Bring your knees close to your butt, to where you can almost graze your heels with your fingertips.
For bridge pose, inhale and lift your thighs and hips. Release your tailbone so you are only lifting with your legs. Exhale and slowly– vertebrae by vertebrae– come back down to the starting position. Repeat as many times as you want.
Hug your knees and give yourself some love! Exhale deeply and release everything that no longer serves you. Inhale calm and self-love.
Drop your knees to the right, keeping both shoulder blades on the floor. Turn your head to the left. Take a few breaths here and inhale back to center.
Repeat the twist on the opposite side.
Lay flat on your back, legs outstretched and arms relaxed by your sides. Bring your focus to your breath and relax every muscle on your body. After a few minutes, gently get up.
You can sit back again like at the start and do a short meditation, or simply take a few more breaths. Think of something you are grateful for, send your energy to someone who needs it today and say something nice to yourself!