“The fear of falling is often greater than just falling.”
In the time it takes us to do a vinyasa sequence, we’re digging into all things yoga with instructor, self-proclaimed music junkie and native Marylander Daina Lynn.
Q: Welcome, Daina. Let’s set the stage with a sense of place. Where do you do yoga?
Lynn: I do yoga in parking lots. I do yoga while cooking. I do yoga while cleaning. The principles can be applied anywhere, at anytime. Yoga is really simply quieting the mind. It is very much so like meditation. So sometimes that means I strike a warrior pose in Wegmans parking lot.
Q: What pose is always a win for you?
Lynn: I really love balance poses. I love the feeling of weightlessness when every muscle is relaxed, yet you are stern and stoic. They are so simple, yet so complex, that I love the challenge. No matter how much you practice them, some days they feel brand-new, because balance is not a permanent thing, it’s an eternal struggle.
“So sometimes that means I strike a warrior pose in Wegmans parking lot.”
Q: What pose are you over?
Lynn: A pose like reverse triangle is very painful for me because I have really tight hips and hamstrings from my love for running, cycling and lifting legs. Even forward folds can be painful if I’ve been training heavy that week. So, I have to do a little extra stretching for those areas to make sure I can still enjoy yoga and my other three obsessions.
Also, for me personally, handstands are ambitious. Everyone’s anatomy is so strikingly different. Things like leg length compared to arm length, or where you carry your weight or muscle, and even joint flexibility can affect a pose.
But everyone should strive to do the pose they dislike the most! Remember, what you do on the mat is purposeful because it is meant to translate off the mat.
Q: Got it. Don’t let fear limit you. What if you’re afraid of just getting started in yoga?
Lynn: Try and possibly fail. Yoga is something that cannot be mastered. No one has it perfectly figured out. Just showing up is the hardest part. It’s about finding your style, whether it’s a power style, a restorative style or maybe even hatha (more breathing).
Yoga is like a metaphor for life; there is no perfect time to start changing your life and never will be, but every step forward is a small victory.
“Try and possibly fail.”
Q: And what’s the trick for keeping a practice going?
Lynn: Yoga is my release. Some days, yoga is my source of meditation. Some days, it is my source of prayer. And yet some days, it will be my form of exercise. That’s why yoga is so important to me; it can be whatever I need it to be that day. Yoga should be purpose-driven, not perfection-driven. Also, it’s all about balance…you can work in to work out.
Q: Sounds like you work the inner self and work the outer self. How has this framework benefited you?
Lynn: From a physical level, it has given me so much relief. As a former basketball player and track runner, my body was not only tight but beaten up and injury-ridden. No more pain in my knees, hips or back. It’s been more effective than any pain medication I’ve ever taken.
From a spiritual and emotional level, it’s been just as impactful. Like I said, it connects me to the higher power in a way I have never accessed before — through breath, movement and quieting the mind.
Q: You’ve got this dual approach down to an art. How does it relate to overall wellness?
Lynn: Focusing just on your physical body is very important, but your exterior will never take care of your interior (mind). If you focus on the inside (mind) first though, the mind will help take care of the physical. It’s about finding the balance between the two. A healthy amount of working out with a healthy amount of meditation, prayer, yoga or whatever it is you call it, is my true epitome of wellness.
“It’s been more effective than any pain medication I’ve ever taken.”
Q: Ah, yes, the elusive balancing act. Does that mean every practice is unique?
Lynn: Yoga is like faith because it will be and should be to you what it needs to be. That means, your style and your love for it can be and should be unique to anyone else’s! So it’s beautiful that there are all these different styles and options because that means more people will be drawn to the beauty of releasing the mind! That’s why I don’t really say no to any style or type because different things work for different people.
Q: OK, spill. When you’re trying all these styles out, what are you really thinking about?
Lynn: On a great day, I couldn’t tell you! I am so into the movements and how they connect with my breath that I can finally rest my thoughts. But, a lot of the time, thoughts are coming that I have to deal with. Sometimes I am thinking, “My body feels light.” But, sometimes, I am thinking “My body feels heavy” and I can’t get a vibrant flow going.
Those are the days where I have to work much harder to quiet my mind. It won’t come every day. Just because you get on your mat doesn’t mean your mind just shuts off. The best thing I’ve learned to do is not to judge any thoughts but to be more like an outsider to my thoughts. I am not my thoughts. I can be an observer and choose which will benefit me and which won’t.
Q: Can you share an example of what you do in those moments when you can’t quiet your mind on the mat?
Lynn: I was mad about something I was going through off my mat, and I figured I could take it out on the mat. I fell out of almost every balance pose and nothing looked the way I wanted it to. I was focused on all the wrong things. Trying to fight anger with anger will never work.
I had expectations during that practice that I couldn’t fulfill because they were unrealistic. In fact, it only made me more frustrated because I was just adding more and more weight to something that was already too heavy for me to carry. Then, I finally found a child’s pose and didn’t move the rest of class. I changed my perspective and simply fought anger with peace. I didn’t leave the room alleviated of anger, but I at least started the process of letting it go, which is all we can ever want from our practice.
“Just because you get on your mat doesn’t mean your mind just shuts off.”
Q: Sometimes it’s the opposite that works. Who taught you these types of lessons?
Lynn: My favorite teacher has become one of my closest friends. She is teacher and reiki master Nilvis Frederick. She is perfect to me because she is raw and genuine when she teaches. She uses her own pain and her own problems and translates it into the deepest lesson you will ever hear. And, she can also kick your butt if she wants to!
Q; We could all use someone like that. Do you think yoga is for everyone?
Lynn: Whether they have arthritis and need something more than medication or they have anxiety and need something more than medication, in my opinion, yoga is the best physical and mental prescription.
“I at least started the process of letting it go, which is all we can ever want from our practice.”
Q: I’m sold. So, let’s say you have a class of new students. What music do you play to inspire them?
Lynn: I have two different kinds of playlists. One includes songs with lyrics. They’re deep songs — artists like Mumford and Sons, LP and even some light rock like Van Morrison. I want people to be moved by the words and inspired. I know that’s not conventional but not every person can be moved by the same thing. You have to meet people where they are, not force things upon them.
My other playlist is completely orchestral. There are no lyrics. I love musical scores, so I call it my “movie” playlist because it includes greats like Hans Zimmer and Thomas Newman. Both styles are deep and they have the power to move your soul!
Q: Before I go update my Spotify, what’s the biggest thing yoga has taught you?
Lynn: The fear of falling is often greater than just falling. Your anxiety over your fear is greater than simply facing your fear.
I might fall on my face, literally, when trying a tough arm balance pose. I have been bruised, cut and hurt when I try and push or force a pose. But I’ve also been hurt in basic poses because that’s how life works. Nothing is permanent, but everything is connected.
That has translated into life for me with my everyday actions; I don’t fear much anymore. Not because there aren’t problems or terrible things in the world, but because I know that if I face my fear and risk falling, at least I will find freedom. And freedom is worth any momentary pain, whether that’s dealing with a tough life decision or trying to find a new arm balance pose.