YD teacher Gina Caruso is an advocate of letting go of all the ‘go-go-go’ DC mentality, and her classes are sure to make you relax and release. Learn more about Gina’s approach to yoga and self-care in our Q&A.
What do you like about teaching the DC community at Yoga District?
So many of us in DC are go-go-go type of people. What I really love is seeing people recognize the need to take care of themselves and take a pause from that crazy, overwhelming schedule to gain tools to better navigate it.
Where do your sentiments lie on the “yoga as spiritual practice” versus “yoga as body shaper” spectrum?
I feel like I’m somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I came to yoga for the physical benefits and really had no interest, and even an aversion to, the spiritual side of yoga. The more I practiced, though, the more I started to realize this was so much more than a work out. I started to notice that on the days I practiced in the morning, my work day was much more manageable, less stressful and I even had energy after work! Those mental shifts that came from a regular yoga practice led me to a meditation practice where I started to play more with the spiritual side of yoga. The combination of a dedicated asana practice and a dedicated meditation practice has brought me to where I am now, and I teach from that place. So my classes are obviously physical practices in which we move our body through different shapes, but I do focus a lot on the mental and emotional shifts that our practice can bring us. I don’t typically bring anything overtly spiritual into my classes, though, because it is so personal for each individual and feel it should be explored either one-on-one or by one’s self.
What tools do you think are essential for starting a yoga practice?
Really all you need is an open mind. From there, you will benefit from the practice.
Is there an essential yoga mindset?
We all come to this practice from different experiences and perspectives, so each practitioner is going to take what they need from the practice and leave the rest. I think a common thread, though, among yogis and yoginis is the connection that yoga has brought us all. So I guess that connection is an essential yoga mindset, but I think it’s one of many.
Are there a few key words or touchstones that make yoga relevant to the many?
Slow down, de-stress and be present in more moments. I think these concepts are absolutely relevant to many different people, particularly in DC.
What is yoga to you?
To me, yoga is a way to re-orient myself in this hectic world. It’s so much more than a physical practice. Yoga has given me this amazing gift of awareness (both physical and mental) that allows me to connect to what is happening right in front of me rather than attaching anxieties/fears onto past or future interactions or events. This lets me fully experience and digest whatever situation I am in and allows me to respond in a more mindful way. Finding this awareness has been instrumental in managing the stress that comes with a demanding DC job!
In a class full of people with wildly different aims, how do you strive to keep everyone engaged and motivated?
By using these concepts! So many people come to yoga for the physical benefits, so of course we’re going to sweat in a flow class, but I’m also going to focus on that which brings people back again and again – the mental and emotional benefits! I use a mix of challenging options (physically, for those who want that) and of reminders to constantly use the breath to be present, to really feel what is happening, rather than just trying to look like something. And once you find that awareness on the mat, you can bring it off the mat and into your world with you and THAT is powerful stuff. From there your whole perspective changes!
As a teacher, do you find that most people’s intentions metamorphose as they practice yoga? Meaning, do clients come to you to get arms like Jennifer Aniston’s but end up finding self-acceptance (or gratitude or openness) instead?
Yes! Many of us (myself included) find yoga as a way to lose weight, tone up, work out, etc. but then find ourselves coming back more for the mental shift and awareness yoga has brought us.
If you could do only one pose from now on, what would it be?
Legs up the wall. By now, you might have realized that I’m all about relaxing, releasing, de-stressing, etc. and this is the perfect pose for that! Nothing is better after a long day!
What is your favorite style of class to teach, and why?
That’s hard! I really love teaching any style of class in which the students are interested, open and engaged! I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to regularly teach very different styles of classes – flow, prenatal and restorative. I love them all equally! I couldn’t choose a favorite 🙂
How has sharing yoga affected you?
It’s been amazing. I have learned so much about myself. Sharing yoga has opened my eyes to my vulnerabilities, my strengths, my truths that I didn’t fully realize were there before. Sharing a practice that has had such a positive impact on my own life is so incredible. The connection that has come from practicing and sharing yoga has truly changed my life.
What would your advice be to someone who thinks yoga isn’t for them or that they aren’t “flexible enough” for it?
I actually just had this conversation with an Uber driver last week! I told him that there is no need to be flexible to practice yoga, but that yoga will help you become more flexible (physically and mentally!). I like to point out that it’s not just about flexibility either and that yoga will also help strengthen and stabilize and release muscles and joints. And those are just the physical benefits!
Practice with Gina at our studios!