How I Became an “Expert” at Yoga

May 2, 2022

 by Brian Friedman
It all began – nearly 30 years ago – when a friend asked me to try yoga.
At the time, I had no idea what yoga was. I mean, I knew it had to do with stretching or something. However,I heard it was supposed to be good for you … so off I went.
That first class was 3 hours long … and I felt fantastic. I was literally buzzing with energy. I’d never experienced such a rush of positive feelings.
Needless to say, I wanted to keep buzzing so I began searching for yogic resources to help me along the way. But …
this was pre-Google, pre-Amazon, pre-internet … the only resources available were bookstores - remember those? - and they didn’t carry very much in the teachings of yoga.
So …I did the best I could with whatever book I had at the time and taught myself the basics.
It wasn’t until the early 21st century that I found a yoga studio near my place of residency in Central Florida.
And it was great.
My practice took off and I was getting really “advanced.” I had the honor of teaching classes, facilitating workshops, and even demonstrating when name-brand yoga teachers would roll through town. There was only one teenie, tiny, little problem …
I was in agony.
In particular, my lower back was killing me. And it was frustrating because yoga was supposed to be helping me … not hurting me.
Believe me, I tried (pretty much) everything in the context of yoga … hot yoga, gentle yoga, restorative yoga, Thai yoga, you name it. And none of it provided long-lasting relief.
Then it dawned on me … “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
In other words, I had to look outside the realm of yoga if I was going to find the solution to my aching back.
That’s when a whole new world opened up to me …
The world of strength training.
You see, I began to wonder how strength athletes could pull 500 pounds off the ground or press 200 pounds overhead and walk away unharmed … yet … someone could “blow out” their back just trying to touch their toes in a yoga class.
It sent me down a rabbit hole of anatomy, movement, mobility, tissue quality, proper strength training, rehab therapy, and the list goes on.
Full disclosure: I’m still in this rabbit hole 🙂
Once I understood the nature of properly aligning the body and engaging the correct muscles I applied that science to fundamental yoga poses.
Guess what?
My back pain lessened.
I felt like Paul Revere … I wanted to tell the whole world!
So I began integrating my approach to more and more yoga poses. Plus, I got rid of all the “bells and whistles” … always focusing on the basics and following precise steps.
Once I got myself fixed up, I began teaching my method to a small circle of students, and they started to feel better and stronger, and more mobile.
Today, Functional Yoga Instruction is helping 100s (maybe 1000s) of folks across the globe practice yoga safely and sanely … helping them to feel useful, confident, and independent.
Does that make me an “expert” at yoga?
That remains to be seen. However …
it continues to be a humbling journey as I continue to show you the way to start where you are, use what you've got, and be your best.