Hello, everyone! I’m Dr. Trish Murray – physician, best-selling author, and the Health Catalyst Speaker. I want to invite you and welcome you to this podcast today. I’m so excited because we are now presenting our program called Discover Health Movement Membership. The first person I’m interviewing is one of our instructors, Meghan Vestal. The title of today’s podcast is “Discovering Yoga”! If you think you’re not someone who should be doing yoga, think again! Meghan is awesome and she has our 40-something and older members doing yoga that have said to me, “Trish, I hate yoga.” And I’ve told them, “Well, wait a minute. No, no, no. Try our class!” As soon as they try our class they are in! They’ve been coming every Friday and they’re doing our membership and they’re doing them online with the recordings. People are just eating up doing yoga when they are taking it with our program, particularly with Meghan. Meghan, thank you so much for being here with me today.
Thanks for having me, Trish!
Meghan, let me share your bio with everybody so they get a sense of things. Then we’ll get into some questions. Okay?
Alright, sounds good.
Meghan Vestal is a Registered Yoga Teacher at the 500-hour level. She completed her 200- and 300-hour trainings consecutively through Dragonfly Yoga & Ayurveda in Sandwich, New Hampshire. She teaches a multitude of yoga classes outside, in-studio, and online including the Discover Yoga class as part of the Discover Health Movement Membership. Meghan teaches gentle yoga, vinyasa flow, yin yoga, restorative yoga, and beginner yoga. Her philosophy is that everyone can benefit from yoga in some way, and that yoga is ultimately the best practice to connect with body, mind, breath, and spirit. In addition to teaching the physical practice of yoga (called asana), Meghan also provides guided meditation and breath work (pranayama) instruction.
One thing after reading that, Meghan, I would also point out is that I love your class from the standpoint of how well you teach the yoga and how you move but also how much you bring in some of the education of what are we doing? You know? For each posture. What’s the history of it, or what’s the purpose of it? That sort of thing. I love it when you do that!
Yeah! You can breeze through a yoga class without really having any understanding as to how you’re moving your body or why. I think when you have that background information, it really just clicks and makes more sense. Linking everything – the philosophy, why we are doing these poses, what the benefits are going to be. I like to give everyone a full picture as to why we’re practicing yoga.
When people understand it better, education is powerful. If you’re understanding it and you’re doing it then it becomes personal. It becomes a tool that you can actually understand and even when you’re not in a class you can start to use those tools. At the end of classes on a regular basis for Discover Health Movement Membership, I am hearing participants say, “Meghan taught me this in yoga class. I hurt my back the other day and I did what she taught me, and it went away.” I’m amazed! That was the whole reason for creating this program.
Meghan, before we get into the details of yoga itself, I love to start with the question for all of my people on my podcast is – tell us your story. How did you come to be of service the way you are to people today?
Great! So, I didn’t really know about yoga or practice yoga until I was in college. I kind of stumbled upon it. The health and gym center at my university offered free yoga classes. A friend and I started taking classes, and it was just kind of something fun to do, more of a social activity really. At that point in my life I had, I guess I’d say, an unhealthy relationship with my body. I was in college, I was not eating the right foods, I wasn’t getting nearly as much movement as I incorporate into my day-to-day routine now, and I was drinking a lot of alcohol. I was not in a very good mental space. When I started to come to these yoga classes I actually found them a little bit frustrating. I was kind of forced to spend an hour or seventy-five minutes or whatever length of the class was really to be with myself, in my body, with my breath, in whatever was going on through my mind. I found that a challenge but a good challenge. I kept with it, on and off through college. After college I really dove into more of a healthy lifestyle. Yoga became kind of that backbone and something I came back to time and time again.
Once I moved out of college away from home up to the Mount Washington Valley area, I didn’t know a lot of people here. I found that some of the friendliest, most welcoming community members were in my yoga classes. We all at least had that one thing in common. My practice became much more regular and there I started practicing with a teacher who started to spark this little idea in my head that I could continue on by taking a yoga teacher training. And so, I approached yoga teacher training more so to deepen my practice, really with no intention of instructing anybody upon graduating. Through that program I found the confidence within myself to share this practice that had really transformed my life. Why not radiate that out and share that with other people?
As soon as I was graduating my 200-level program, my first yoga teacher training…one of the perks of living in a rural area is that there’s not a whole lot of competition…I had yoga studios reaching out to me. You reached out to me. A few different gyms that wanted to bring yoga into whatever setting they had. I started kind of slow. Two or three classes a week I was teaching, and then I found myself almost overwhelmed teaching eight, nine, ten classes a week and people asking for more. That’s kind of how I got my foot in the door in terms of teaching.
I continued on with my 300-hour yoga teacher training, advanced yoga teacher training. Upon graduating, that’s when COVID hit. There’s been a lot of adaptation and that’s really how Discover Health Movement Membership was born. We had envisioned this program back in December 2019 and had started brainstorming what this would really look like. With the pandemic, we were all transitioning from teaching these live, in-person classes to making sure we could still reach our students and reach beyond our small circle of Mount Washington Valley and Conway, New Hampshire by taking the classes that we were teaching and moving them into an online platform. It’s been a fun journey, for sure.
Yeah. And didn’t you also go to India at one point?
I didn’t go to India. I did go to Bali for some yoga, some yoga meditation, some great lifestyle retreat experience. The yoga travel industry is really booming – not so much right now, but I’m looking forward to getting back into that once this pandemic dies down.
Well, you know Meghan, you’re a young teacher but yet the amount of people that were reaching out to you doesn’t surprise me at all. You are well beyond your years of how you present your classes and that’s why I chose you. As a connective tissue specialist and a pain specialist from the time I saw you teach and took one of your classes I knew you were the person we needed for Discover Health Movement Membership. I’m so glad you’re one of our teachers.
Talk to folks and let them know, what does yoga teacher training entail? What does that involve?
So, there’s really two main categories when it comes to selecting a yoga teacher training. One, which is really intensive. It’s kind of an immersion-style teacher training where typically you’re going to a location or you’re opting for an online training, but you’d spend three to four weeks and really day in and day out you’re learning, you’re teaching, you’re practicing and that works for a lot of people. It does not work for me! I needed that time to kind of absorb what I was learning and to apply it. I opted for the other option, which is more of a drawn out, smaller scale kind of operation. The training that I chose in North Sandwich, New Hampshire was I think about eight months long. One weekend per month we would go, and it would be retreat-style. We’d stay over, we’d eat there, we’d immerse ourselves for the weekend. What we would learn during that weekend we’d be able to apply for the next few weeks in our lives, whether we were practicing, whether we were teaching, what have you. Then we’d come back. We’d have had homework to do, and we’d see each other once a month. It was a longer span of time, but whether you’re choosing one or the other I would recommend doing an in-person training. You get to practice the hands-on assists. You get to really connect with the other trainees and your instructors. You learn philosophy of yoga, you learn the poses (asana), you learn Sanskrit, meditation, breathwork. My program specifically dove into Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga which I found so fascinating. I love food and nutrition, all things in that realm. Basically, that’s yoga teacher training in a nutshell, but there are so many different options that you can go for there.
Awesome. Meghan, help people understand – what are the benefits of yoga?
The benefits of yoga. I love that there is such a broad spectrum of benefits. Really from the inside out. Many people gravitate towards a yoga practice because they want to become more flexible, that’s a huge reason. Or they want to improve their balance. You work a lot on flexibility and specifically in the Discover Health Movement Membership, we’re talking a lot about fascia. Flexibility is definitely one benefit. Improving your balance and stability. Strengthening your muscles and toning your muscles. Many people gravitate towards those more physical or tangible results, but a yoga practice is really going to help you in so many more ways. Reducing your stress, really getting you into a more calm and centered headspace, maybe if you are dealing with some things like anxiety, depression. Yoga is a really nice practice. There are so many different types of yoga, too, that you can try out. Many people find that it increases their energy if they’re doing more of an upbeat, more dynamic flow practice. You can benefit your sleep habits as well. It’s endless, and it kind of takes maybe a little bit of trial and error to find what classes work for you. I think that the classes that we have with Discover Health Movement Membership really encompass all of those benefits. It’s been really nice to hear some of the testimonials and the feedback that we’ve had from our students. It makes me feel great as an instructor.
Yeah. Can you point out one that made you feel really – wow – that someone brought up by chance?
One that comes to mind is one of our students who was really struggling with tightness and pain upon waking up in the morning. She mentioned that taking this class and the other classes from our membership that we offer, the self-myofascial release and the movement for longevity, she found that right upon waking, instead of gravitating towards her coffee or diving into her day she was moving, and she was stretching, and she was using some of the tools, some of the poses and starting her day right off the bat. It would change her whole perspective on the day and the way that she felt in her body. I thought that was just amazing to hear. She was using the tools that we were giving her, which I think is so important. We teach these classes for one hour a week but if you can incorporate what you’re learning into the rest of the week and your day-to-day – that is ideal.
Exactly. This concept was my brainchild. This idea of my mission is to give people the tools for self-healing. Folks, you can heal yourself. You don’t always have to go to some other provider. You don’t always have to go to a class. You need to go to those places to get the foundation. And yes, there are times you do need to go to a doctor or a medical provider or to a yoga class because you don’t know how to do it. The mission of the provider, the mission of the teacher should be to teach you how to use the tools and that’s giving you empowerment so that you can self-heal. That’s my passion, that’s Discover Health Movement Membership’s passion, and that’s why I selected Meghan, Jim, and Lisa because they are so good at what they do.
Meghan, for someone who maybe has either preconceived ideas about yoga or they’re just so tight and they’re like, “I hate yoga. I went to a yoga class once and I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.” How would you advise they approach yoga in particular but also how about when they say, “What about this Discover Health Movement Membership thing? Why do you say that might be something I want to do?”
Well, first off, that is one of the most common things I hear when…I mean I talk about yoga all the time…but especially if someone asks me, “What do you do?” and I say, “I teach yoga part-time.” They want to know a little bit more, but they think, Oh, I could never do it. Or like you said, they say, “I tried a class and it didn’t work out that well.” The prerequisite is not that you have to be flexible, you are going to gain that flexibility, that range of movement by participating, not just in the class but like we said, taking those tools off of the mat as well. That’s a huge one. People can’t touch their toes; they are really turned off by the idea of coming to a yoga class.
What I like to instill, specifically in the classes that I’m teaching where we are live and together in-person is thatwhatever’s happening in your body, in your experience, and on your mat – you own that. It doesn’t matter what the instructor is really doing. All we do is suggest and demonstrate and maybe help you out from time to timeClick To Tweet. Don’t look at your neighbor, you don’t have to focus so much on the instructor because it’s going to look a little bit different in your body compared to everybody else’s body.
What I love about the Discover Health Movement Membership is that all of the classes are really accessible for beginners. From my experience with the yoga classes in particular isI offer a lot of different variations and modifications because we’re dealing with so many different types of bodies in class. Your experience from one day to the next might be really different.Click To Tweet We all have injuries, we all have slightly different anatomical makeup, and so to attend a class that is really accepting of all of that is much more approachable and would be ideal for a beginner,Click To Tweet definitely.
Yeah, and you’ve even done classes for Discover Health Movement Membership and when we were doing live ones before where we’re in a chair the whole time! Can you talk a little bit about chair yoga?
Those are some of my favorite classes because it’s a little bit challenging for me as an instructor, but a lot of the times they are poses that are more accessible for everybody. Whether you have the time or the space to do yoga, maybe you incorporate some into your office space on a short little break during your workday. Or if and when we’re traveling again, you’re on a bus or a plane and you’re incorporating some stretches here and there. It also works really well for people maybe who have a hard time being on their feet a lot or those of us who might be in a wheelchair. It’s a fun class because you don’t have to think about balance or stability if that’s something that you’re worried about, but you still get the whole aspect of practicing yoga, maybe trying something new. If you’re really accustomed to more of a traditional yoga class, it’s fun to experiment with something different.
Yeah, because I’ve done yoga for many years and I’ve done beginning, moderate, and advanced. It’s just when we did the class where we didn’t stand or go to the ground at all – we were in a chair the whole time – I got just as much out of it as I do with other classes. It’s amazing and I really think that the variety of what we’re trying to do with Discover Health Movement Membership. Can you share with everyone, how is it set up? Meaning, yes – there are the live classes but then there are the recordings. Could you go over that for folks?
Yeah. So, there are two options when you sign up for a Discover Health Movement Membership. You can opt to the recordings only. If maybe you don’t feel comfortable right off the bat joining the live online classes or the live online classes don’t fit your schedule, you can take the recorded classes. It’s really easy to browse through them. They’re all labeled with different titles, so you’ll be able to find exactly what you need. If you want to participate in the live classes, you also have access to the recordings. Interacting with the instructor live on the computer, you’re able to give a little bit of feedback before or after class. If you have questions, we’re always available to stick around a little bit if you have comments. I always tell my students, “Do you have any requests? What would you like to see in the upcoming weeks?” That level of interaction you get to really be more included in what you see in future classes.
Meghan let’s have you explain some different types of yoga, so people get an idea. In your bio it says, “Meghan teaches different kinds of yoga.” Some of them like vinyasa flow versus yin yoga. What’s vinyasa flow? Let’s go over that first.
Vinyasa flow’s going to be more of a dynamic, upbeat class. The word vinyasa, a Sanskrit word which is kind of the ancient Indian language of yoga, means to place mindfully or to place in a particular way. We’re really looking at alignment, and in the way that we move we’re matching our breath to movement. Maybe we don’t just have a plain vinyasa class in the Discover Health Movement Membership, but the times that we are incorporating different flows, I’m a huge believer that your breath is so important in the practice so breathing in while you’re reaching up or expanding outward and breathing out while you’re kind of contracting or folding down. It’s a fancy term but just means to be moving mindfully essentially.
Yin yoga is kind of a derivative of Chinese medicine. It is almost the polar opposite of vinyasa which would be more yang style. Yin is going to be slower, more contemplative. You are coming into some pretty deep stretch postures and holding those poses maybe one to five minutes so that you’re really getting into the connective tissue and the fascia. Those are the types of classes that are going to be increasing your range of movement and your flexibility as opposed to vinyasa which is really great for strengthening the muscles, toning your muscles, and potentially for increasing that stability and balance as well.
Restorative yoga is another term. How is that different from the two you’ve just talked about?
Restorative almost feels like a mini massage, not really in the way that you’d be moving or palpating the body, but rather, in the way that you are completely calm, totally relaxed. In restorative yoga you are really relying on the use of props to help support the body. Think lots of blankets, pillows, cushions, blocks, maybe an eye pillow too – you’re going to be nice and relaxed and want to be cozy in that space. Those postures are typically held somewhere from eight to even twenty minutes long. You’re not efforting. You have arranged these props in the way that the teacher has instructed and you’re letting your body just about melt down into them. It’s so calming, so soothing. Restorative yoga is absolutely amazing.
Yeah. One of the classes you did was restorative yoga not too many weeks ago. It’s one of the recordings on Discover Health Movement Membership. I remember that when you’re doing the classes online on zoom from your home studio and we’re doing it here at the office, at Discover Health Functional Medicine Center, it’s myself (Dr. Trish) and there’s Coach Trish and the day of the restorative yoga there was one other person. We’re all in our masks and six feet apart but we were laughing because we felt like we were at a slumber party doing restorative yoga! It was awesome!
Exactly! It’s a little tricky to teach restorative yoga online because in a studio setting my role as the instructor would to be walking around and tucking you in and making sure that you’re comfortable. Teaching restorative yoga I wouldn’t be reclined or in these poses, but it’s kind of fun to teach them online because I get to relax and restore my body just as much as you do!
Yeah! We all had our pillows, our blankets, our bolsters and it was so awesome! That was a great class. Now, let’s also talk about, you mentioned the physical practice of yoga called asanas. Those are the postures I assume but you can elaborate. But you also talk about pranayama. These are terms that people may have possibly heard of and they’re like, what does that mean? What’s the difference between asana and pranayama?
So, this comes back to Sanskrit because these words are in a different language. When I teach yoga anytime I’m using Sanskrit, I try to use those terms interchangeably with English so that it’s approachable. Essentially you would be learning an entirely new language if I was speaking completely in Sanskrit. What a lot of people don’t know is that yoga is really this big umbrella term. We actually have what are eight limbs that make up the yoga practice, but in the Western world we have associated yoga with more of the physical practice or what we called asana. Asana are the postures, the way that you are arranging your body, the yoga poses. That’s just one limb of yoga. There’s so much more when it comes to philosophy. Kind of the tenants of how you would live your life in a yogic way.
Another limb of yoga is pranayama which is breathwork or breath control. That’s a really nice tool to incorporate in a practice whether before, during, or at the end of practice to get you in touch with the way that you’re breathing. We do a couple different pranayama techniques. I don’t do anything that’s too crazy because again this is beginner-level, really approachable for people. There are some fun techniques that you can experiment with and maybe you find yourself doing them throughout the day too. Pranayama is another limb of yoga.
We have asana, pranayama, and then one of the other of the eight limbs is meditation. I like to incorporate that a little bit into typically the end of our practice as we’re winding down and relaxing in savasana, our final pose which we call corpse pose.
So that’s three of the limbs. Can you take us through the others? Gosh, there are eight! Can you take us through the other five?
Yeah, so we don’t talk about them a whole lot in the Western world. If you have a really great yoga teacher, they’re going to be teaching you a little bit about each of them whether or not you know it.
One of the limbs is called yamas. The yamas and the niyamas kind of work together. Limb one and limb two. These are kind of the guidelines as to how you should live your life. Things like non-harming/non-violence, living in a way where you’re not stealing, you’re not lying. Just kind of techniques to be a better human being, really. We could all use some of that. The third limb is asana. Then we go onto pranayama, which is the fourth limb, that breathwork, breath control, breath practice. The next is pratyahara which is sense withdrawal. You’d actually find a little bit of that in a restorative yoga class, particularly if you have an eye pillow on your face. You’re not feeling a whole lot. You might not be hearing much whether there are outside noises going on or you are just so relaxed that you don’t notice what’s going on in your surroundings. That’s really what pratyahara is all about. There is dharana, which is concentration, and then dhyana, which is meditation which we experiment a little bit with. Then there’s samadhi which is bliss or enlightenment.
Most of these terms you’ve probably never heard about unless you’ve taken a yoga teacher training, or you have a teacher who is really well versed in them and is comfortable using the Sanskrit and teaching this philosophy to their students. It’s really interesting how in the Western world we’ve kind of morphed into this small segment of yoga as just the asana practice, the physical postures.
I can’t emphasize that enough. Yes, I’ve been to yoga classes with teachers that it’s all about the warrior poses and it’s all about the strength and it’s all about the focus and the balance. It’s so Western. The best teachers, in my opinion, and the reason why I’ve chosen you, Meghan, to be part of this Discover Health Movement Membership is that you get it! You get that it’s a balance between West and East. There needs to be restorative as well as rehabilitative. There has to be strength but there has to be flexibility. There has to be a balance in life and in the universe between stress and relaxation. If we don’t find that balance, then we get lost. The point is, folks, you’re listening to Meghan, you’re hearing her. The level of ability for her to explain the concepts…and if you’re listening and like, wow, this is really enlightening me to what this is about, then come and check it out! How do people check it out, and where do they go to learn more about Discover Health Movement Membership.
Online we can be found as part of your Discover Health Functional Medicine Center website at discoverhealthfmc.com/#Movement. That’s going to bring you to the homepage that includes the information about how to get started. You can browse a little bit around and see what we’re all about, learn a little bit about the instructors and choose what membership option is going to work best for you. Again, whether you want to attend just the recorded classes in a time that works for you. We have built quite a library since we started this in March. Lots of options and no two classes are the same which is really great. We spend a lot of time brainstorming and creating these classes for you. The other membership option is to indulge in the recorded classes but also participate in the live online classes with us as well. We are also now on both Facebook and Instagram. For Instagram it’s @discoverhealthmovement (we’re leaving a little space open there to hopefully include some retreats, include some live classes once we are able to). Then on Facebook, we are Discover Health Movement Membership (@discoverhealthmovement). Check us out! Like the pages there and you can talk with other members, you can talk with your instructors, and we always love feedback and suggestions as I mentioned before. We’re really creating this community. It’s online, but it feels so much more personal.
Yes, so many of the members are so happy to be part of the community during this time of COVID and this crazy new normal because it gets them numerous times a week to check in with folks that they are now getting to know, whether they were coming live before we went online with Discover Health Movement Membership or not.
Meghan, the question I love to ask every single one of the folks that come on my podcast as well is – what is the number one secret that you feel to living a healthy life? What would you say it is?
I know your podcast very well and I’ve heard so many fabulous answers to this question. Truthfully, there are so many answers to this question, but I think going with our theme here and something has really impacted my life so much is movement. I don’t just mean yoga. I don’t just mean one type of movement. Adding in a variety of different types of movement, different exercise, different even healthy habits – park a little bit further away from your grocery store or opt to take the stairs instead of the escalator. They seem like little things but the more that you incorporate those they become kind of a necessity.You start to recognize how good you feel when you are moving your body. It gets you so much more connected to who you are at your core.Click To TweetYou sleep well, you have great energy and a positive outlook on life, your digestion’s good, and you just feel awesome. Movement for me is something that I couldn’t live without and I think is going to keep me healthy and practicing and teaching for a very long time.
I couldn’t have said it any better! With that, folks, make sure you check out Discover Health Movement Membership. You can go to discoverhealthfmc.com/#Movement. Thank you, Meghan! I’ll see you at the next class!
Thanks so much, Trish!
Contact Meghan Vestal
- Email: [email protected]
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- Watch excerpts from select Discover Yoga classes on YouTube!
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