Is there such a thing as way too many interesting people? I don't think so! Every single day I meet people at Booth who are so much more than their résumés or GMAT scores. Ying Liu is a seasoned Yogini and she shares with us her deep connection with yoga and how we can all bring a little "Ohm!" to our busy little lives.
Chicago Business: When and why did you start practicing yoga?
Ying Liu: I took my first yoga class in high school because my soccer coach wanted to reduce injuries by increasing the players' flexibilities. I rediscovered yoga about three years ago when I sought to supplement my cardio routine with strengthening exercises. In addition to the physical benefits (increased muscle tone and reduced back/neck pain), yoga became a great way to manage stress and decompress from the rigors of consulting.
CB: What style of yoga do you practice? Why did you choose it over other styles?
YL: I practice a mix of Power Vinyasa, Forrest, and Ashtanga yoga. I was particularly drawn to Forrest yoga because of its emphasis on relaxing the neck, a part of the body we unconsciously put a lot of stress on. Vinyasa creates a beautiful, flowing movement while Power/Ashtanga increase strength. Essentially, I wanted a yoga practice that not only increased flexibility and muscle tone, but one that would continue to challenge and push me.
CB: Is meditation a part of your practice? Would you say you practice yoga on and off the mat?
YL: The physical practice of yoga is meditation in movement because it allows you to clear your mind and focus on the breath. With that said, the physical asana and breath (pranayama) practice of yoga are only two of the eight limbs of yoga, with the remaining six devoted to moral/ethical and spiritual goals. Meditation is one of these limbs, while the other components are focused on our attitudes and behavior towards others and ourselves. In this sense, I actively try to practice yoga on and off the mat.
CB: How has yoga helped you deal with the rigors of B-school?
YL: Yoga has enabled me to escape from the stress of business school to focus on the bigger picture. The practice reminds me to relax, calm down, and come back to my breath, especially when dealing with the frustrations of recruiting. Slowing down and taking that step back reminds me that there are more important things outside of school and recruiting (shocking, I know).
CB: I love to break a sweat when I work out. A lot of people feel like yoga is too gentle and not as effective as running, for example. What would you say about that?
YL: I believe there is a type of yoga suitable for all workout needs. Some forms of yoga, such as Hatha or Yin yoga, are more gentle and restorative. The types of yoga I practice are rigorous, produce racing heartbeats, induce sweat, and can burn about 600 calories in a session, which is equivalent to jogging for an hour. If you haven't sweated in yoga, come try one of my classes!
CB: Tell us a little bit about the free yoga sessions you conduct at Booth. What level of familiarity should one have with yoga to attend these sessions?
YL: People always tell me they're interested in yoga but make up excuses for not trying it, usually stemming from intimidation or cost. Because I love yoga, I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to try it, so I started the classes as a risk-free way to practice yoga. People of all levels come to my class: many who have never tried yoga before and others who have been practicing for years. I break down the postures for beginners and offer deeper alternatives for more advanced students. My classes are a great way to try yoga if you have been interested, but were too intimidated by the thought of entering a yoga studio filled with women in spandex tights who can all touch their palms to the floor. It's a judgment-free zone where people come to try something new, sweat, and have fun with their classmates. There's always someone complaining about how hard the class is but they come back for more each week. I dare you to come give it a try!
Yoga sessions are held in Aqua (255 N. Columbus Drive – 2nd floor gym) on Sundays around 11AM. Join the Facebook group "Booth Yogis" for schedule updates.