Brianna Toole
Brianna Toole
Tell us a little bit about yourself :)

Me in a nutshell, I have always had a hard time with that. I am 26 years old, I am from Middle Tennessee. I have always had an active lifestyle. I started playing softball when I was 4 years old and kept with that until I was 16. After that I remained active on my own with weight lifting or hiking or other outdoor activities. It wasn't until I was in my early 20's and after college that I got into yoga.

How did you get introduced to yoga?

When I was 23 I decided I wanted to run in a half marathon so I trained intensely for roughly 4 months and ran my 13.1 miles. I was very pleased with my finish time of 2:45 since it was my first and I have never truly been a runner. My body, however, did not like the running. My knees, feet, hips, and back hurt so much! I decided I wanted to try yoga because I knew it was gentle on the body and thought my body needed a bit of stretching. I started with the 30 day One Bad Yogi online challenge on you tube.

The videos were 15-30 minutes long and were perfect for beginners. After the 30 days were up I wanted more yoga, so I started looking for other free videos and found the doyouyoga website which had a ton to choose from! I kept my practice at home for the first year and a half of my journey. I downloaded apps and various workouts online so that I could have a semi-regular practice at home. I was practicing yoga about 2-3 times a week and weight lifting 2-3 times a week. Since weight lifting had always been part of my life style I really felt that it balanced with my yoga practice, but the more I practiced yoga the less I concentrated on weight lifting.

When did yoga get “serious”?

I would have to say that yoga was an obsession from the beginning, I just didn't realize it. After I had been practicing at home for about a month, I looked at my husband and told him I wanted to teach this. I still kept my practice at home for the next 18 months, slowly increasing my video lengths from 15-20 minutes to 30-45 then finally to an hour. I started doing yoga 4-5 times a week on top of weight lifting 2-3 times a week, however the level of importance had definitely changed. I had found the yoga community on Instagram and became consumed by it. So many beautiful souls coming together to encourage and support one another was just so amazing! I started doing the challenges and meeting new people and finding new styles of yoga, everything about the community was intoxicating! Once I had fallen in love with the digital community I knew that I had to join the real-life yoga community. In January of 2016 I joined my first yoga studio and began to take as many classes as I could in a week.

I usually was able to get in 3-4 studio classes in a week and maintained my at home practice. Joining the studio opened my eyes to hot yoga which definitely took some getting used to! But after about a month I was addicted to the sweat!The studio that I joined was just as welcoming and supportive as the digital community in which I had fallen in love with. I quickly made friends with yogis in my classes and began to form relationships with the teachers. With the dream of teaching yoga still in mind I finally started searching for a program. The studio that I belong to offered a 200 hour program in the spring, so March 2017 I began my YTT200 journey and will complete by July of 2017.

Brianna Toole
Brianna Toole
Can you share your biggest challenges ?

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced was how inflexible I was when I started. I could barely touch my toes! I was looking at pictures and watching videos of yogis throwing their leg effortlessly behind their head and though "dear Lord I will never to that!". I still cannot do that but my flexibility has come such a long way! Persistence was the biggest thing that kept me going. I kept telling myself "this is where I am today, and that is okay". I still tell myself that.

I have learned not to judge my own practice but to accept where I am and continue to practice vigorously. The thing with yoga is that there is never an "end goal" I set small goals and strive for them, and sometimes by the time I reach the one goal I've already set a goal past that. Its a matter of growth and expansion for me, not necessarily accomplishments.

How do you handle pressure?

I do not experience a lot of pressure, but I do feel some pressure - mainly from myself. I do not technically feel a pressure to perform, more of a pressure to be in better shape. I have never had 6-pack abs or overly sculpted muscles. So when I watch yogis who have perfect flows and a core that was craft by the heavens, I start to doubt my practice and my body and tell myself that I should be better. Some days I handle this better than others, I remind myself that its okay to be where I am, that I am strong and getting stronger every day. Other days I might get emotional over it, and again I have to remind myself that it's okay.

Can you share your thoughts on self consciousness?

I have a history of being very self conscious and I have always struggled with my appearance. Sometimes I get nervous posting flow videos because flows tend to accept areas of my stomach that I dislike, folds and creases and that sort. When I first started posting my journey, I NEVER posted flows! and I always tried to cover as much of myself as possible. Over time I began to see the strong changes in my body and wanted to show the world so I began to post more flows and posted photos wearing fitted clothes or with my stomach showing because that is where my strength was coming from. I have learned that I am not alone on this journey, that there are others just like me out there and I think that has helped me overcome my self consciousness the most.

What was your most embarrassing moment (in regards to your yoga of course ;)

My most embarrassing moment had to be while practicing my handstands not too long ago. I was forward facing the wall and my couch was in close proximity. When I fell out of my handstand my foot when rogue and nailed the corner of my couch so hard that I thought I broke it. And since I was distracted from hitting the couch my other foot slipped on the floor and my entire body fell to the ground and I just kind of laid on the floor not really sure of what had happened. Luckily I did not break my foot, just bruised it a bit.

Brianna Toole
Brianna Toole
How did yoga influence your life in other ways?

My passion in yoga influenced all aspects of my life. I began noticing that I was calmer and didn't over react to certain things. I was able to breathe through frustration where I would have yelled in the past. The more I practiced the better I wanted to eat. I stopped wanting to grab food out or something quick because I wanted to keep my body feeling as good as I could.

I started cooking at home a lot more! After a few weeks of this I noticed that my confidence levels were increasing and my friends and family could see it too. I still would allow myself to have a few drinks during the weekend, the only time that I was ever "too strict" was when an event happened during the week and it was something that I wanted to do but would allow myself to because it would be eating out or drinking during the week. I have since changed that mentality. Now I just take things in moderation.

What does your daily routine look like ?

I am a very routine person! A normal day for me involves getting up around 5:30 to get ready for work. I have a 8:00-5:00 job where I sit a computer desk. After work I typically come back home and get ready for either a yoga class or my personal practice. If I go to a yoga class, which starts at 7:00 and goes till 8:00, I prep dinner before hand - if I practice at home I am usually practicing by 6:00 and finish by 7:00. Either way, after yoga I cook dinner for my husband and me and we relax together for the remainder of the evening. We usually go to bed around 10:00

And what about your flexibility training ? Where does that fit in ?

Yoga in itself is flexibility training. But as I deepen my practice I find that more restorative postures help lengthen my flexibility more than the power classes I take so often. To be able to fit strengthening aspects and flexibility aspects into my practice I tend to alternate the style that I practice. If I take a power class one night or practice a vigorous Vinyasa at home, I might take a restorative class the next night. For me its all about finding the right balance.

What keeps you motivated?

To stay motivated I suppose I look at things long term, I ask myself how did it take for me to get here, and where do I want to be? I am also motivated by the yoga communities, digital and real life, I have a friend who just completed her 200 hour YTT and is about to start a 300 hour program! She is a total inspiration! I also have key Instagram account that I consider total #GOALS like @thesouthernyogi, @casacolibri, @erinkellyart, @jessicaolie and a few others. I truly think that anyone who is willing to put their practice out on a public forum is an inspiration!

Brianna Toole
What are your future plans/goals/dreams?

My future plan, as I mentioned earlier, is to earn my YTT200 and begin teaching yoga. I have never been so passionate about something in my entire life and when I am able to share my love for yoga with others it literally puts the biggest smile on my face. I have been lucky enough to student teach in a few classes so far and the feeling I get from just 15 minutes is purely euphoric! For me, there is something about sharing my practice that is so pure. I literally feel like I am offering up part of my heart for people to take freely.

Any tips for passionate people starting out yoga?

The main tip I would offer to anyone wanting to start a yoga practice would be not to quit. It is very easy to get overwhelmed when you walk in to your first yoga class and you feel like everyone is so much more advanced than you, this is not the case! Each person there started exactly where you are.

The most wonderful thing about the yoga community is that the people in it will always try to build you up. The most important aspect to focus on, I think, would be to simply appreciate your practice. Yoga is a full body workout and after an hour long class you should not be reviewing what you could do better on, you should be focusing on how strong your body must be to do what you just did.

I would not change a thing about the way I started my journey. Yoga came to me exactly when I needed it to and the way that I needed it to. I think had it been different then my journey would have been different.

Anything else?

I would just like to add that no two bodies are the same. I have been practicing for close to 3 years and still have a very long way to go. There are others that have been practice for the same amount of time or even less in some cases and their practice is entirely different. It is very important not to judge yourself against others. Again, just accepting where you are and being happy with your practice is all you can do.

Anything you’d like to share?

Instagram - @smalltownyogini