Unfolding the Benefits of Yoga with Long Life Yoga Founder, Danielle Byrd
Practicing yoga is a great way to develop physical and mental resilience. Yoga helps to strengthen both mind and body in efforts to establish harmony between the two. Individuals began practicing yoga over 5,000 years ago in India. Overtime, yoga has migrated into many different regions and cultures, allowing people from many backgrounds to reap its benefits. I recently sat down with Danielle Byrd, Founder of Long Life Yoga, to discuss her personal experience with yoga and her mission as a yoga teacher.
Can you share what inspired you to create Long Life Yoga?
Danielle: I really want to share yoga with others. I love what yoga did for me. I love the person who introduced me to yoga. Her name was Bobbie and she introduced me to the practice. She had a private practice in Silver Creek, NY. My sisters and I went there. Bobbie’s vibe was amazing. She was funny, witty, and at peace. She looked great too! She would just randomly say, “now fold over,” and she would fold over smoother than me. She is the goal for me. She would talk to you from that folded position too. She was in her 80s doing that! That blew me away. Unfortunately, she is no longer with us, but she lived to be 93 and she practiced yoga her whole life. She is why I call my practice Long Life Yoga. Yoga has long-term benefits. When you are young you are flexible and can pretty much do anything. If you do not do it, you lose it. Yoga is a way to maintain flexibility. You can physically see the demise of people. They slowly get shorter and more curved. I don’t want that. The yoga we do has so many spinal shifts. I have a 405-degree view. I can turn my torso, my neck, and then my head. I do not want to lose that.
What inspired you to create Long Life Tea?
Danielle: I one hundred percent give credit to my husband. He was listening to NPR and they were interviewing the author of The Prime. In the book she talks about the differences between Eastern and Ayurvedic Medicine. Jimmy [my husband] has always been into living a healthy lifestyle. I attribute my health and my diet to him. The Long Life tea comes from concepts and the herbs discussed in The Prime. The book highlights how she transitions patients’ treatment plans from pills and surgeries to herbs. She saw how the herbs were reversing multiple disease states like memory loss, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. My husband and I have been drinking the tea for 5 years now. One day we thought to ourselves, “Let’s turn it into a business.” The tea has been a great compliment to yoga because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is the root cause of illnesses. The manifestation of that inflammation is based on an individual’s composition. The number one complaint when doing yoga is joint pain. The reality is that the pain will get better through practice if there is a cushion, and that person eats a nutritious diet. The inflammation will be reduced eventually.
What are the mental and physical benefits of practicing yoga?
Danielle: The first benefit I think of is flexibility. Keeping and increasing flexibility. Another benefit is strength. Most people think yoga it is all about stretching, but it really helps to build full body strength. When most people think about building strength, they think about incorporating props at the gym right away. Weights, machines, and treadmills are all examples of props. Yoga starts with just yourself. Your mat is the only prop, and you are not really engaging with it. Your mat is there for spacing, your connection to the earth, and your grip ability. You are moving yourself first. The chances of injury are lower when there are less props. In yoga, you add props as you continue your practice. You start with a mat, then you add a block, then a strap, and then a ball. The last prop you add is weights. This is very different from most exercises where you start with weights, which makes it easier to injure yourself. Yoga is gentle yet strengthening. I like that part.
The mental benefits come from the balancing poses. Examples of balancing yoga poses includes tree pose, warrior three, or any warrior pose for that matter. Balancing requires a lot of mental focus. Your mind must create a focal point. In a world where we have to multitask so often, it is nice to think of one focal point and be still. If you do not do this, you will crumble. Successful people can hone in on one thing. Meditation and quieting the mind is also important since we live in such a noisy society where it can be uncomfortable to be quiet. We find we get messages when we are silent. That shocks people! Quieting the mind also leads to more creativity. The chakras are a topic I am excited to share during my practices. Breathing techniques are another topic I enjoy teaching too. After I teach the chakras, I want to teach the Gunas, which is the philosophy that discusses how to analyze our personal reality. Yoga helps us learn about mental intelligence.
You talk about balancing the chakras during your yoga classes. What benefits can individuals experience by balancing their chakras through yoga?
Danielle: Your chakras are energy. Many people are not fully aware of what each chakra does. I focus on educating people about how balanced chakras should feel. The chakras impact the way we feel physically and emotionally. When we get angry, everything tightens. Angry old men hunch because they are angry. The way you feel on the inside dictates your physical appearance. I encourage everyone to start with a full body scan. Focus on how you feel emotionally first and then scan your body to see how that feels. Your emotions can impact your physicality but doing something physical can also affect your emotions. Each chakra has different poses that help to bring balance to your physical and emotional being.
How has yoga impacted your life?
Danielle: It helped me through the pandemic. I have always loved yoga. I take my New Year’s resolutions very seriously. I create a dream board in December and then when January 1st comes around, I hit the ground running. For years I had yoga on my board, and I would tell myself, “One day I am going to go to the mountain tops and practice yoga.” Year after year I did not pursue that goal. Before yoga, my focus was on real estate. During the pandemic, the real estate industry became so stressful. My focus was on money and not on what my spirit truly wanted. I am an emotional person. Real estate is aggressive. It does not fit with my vibe. I would feel sad and lonely during the pandemic. Yoga saved my life. I would place my mat on the floor, practice yoga, and instantly feel better. This past year I was also pregnant, and I struggled postpartum. I would stand up and then my uterus would stand up. That was not normal. I decided to dive into post-natal yoga and pelvic floor strengthening. Yoga helped me get through a low in my life and that is what I want to do for others. I want to give others a safe space.
What advice do you have for individuals contemplating beginning their yoga journey?
Danielle: Have an open mind. That is it. There are a lot of stereotypes about yoga. As I am marketing and advertising for my services, I am coming across more of them. People think it is in for quirky people. People will say yoga is too slow. There are so many styles of yoga. I teach Vinyasa, which is a slower pace than other practices. There is power yoga, which is much faster and more intense than Vinyasa. Another stigma I came across is that men feel like they will not get any benefits from yoga. Yoga used to only be for men until the 1930s or 40s when women spoke up about wanting to practice. Men thought it would be too enlightening for women to practice yoga at that time. Yoga did not become mainstream for women until American women protested. Now it seems like the very opposite. If you are thinking about starting yoga, find what fits for you. I want to help people holistically. I used to flip houses, now I want to help people make sustainable lifestyle changes.
Where can people find you and your services?
Danielle: You can find me on Instagram (@long_lifeyoga) and Facebook (@Long Life Yoga). I offer Saturday classes at Gloria J. Parks Community Center. I also teach classes Wednesday in Niagara Falls at 6 pm. In addition to those classes, I also teach kids yoga classes, classes with a cheerleading club, Mom and Baby yoga, and couples’ yoga. The kid’s yoga, mom and baby classes, and couples’ yoga changes location. One of my favorite classes is couples’ yoga. The surprising thing to me is that the men want to come back. It is a super bonding class where couples are able to connect deeply.
On April 28th from 4-10 PM, I will be hosting my first Spring Retreat! Please come and register on Eventbrite. I will provide everything. We will practice yoga, journaling, and end the evening with a lantern walk.
I am open to meeting you where you are at as well if needed, so please feel free to message me on social media for more personalized inquiries!