#MondayMotivation: Pizza With a Side of Namaste

So THAT'S why the pizza is so freakin' good at Emily. ZEN.

April 3, 2017 ● 2 min read

I started practicing yoga right before I got married.  

I was a college basketball player, so I was really fit during those years. But when I stopped playing and was in grad school, hanging out and drinking all the time, suddenly I was very overweight.  

My sister had just started practicing yoga at a place called Laughing Lotus in Chelsea with this wonderful woman, Joanne, who taught a gentle Level 1 class. My sister suggested I go, and I thought, This is a perfect way to get back into being healthy

The first class was really hard, but Joanne was this beacon of support. She made me feel so comfortable in that space that I decided to keep showing up — twice a week quickly became four times a week, and then when I was really unhappy working in the public school system, I made the decision to start yoga teacher training. I practiced with Joanne daily. I realized that I could do this as a career, so I left my job to pursue yoga full-time.  

Then, I opened my restaurant, Emily, with my husband, and it became really hard to balance that with maintaining my practice. When Emily opened, I was teaching nine yoga classes a week and seeing five private clients. I very quickly realized I could not do all of that and run a restaurant. I had to pare back significantly. 
Emily eventually settled into itself, and I was able to teach two classes a week again.  

Photograph via Jill Futter

Even though I have scaled back on my practice, I have found that as a business owner, knowing how to breathe has been instrumental for me. When I was running the door at Emily the first ten months, with lines out the door and a very small space, it was so important for me to focus on my breath. If someone was being entitled, I would just tell myself to breathe, and that was so helpful. We encourage all of our hosts to do the same now. That feeling of mindfulness is something that’s so important to our business — the idea of seeing our employees as people first and employees second.  

I am someone who is very high anxiety, and yoga has always had this ability to give me perspective and to create space in my body and my mind for other things that can be a more helpful priority than worry and stress. Yes, I am currently a body full of pizza; but at the peak of my yoga practice I was strong and flexible and healthy — it showed me how great a human body can feel.  

I’m still trying to figure out how to marry a consistent practice with running a restaurant. I am searching for nooks in my neighborhood in Brooklyn and trying to find teachers and classes I can show up for regularly. Yoga has been so important in my life. It puts you in touch with your physical, simple self — stripping away our lives and jobs and families and egos and helping us put our hands on our hearts and feel what it means to breathe in and breathe out. 

As told to Priya Krishna by Emily Hyland | Images via iStock