|Beth Shaw, Yogafit inventor (Fotolia) |
If Beth Shaw ever had any doubt about her life’s purpose, it was erased one fateful day about two decades ago.
As the Los Angeles-based yoga guru poignantly recalls, she was stretching at the time in what was known as her college’s stretching room.
“There were some bars against the wall and such. I had one leg up on a bar, doing like a standing forward fold, and it’s almost like the sky parted and the white light came to me and the message from the universe was: ‘You are going to be very successful in the health and wellness industry,’” she tells Keeping Fit during a promotional stop in Toronto.
Whether or not you agree with Shaw’s new-agey interpretation of what happened that day, there’s no denying that she has carved out more than just her own little niche in the overcrowded world of yoga experts.
The lifelong yoga practitioner, now in her “early 40s,” is the president of YogaFit, a unique style of “yoga for the fitness industry” that melds fitness moves with traditional yoga postures in a flowing format.
Shaw founded the company in 1994 after earning several yoga certifications and realizing that they didn’t meet the needs of fitness enthusiasts.
Besides being “fitness-oriented,” YogaFit was designed to be a “safe, effective and accessible style of yoga for the masses,” Shaw notes.
Its “user-friendly” appeal means Sanskrit names of postures have been nixed and there’s no ohm-ing or chanting.
Instead, there’s more focus on safety, which revolves around YogaFit’s seven principles of alignment.
“Safety principles of alignment make sure everybody is properly aligned in each pose,” Shaw explains. “And then the essence of YogaFit is breathing, feeling, letting go of judgment, expectation and competition, listening to the body and going at your own pace. And that’s something that’s repeated over and over in class so people have a successful experience regardless of their yoga or fitness level.
“We focus on also offering three different options or modifications on each pose so that people can choose the one that’s appropriate for them and not injure themselves by pushing themselves too far.”
The global brand, which includes YogaFit Canada headquartered in Toronto, features a certification program that’s billed as the largest in the world. At last count, more than 200,000 YogaFit instructors had been certified worldwide.
Shaw was in Toronto late last month to lead a YogaFit class at a Yonge Street GoodLife Fitness. Among those invited to participate in the special class were police officers, firefighters and a former U.S. marine.
“It went great. Actually, a lot of the guys who were in the class had never done yoga before,” she says, noting the idea behind the event was to show that anybody can do the YogaFit style of yoga and experience immediate benefits such as a calmer mind along with tension relief throughout the body.
For Shaw, a native of New York City, it’s all about maintaining equilibrium in her life.
“I’m a triple Type A (personality) and yoga has really helped balance me,” she says. “Yoga has also been kind of the gateway to opening up new doors of transformation and possibility within myself, as well as adopting a regular meditation practice and living a healthier, more balanced life. Also giving me the opportunity to really learn to listen to my body so I know what foods to put in my body for optimal health and what things to stay away from. It’s opened me up as a person, so that really if it’s something that’s related to health and wellness, I’ll pretty much try anything if I think it’s going to work.”
Fortunately for Shaw, she’s been practising yoga for as long as she can remember.
“I started doing yoga as a child and I actually didn’t know that I was doing yoga at the time,” she recalls. “I would do inversions and things of that nature. I also suffered from horrible migraine headaches as a child, so I actually taught myself to do creative visualization and meditation so I could rid myself of the migraines.”
These days, Shaw does some form of yoga daily, works out at a gym up to six times a week (including a couple weight-training sessions) and typically meditates twice a day.
“I’m passionate about fitness and health, like incredibly passionate about it,” she enthuses. “I absolutely love, love, love fitness.”
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