woman doing yoga outside

Why Combining Coffee and Yoga Saved My Life

I am a yoga teacher, academic and a mom to three teenage daughters, based in Vancouver, Canada. During most of my waking hours, I promote and practice wellness – it is my passion above all others.

Yoga Saved My Life

When my daughters were small (I had three under five years old) my personal yoga practice ground to a halt. There simply was never a time when I could be alone on my mat for an hour. I felt scattered, flustered, and utterly unwell. Previously healthy, I developed massive and explainable physical ailments: asthma, paralyzing digestive issues and allergies, amongst others. And despite all the help I looked for, health professionals couldn’t fix me.

One morning, in a gesture of desperation, I unrolled my yoga mat on the kitchen floor, determined to do as much of my practice as I could fit in while I enjoyed my morning cup of coffee. (THAT particular habit I always made time for!). It took about seven minutes to close my eyes, deepen my breath, drink a cup and practice some seated postures.

yoga saved my life

I felt instantly better. Right then I resolved to make this a daily ritual and eventually named my healthy habit Java Yoga.

That was fifteen years ago, and I still practice Java Yoga every single day, even on the days I teach, or hike, or run, or do any sort of exercise. It grounds me, sets up my day for success and ensures that I always get some mindful movement in my life, no matter what surprises the day has in store for me. And yes, all of my debilitating health issues have since disappeared. I’m almost 50, and I feel younger and better than I did at 30.

Along with me and my children, Java Yoga has changed and grown. It certainly wasn’t effortless, with spilled coffee cups and happy accidents along the way – three toddlers climbing all over me made for interesting adaptations and variations!  Now they are independent teenage girls, and I have more time to focus on the other things I love; I teach weekly public classes, run Java Yoga retreats, instruct yoga teachers, and research and write on the process of teaching and learning at the University of British Columbia. But what has remained constant is my morning practice, which now includes a breath and meditation component. The original concept still rests on the same foundation: linking a healthy habit we want to adopt with a pleasurable habit we already enjoy.

I get the question all the time: “Why coffee and yoga, together?”.

To many, the caffeinated beverage seems at odds with the ancient exercise tradition. “Yoga calms me down”, they say, “And coffee winds me up”. However, I think it’s a lot more complicated and interesting than that. First of all, the actual contents of the cup are irrelevant; occasionally I practice with bone broth in my mug, or tea, or hot chocolate.

yoga saved my life

What is important with Java Yoga and coffee is the element of ritual. 

Routines in general, and morning routines in particular, are soothing and impactful over the course of a lifetime. When I add a few minutes of mindful movement into that ritual, all sorts of good things happen to the body, mind and soul. I am more alert, peaceful and creative. All the systems of my body work better. I am a more effective problem-solver and a better parent.

In the back of my mind was a little voice telling me this is an idea that could also significantly improve other people’s lives, especially considering the millions of people around the world who drink coffee everyday. I had passed along my daily yoga and coffee habit to several students and friends and had received great feedback, particularly from those too busy to get to a yoga studio or gym on a regular basis but I challenged myself to think beyond word of mouth.

Three years ago I was having coffee with my friend and local filmmaker, Arun Fryer, and I mentioned Java Yoga to him. His imagination was immediately captured by the simplicity of the concept. He loves coffee, he knows he should practice yoga, and he loved the idea of bringing together two rituals that traditionally clashed with each other. He saw how they could peacefully and symbiotically coexist, and we agreed to collaborate on a series of Java Yoga instructional videos, with our first video premiering on June 21, 2016, International Day of Yoga, and can be found at javayoga.ca

yoga saved my life

We decided the videos would be free of charge, with the goal of creating a community of people who incorporate healthy habits into their everyday lives, regardless of age, income or social standing. The fact that Java Yoga is gentle, predominantly seated and home-based makes it appropriate for those who feel they can’t get to, or are intimidated by, a conventional studio class. As we develop and prepare to release further routines, it becomes more and more obvious to me:

the ritual of a daily yoga practice has enormous benefits for a wide spectrum of the population, and introducing a new healthy habit is easier than we realize.

If you’ve ever wanted to shake up your mornings and begin your day with the benefits of mindful movement, I invite you to join me and try a week of Java Yoga. It saved my life, and might even do the same for you.

Image credit: unsplash