#FitGirlMagic: Kandace Stewart
Finding balance in life is a true gift.
In fact, it is truly an art to master.
This month’s #FitGrilMagic star seems to have tapped into exactly what gives her balance and helps her makes a lasting impact through the practice of yoga. Kandace Stewart is a Business Operations & External Affairs Manager with the Memphis Grizzlies. She is a former dancer who found herself still needing to move her body after graduating from college and entering the real world. That need for movement led her to becoming a certified yoga instructor who has put her own spin on her practice. Check out her story below!
When did you fall in love with fitness? How did you fall in love with yoga?
I fell in love with movement when I was a little girl. My Godmother started taking me to classical ballet classes at 6. Then I moved through the world of dance: Tap, jazz, African, modern, cheer, pom, hip hop…you name it and I’ve taken a class. I danced some through college on Memphis Pom and the Tennessee Oilers then my love for movement turned to stepping when I joined my sorority, Delta Sigma Theta.
I fell in love with yoga after I graduated from law school and I realized that I hadn’t been moving much. I was sitting at a desk all day and my work days were long and stressful, so I convinced a friend to sign up for an introductory 30-day unlimited trial at a studio with me and I’ve been in and out of yoga classes ever since.
What motivates you most to live a healthy lifestyle?
Honestly, just being in tune with my body motivates me to live a healthy lifestyle. I know how much my weight, my mood, my energy and so many other things are tied to what I eat and how I treat myself, so I pay attention to everything I consume. Food, television, music, social media and anything else that I come into contact with must be digested. I try to make sure that I’m selective and think about those things. After my yoga teacher training I went through an Ayurveda yoga specialist training that helped me learn so much more about my health and I incorporate a lot of Ayurveda practices in my personal lifestyle and yoga classes.
What mission do you promote for women in fitness?
Happiness. I like to approach fitness so that women are working out because they want to do something good for themselves that makes them happy. Not because they hate their body or they want to look like someone else, but because they love their body and want the best for it. That doesn’t mean it should be easy, or that you always want to do it, but when you finish you should feel good about yourself and be happy.
What piece of fitness advice do you find yourself repeating to your clients?
At the end of every class, I remind my students to send some gratitude to their body for the hard work it has done. We do so much to our body, and everyone doesn’t have the ability to practice yoga so we should take care of it and thank it for taking care of us.
You teach a Hip Hop Yoga class in Memphis. Why was it important for you to marry hip hop music with your yoga practice?
Growing up in dance I was exposed to all kinds of music so I can listen to almost anything but old school hip hop and r&b are easily the soundtrack to my life. As I started thinking of ways to introduce the practice to more people, I thought maybe hip hop would help make it feel natural to them as well. I suggested a Hip Hop yoga workshop to Libby Campo, owner of Your Inner Yogi. She liked the idea and has been encouraging. It has honestly been an amazing response with people figuring out that they like the practice so much that they want to introduce it to their friends.
You also teach yoga to student through the local Shelby County school district. What has that experience been like?
Yoga can be so beneficial in the obvious physical ways, but more importantly for kids there are lots of mental benefits. I constantly see articles about schools in different places using yoga and meditation for conflict resolution, anger and self-control and hope that more start to try it.
I have watched some children go from restless and uninterested to centered and more focused in 30 minutes on a yoga mat. That is rewarding. Knowing that I’m planting a seed that will one day result in even one of those kids deciding to learn more about yoga and developing a practice at a young age is rewarding.
I realize that for a lot of the kids that I teach I am part of the representation that they need to see so I try to set time aside to teach kids regularly.
If you are in the Memphis area, you can catch Kandace’s Hip Hop Yoga class on Sunday, December 9 at 2:30 p.m. at Your Inner Yoga. She will also be helping kick off the new year with a Yoga and Visualization class on December 30.