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Struggling with injuries, Lauren Reese found healing — and business — in yoga
Lauren Reese, owner of Breathe Yoga Atlanta in south Forsyth, started the practice of yoga to help herself heal. Soon it became a passion she now passes on to others.

This article appears in the January issue of 400 Life.

Lauren Reese began her journey into yoga via an unlikely path. She had some injuries that would not heal, and her mother encouraged her to come along to a yoga class.

At first Lauren fought the impulse to do the “yoga thing.” Combined with her need to heal, she wanted to burn 1,000 calories in an hour. She did not see yoga as the means to achieve either. She was frustrated, yet she stuck with it.

After two or three sessions, something changed. To coin a yoga phrase, after “downregulating” her nervous system, Reese’s body began to feel better. She emerged from the process more mindful. She found that even her dietary choices changed without her intending them to. 

Thus, she no longer needed to burn 1,000 calories in an hour.

That epiphany motivated Reese to open her south Forsyth business, Breathe Yoga Atlanta in 2012 with her mother, Peggy Smith. Smith began yoga practice after a cancer diagnosis. Yoga helped settle Smith’s mind while she healed. Reese experienced the same benefit while recovering from her injuries. 

Reese never looked back. In fact, she stomped on the accelerator.

Prior to yoga, Lauren approached exercise as a healthful version of punishment. The very term “workout” suggests something one wants to end as quickly as possible. Yoga transformed Reese’s outlook, and it was a game changer. She grew to recognize that a session should be and is a reward for both the mind and body. Not to get too sappy, but Reese describes yoga to be about joy, love and kindness.

As a yoga practitioner, Lauren emphasizes the keyword, “practice.” Yoga is not something anyone ever masters. It is a process with many facets. She continually explores and discovers new ones. 

Though Reese stays busy instructing, she still practices her own yoga sessions when no one else is around. No two days are the same.

To the yoga beginner or veteran, Reese sees one key immediate benefit. Today people’s brains are oversaturated with stimuli. Life seems to be a nonstop effort to multitask. Yoga offers the opportunity to turn down the volume of thoughts racing through your mind. It enables you to focus on your body and mind.

“People take time out of their day to be here,” Reese said. “… Whatever is going on anywhere else can wait an hour.”

With each session, Reese encourages participants to focus on whatever they need that day. It may be diaphragmatic breathing, tissue therapy, self-massage or addressing a localized pain.

Reese smiles when a new visitor tells her they want a “yoga body.” She jokes, “It looks like you indeed have a body. Therefore, you already have a yoga body.” Consistent with that thinking, Reese states that yoga is for everybody and every body. There is no one body type that benefits more than another.

Even athletes in prime physical condition may resort to yoga only when injured. With increasing frequency, leading athletes now incorporate yoga into their regular fitness regimen. Enhanced blood flow, respiration and mobility benefit everyone, whether injured or healthy, athletic or … “other.”

Reese is reluctant to offer a Top 5 or Top 10 reasons to practice yoga. The reasons are virtually infinite, she says, and attempting to compose a quantified list would by necessity exclude a myriad of benefits not listed.

- By Peter Stoddard, for 400 Life