This Yoga Life

One woman and her practice

Deal with your stress. Ali Sacach-Johnson, 36, says that’s one of the best pieces of advice she has ever been given. It led her to discover yoga. An expert skier and a brand-marketing manager for Salomon, Sacash-Johnson lives with her husband, Steve, in Portland, Oregon. Here’s how her practice shapes and changes her everyday life.

How she got started 
We were coming off a particularly hectic winter, including a 6-week stint at the 2002 Olympics. I was pretty new in my job, and all the things that happen when you’re new—lots of stress, both personal and professional—really got to me. My boss telling me to find stress relief was one of the best pieces of advice I ever received. My first Ashtanga class was cathartic. My muscles were quaking in some of the poses, and I couldn’t complete many of them, which gave me something to work toward. And although I now know how important it is to focus inward, I was completely inspired by the amazingly fit bodies practicing around me.

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When she knew she was hooked
Last year I was hiking with my husband in Tasmania for our honeymoon, and all of a sudden I felt a little empty. I started to almost mourn not going to my Ashtanga classes. When I got back, I started going religiously and started practicing nearly every day.

Her yoga life
I have a theory that different types of yoga work for different types of people. As a former competitive gymnast, I found that Ashtanga’s mix of strength and flexibility was a lot like my gymnastics background. Most important, yoga has simplified my life. I used to concoct crazy workout schedules to get in my strength, cardio, and flexibility. Inevitably, I would let myself down by not accomplishing the half of it. By doing Ashtanga four or five times a week, I hit all three core aspects of fitness, plus got the benefits of meditation.

Her attitude adjustment
The way that yoga has taught me to work methodically on a difficult pose also provides the skills to attack a sketchy slope. If you just hurl yourself at it, chances are good that you might get hurt. But if I breathe and focus on what specific muscles are doing, I begin to deconstruct what is going on. That enables me to have more control, which makes me more confident to go for ski runs that I might not otherwise attempt.

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Her words of wisdom
We all have wants. Wanting to weigh 5 pounds less. Wanting a new car. I think that right now my practice is helping me really take stock and really cherish and enjoy what I have. That’s the great thing about yoga. When you first start, it’s all about the poses and the stretching and the physical stuff, but then it deepens. Now it affects me in a much deeper way, and it has spread through my life.

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