Six hot yogis

We asked how regular practice changed six New Yorkers' bodies---and their lives.

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  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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  • Photograph: Zenith Richards

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Photograph: Zenith Richards

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Ralph Craig


21; student; Park Slope, Brooklyn

How did you become a yogi?
When I was 11, I was put into an ashtanga-based yoga class as a kind of funny punishment. I got really close with the teacher, and I just never stopped. I haven't missed a day since. I do Pilates occasionally, and I used to dance and do Gyrotonics, but yoga combines the fitness elements of all of those [activities].

What's your current practice like?
I do ashtanga yoga every morning, then I may also do an Iyengar class later. There are some days I'm not in the mood to go to the studio, so I'll do a home practice, which might consist of half an ashtanga series or a few poses and some chanting.

How has yoga affected your diet?
I've always eaten healthy, [though] I would be quick to define healthy. I was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and as such, I ate New Orleans cuisine. Contrary to reputation, [I ate] an extremely balanced diet and [the food was] always well prepared. Upon moving up north, my diet shifted to reflect the changed environment. [Since I started doing yoga,] I don't eat as frequently. I get up absurdly early in the morning—anywhere between 4:30am and 6:30am, and I don't eat until 11am or noon, because it's not recommended that you eat before yoga practice. I'll have a smoothie that I make home—usually banana or spirulina. I'm also a big devotee of soy yogurt.

What's the biggest payoff?
Ashtanga is a very vigorous form [of yoga], so my cardio rates are better than they've ever been. When you throw yourself into a handstand, your muscles are in a state of focus. It's almost like Olympic training. My abs and every part of my body are just really toned and taut from the experience of controlling muscles. But the best benefit of yoga is that it brings a kind of clarity to your mind. I'm a better student, a better boyfriend, a better employee.

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