Yoga piqued Claire Diab’s interest when she was a child in the 1970s. Her mother had enrolled in a yoga class in a Bloomingdale’s at the Short Hills Mall near Claire’s hometown of Millburn, New Jersey. The instructor, Tillie Mia, was selling her book, Get In Touch With Yourself Through Yoga, and Claire’s mother purchased it.
Claire immediately became intrigued by the book cover, a picture of Tillie sitting gracefully in a yoga pose with a pleasant look on her face. Claire didn’t read the book initially, yet she always returned to it for another look at the cover. She said the cover was soothing because it reminded her of peace, which wasn’t always the case at her home.
In 1980 as Claire was packing to leave for college, her mother encouraged her to take the book with her. Claire reluctantly agreed, not liking the idea of adding another item to an already full suitcase.
In college, Claire began studying accounting and economics – and she was barely passing her classes. One day, while studying in her dorm room she looked up from her textbook at the yoga book on the shelf. She picked up the book and began reading it for the first time. She couldn’t put it down and read the entire book. Claire left school, moved to California and received a yoga certification. Almost immediately, she began creating her own style, including a chair yoga that she developed while taking care of her mother, who at that point, had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Claire later went back to school and received a bachelor’s degree in health education and a master’s degree in Asian studies.
Today, Claire, who learned yoga from mind-body healing pioneers Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon, has made seven yoga DVDs and written three books. She is also an inspirational speaker, a professor of Asian studies and founder of the American Yoga Academy in West Orange, New Jersey.
Claire, who has been practicing yoga for 32 years, has branded a yoga style called M.D. Yoga ® – “Modern Day Yoga for the Modern Day Yogi.” The style represents the melting pot of people and cultures today and teaches people how to live their yoga on and off the mat. Modern Day Yoga is for everyone. “It’s about what’s most comfortable and most nourishing for you,” Claire said.
When many people think of yoga, they think of complicated, often painful poses. Yoga is more than just physical, Claire said. It’s about the union of mind, body and spirit through breathing, meditation, relaxation and movement every day as part of a lifestyle. Movement might be a jog or a walk in the park. Relaxation might be taking a few deep breaths to calm down in a stressful situation.
Claire told the story of a recent trip she made to a client’s house. She anticipated about a 40-minute drive home and ended up getting lost. She had other commitments that day and instead was stuck in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. She felt the tension through her body as she started to get uptight. “That feeling only lasted for about five seconds. Then, I remembered to relax and take deep breaths,” she said.
The Yoga Lifestyle
Yoga is remembering to relax during life’s tense moments. It is being able to relax your jaw, unclench your teeth and keep your shoulders back and down. It means eating whole foods and eating with awareness. Yoga is cooking with colors and cooking and eating with the television turned off. Mealtime is a social gathering where you’re in union with others. Conversation is healthy and positive. When you are eating you should be totally focused on your food and using all of your senses.
Yoga means being completely present in your current task. If you’re on the phone, you’re completely engaged in the conversation with that person. You aren’t getting five other things done at the same time.
“Yoga is every day and every way in everything that you do,” Claire said. “Yoga doesn’t add years to your life. It adds life to your years.”
Today’s lifestyle of sitting at a desk all day, coming home, eating dinner and going to bed creates tension, stiffness and poor posture. Energy doesn’t flow freely when we are stagnant, Claire said.
Yoga and Mothers
Energy also doesn’t flow freely if you don’t nurture yourself. Mothers, for example, nurture their children yet they often forget to nurture themselves. As a mom you can reap tremendous benefits from yoga, even if it’s just once or twice a week and then doing 5-10 minutes of relaxation each day, Claire said.
When you live in union with your body, mind and spirit, you’re more loving and you’re more kind. When mothers learn how to live a life in union, they can teach that lifestyle to their children. “It’s the best choice not only for yourself but for those around you.” Claire offers private yoga sessions where she teaches a yoga lifestyle that includes three 10- to 20-minute routines based on your time. The first is an invigorating routine for the morning, the second a restorative routine for the evening and the third a therapeutic routine that you can do anytime. “You can do a lot in 10 minutes,” she said.
Yoga is about nourishing your body, mind and soul and being present in everything you do, she said. “When your body feels good, your mind feels good and when your mind feels good, your body feels good. Then your spirit shines so brightly through your eyes.” Claire Diab is the founder of the American Yoga Academy in West Orange, New Jersey. Visit www.clairediab.com to read more about Claire.
By Jessica Braun
Jessica is a writer and an editor at WholesomeOne. She can be reached at jessica.braun[at]wholesomeone[dot]com.