An interview with Bri Isaacs, Owner/Founder of YogiBriii in the county of Orange, California where I grew up and think about everyday when the weather is either too cold or too humid in Washington, DC.I encourage everyone to look her up on Instagram (yogi_briii) or Twitter (@yogibriii – Bri Isaacs)
Before this interview, a little background on my experience with yoga. While I was at the Department of Health and Human Services running an employee wellness program, I was persuaded on taking a yoga class with a wonderful instructor named Mimi. That wasn’t my first yoga class in my life, but Mimi’s teaching style, attitude and energy fit well with me and I was hooked. So the general thought is that yoga is something only women do. I can assure you that is rapidly changing. In my own experience, I performed better at work and playing other sports. The physical and mental benefits of yoga make it my ideal workout. And as a guy who constantly tries to improve efficiency for time management purposes, yoga is a great fit. But I encourage anyone who hasn’t tried, give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised…
Now let’s get to Bri…
Me: How did you end up doing the work that you’re currently doing? What was your major in college and when was your first yoga class? Feel free to describe in a paragraph or more. I will edit as necessary for length and flow.
Bri: My journey with yoga began in 2013. I went to a class in the park became hooked! Yoga gave me strength, love, happiness, and cleared out the cobwebs in my heart, so-to-speak. When I realized how wonderful this practice is, I had no other option but to give it to others. I got my teaching certification and have been teaching about 3-6 times per week. Each class is a journey in itself. Also, I am currently a part-time student at Chapman University and I am a Sociology major.
Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?
Bri: Inspiration to me comes in many forms. In order to recognize how incredible life is and gain inspiration from all things, it takes some work, especially when things are hard. I’ve learned that to be inspired, one must watch. Instead of talking so much, analyzing, and over-thinking, (as most of us do) being the observer can really enlighten a human being. Watching the trees blow in the wind, noticing the colors of nature and the world around us, people watching and just simply being curious about humans, that’s all pretty inspiring when you watch. Nature would be my top inspiration. Nature is not told how to act or how to be, it just is, and always will be, authentic. It’s magical.
Me: What do you think it will take for our society to view health more seriously? As in, why is health lower in priority to careers and education and relationships?
Bri: Society is always looking for the next thing to thrive. Western society is very focused on material. A new health product, work out, etc., there will always be a next big thing. But I think when society realizes that the MEANING of life is to enjoy it, the next thing loses some value and the present moment becomes much more exciting. Health is viewed very interestingly in western culture. Medicine, disease, doctors, surgeries, physical trainers, health magazines, and health products, there are SO many different ways to go about health in the U.S. Aren’t you exhausted just thinking about all of that? If there were a simple, fun way to enjoy health exercise and food, people would be more inclined to take life slower and just enjoy these things. I feel that since there are so many options and gyms and workouts and classes, it’s overwhelming to the public. We don’t really know what to choose. So the easy way out is a very common, “let’s get dinner” or “wanna get a drink later?” It instantly takes all of the pressure off of a person when they engage in other things with someone else.
Me: There are many studies on yoga’s effects on both the body and mind…what does it do for you personally? What changes have you seen in your students?
Bri: I have had a short history with depression. When I moved back to Orange County, California from Colorado, I was in pretty bad shape mentally, physically, and emotionally. I just felt hopeless, sad, bored, and conflicted constantly. Yoga slows down my mind. It allows me to relax, to take things as they come, and to not be so hard on myself. Mentally, yoga is a soothing, comforting pillow of consciousness. It is the portal through which my mind and body connect and flow in a synchronized, rhythmic, melody.
Everyone is different in their yoga practice. Changes vary from student to student. The first thing I will notice in my students as they come more often, is their flexibility. I am always watching their flexibility change throughout their class and throughout the weeks. Within one class from beginning to end there is a HUGE difference in most students.
Mentally, my students have told me of many instances where they’ve chosen to breathe in life-situations as they would in yoga.
Me: What are the current needs in Orange County, as they relate to social determinants of health (e.g. SES, poverty, access to care, transportation, safety, etc.). Social determinants of health are any factors that directly or indirectly affect health. For example, being homeless could cause stress and malnutrition which could drastically affect one’s health.
Bri: The most common thought process in Orange County is that everyone is made of money. This is just not true. I believe that community is a large part of Orange County. We have so much that we CAN do in our communities. This means providing pro bono services, giving back, providing local boot camps, yoga classes, etc. We are VERY lucky to have so many parks in our area. Sometimes it takes one person to have an idea and that can make all the difference.
The most detrimental social determinant of health is FOOD! Whole Foods is a beautiful organization with a vast array of organic products. FOOD IS MEDICINE. What we eat determines our health. In OC there’s a lot of hype on the latest and greatest fitness classes and diet pills and even plastic surgery. What ever happened to eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day? What happened to home cooked meals? Being busy is a good excuse, but unfortunately that excuse results is an inevitable consequence of poor health resulting in long-term bodily damage. If we really want to look at the problem, we should start with the fuel to our lives: FOOD.
I’m very grateful to Bri for her time and allowing me to understand things from her perspective. She touched on a handful of key points that really illustrate what this blog is all about – health is complex and it has to be viewed in an integrated, holistic context. Bri understands the main principles of health and is leading by example and I’m confident she’ll continue to affect change in my home county of Orange, in sunny Southern California.