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Practice Makes Practice

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Executive: Christie Lewis, 37

Fitness passion: Yoga instructor. She earned her teaching certification in November.

Career: Founder and owner, Mission Matters Consulting and Coaching, Sarasota and Washington, D.C. Former vice president with the Community Foundation of Sarasota.

Personal growth: Lewis partially set out to achieve certification simply to challenge herself. “I'm always thinking about what's next for me,” she says. But she also wants to include it in her business. “My vision is to integrate health and wellness into my business,” she says. “That's what I love.”

Slow start: Lewis took her first yoga class 12 years ago at a gym. She was put off by the difficulty. “I thought I would never go back,” Lewis says. “I thought I would never get this.” Now it's her non-work passion, where she aims to take “yoga off the mat” and incorporate it into her life. Says Lewis: “It's the gift that keeps on giving.”

Yoga Yoda: Lewis's yoga instructor for the certification process was Michelle Roy-Braden, with Bhakti Healing in Sarasota. Roy-Braden was tough on Lewis at first. “She reprimanded me the first day,” says Lewis. “But I wanted to study with her. There was just something about her energy.”

Cost-risk analysis: Most yoga instructor classes, for all the sessions, cost between $2,200 and $3,000. Lewis's certification process was 10 months, one weekend a month, Friday nights through Sunday. Lewis says the cost, in money and time, was well worth it. “I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she says. “I would even pay more. It transformed me.”

Big benefits: Lewis says the certification process wasn't only good for her work, but it was helpful personally. For example, she embraced the popular yoga slogan, “Practice makes practice,” which focuses her on the process, not merely the result. “I always say yoga heals what ails you, whether it's mind or body,” says Lewis. “Yoga is all about going inward. It's the science of the mind.”

Training regimen: Lewis does some form of yoga every day, and she tries to attend classes at least three times a week. “When I'm standing and talking to someone,” she says, “I find I can't sit still, so I do small yoga moves.” She will even take 5-10 minutes to do a headstand, right next to her desk. “It's very grounding to be inverted,” says Lewis, “believe it or not.” Lewis also spends time gardening, kayaking and paddle boarding for exercise.

See food: In 2009 Lewis became a pescatarian, which is a vegetarian who eats fish. In 2010 she saw the documentary “Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead,” which led her to eat even healthier than she already was. She especially got into juicing, with ingredients like kale and spinach. “That made a huge difference with my energy level,” Lewis says.

Weakness: Lewis's willpower, otherwise strong, can crumble in the face of Hershey's chocolate-covered almonds. “Oh my God,” she says. “I can sit there and eat the whole bag. That's how sweet my indulgence is.”

Beginner's tips: Lewis says being nervous is part of the first-time yoga experience. “It takes courage to simply show up,” Lewis says. “As a beginner, be curious. There are things I learned after years of practice because a 'beginner' asked. Remember to always honor your limits and as we say in yoga, 'Don't forget to breathe ... it's just yoga.'”


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