Cara Gilman is a staple of the Boston yoga and running scene. She’s taken her love of both practices and created an Original series where each activity complements the other. She’s also leading an upcoming Yoga and Running retreat to help you become a stronger runner while getting deeper into your yoga practice.
Not a marathoner or yogi quite yet? Not to worry – neither was Cara. She told us all about the path she’s taken to becoming a premier yoga instructor (and lululemon athletica and FitBit ambassador).
Spoiler alert: You have more in common with her than you think.
Tell us about your background.
I started off absolutely hating running. I wasn’t ever a natural yogi. They both came to me later in life – when I needed them. I played soccer and basketball growing up and I was always one of the slowest people on the team. Sports were great in regards to friendships and having a great time, but I felt like I was constantly competing against myself.
How did your thought process shift from team sports to yoga and running?
In college I started to work out and develop a routine on my own. I gained more confidence in myself and I realized it was no longer solely a competition – I always felt like there was an internal and external competition on the soccer field and basketball court.
Running is such a beautiful thing. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far I run; it’s a connection and time I have with myself. I ended up getting really into a running practice and by senior year of college, I had run my first marathon.
Looking back, running was really my meditation. It was something that I always had for myself – time to think and reflect.
What was it about the marathon that made you want to go for it?
Growing up, running more than two miles was so, so hard and felt impossible. As I got stronger, I ran a ten-miler and then different race distances. I wanted to go after this big goal and something that felt unachievable only five years before. I felt strong, and I was ready for it. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2005, and completing the training and crossing that finish line completely changed my life.
Having a structure to work towards a goal, knowing that you don’t have total control, and putting yourself out there – you face fear head on and by doing that you open yourself up completely. When I crossed the finish line that day, I knew that whatever I put my mind to I could absolutely do.
When did yoga come into your life?
I ran seven marathons in five years. That sounds like a lot, right? It was such a powerful part of my life and my release. Ultimately, I burned myself out and started getting injured.
I needed a change mentally, too. I finally started to get into yoga and I found a class and a teacher, Brenda Meeds
. She totally changed my life. Her yoga class became exactly how I felt when I was running – it was a way of moving, releasing stress, finding clarity and connection, and feeling more grounded.
Were there other teachers you drew inspiration from?
When I moved to Boston, I found Chanel Luck
and Bonnie Argo
, and shortly after that I decided to get into teacher training. I didn’t know where it would lead or go, but it felt right.
You kept your full-time job and started teaching. What was that like?
I worked in financial services, and I knew I wanted to try teaching at least one class a week. I thought of it as a little challenge on the side. I thought I would just try it out.
I picked up that single class and I loved it so, so much. I loved sharing this practice that changed my life with other people. I fed off of people’s energy. I was introduced to Lynne Begier at Back Bay Yoga (now YogaWorks Back Bay
). I started to assist her classes and pick up more of my own. Then, I was teaching eight yoga classes a week… and also some spin!
What was the tipping point to make you go full-time into teaching?
Teaching yoga became something that I loved so much that I knew it had to become my sole focus, and in order to pursue this passion, I had to leave my corporate job and make time, space and energy for it. To make it work, I first found a part-time job with flexibility so I could pick up more classes and I wouldn’t have to worry so much about the financial side of things. After a year, I became a full-time teacher with a full schedule working with clients, and eventually I added workshops, retreats and teacher trainings.
You have a huge following – why do you think people relate to you so closely?
Because I love the practices of running and yoga as much as they do. These practices have changed my life and sharing them with others energizes me. I truly feel that I’m the best version of myself when I teach.
I’m also not your typical rockstar runner or yogi. In yoga classes, you won’t see me doing crazy handstands and arm balances. I’ve never won a road race or qualified for Boston. I enjoy these practices because they allow us to find connection to ourselves and an incredible community of people.
You’re also able to be exactly where you are. As a culture we’re so used to using stress and anxiety and fear to motivate us. Once you can switch it to community, positive energy, and enjoying something, it changes the dynamic of everything you do.
What’s your favorite part of teaching?
What happens in that room – it’s not me, it’s not the teacher. I say a bunch of words and play music. It’s the class, and the practice. Being a part of that process is just so powerful. I’ve grown with my students as they grow.
What’s your MoveWith word?
Move with gratitude. This has been a new word that recently has been so powerful for me. The energy of our thoughts are so powerful. When we are able to get out of the headspace of “doing” and “expecting” and we just appreciate, it changes our whole perspective. Our thoughts and our words create the world that we see.
What’s your favorite way to move?
When I was in India completing my 300-hour teacher training with Raghunath Cappo, I learned to play the harmonium. This little music box changed my life. It has become something I play when I need clarity or when I feel blocked or anxious. It’s become a powerful way to ground myself.
I like to describe harmonium playing and “chanting mantras” to an experience when you have had an awful day and then you hear one of your favorite songs. Before you know it, you start singing (maybe even yelling) the lyrics of this song and automatically, you feel this release and shift. You feel lighter and you are taken out of your funk. This similar experience happens when we come together and sing mantras.
I love to sing and play my harmonium in my classes. It’s really incredible to feel the energy that’s created when everyone joins together in song.
What are you most looking forward to?
This July, I will be co-leading a 300 hour-teacher training through YogaWorks. The program consists of a mentoring program and monthly modules. I’m so excited to take my teaching role and practice deeper by working with other teachers and helping them with their teaching journey just like so many teachers have done for me.
Any upcoming retreats?
Yes! One of my dreams has been to teach at Kripalu Retreat Center out in the Berkshires, and this September I’m going to co-lead a yoga and running retreat for five days with SaraJean Rudman. It will be a “RunYoga” retreat camp with daily runs and lots of yoga! We will not only explore the physical parts of these practices but also the mental side as well and how to explore meditation, visualization and recovery to connect with your best running self.
I have many but these two come to mind… I love music videos – I used to be a huge fan of TRL and I’m a Game of Thrones addict. You will find me googling theories and subplots after every episode I watch.
What’s the one thing you eat every single day?
I love Greek yogurt with honey. It’s my new thing right now. I usually have it once or twice a day. Seriously. That and peanut butter are my must-haves.
What’s on your travel bucket list?
I’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii and Greece. Africa is definitely on there too
Follow Cara to catch her classes and attend her upcoming Run and Yoga Retreat.