How I Yoga: A Glimpse Inside Ann Swanson's Practice

Ann Swanson
How I Yoga: A Glimpse Inside Ann Swanson's Practice

Ann Swanson’s journey started after art school with a trip around the world—studying tai chi/qi gong in China, along with Ayurvedic massage and yoga in the Himalayas of India. Longing to combine her artistic, spiritual side with the science of the human body, she returned to the U.S. and took anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and every relevant college course she could.

Ann combined her passions. She graduated from the first Master of Science Graduate Degree in Yoga Therapy at Maryland University of Integrative Health, where she is now on faculty as an adjunct professor.

Ann specializes in pain relief—helping people to stop feeling held back by joint and back pain, and the anxiety that comes with pain in life. Ann has developed a unique format of one-on-one yoga therapy with live online video—from the comfort of home, making it convenient for busy people with pain. She works with each person’s unique needs, health concerns, and goals to develop an individualized, safe, and effective yoga practice that people will actually be excited about doing.

Name: Ann Swanson

Occupation: Yoga Therapist, Anatomy Teacher, Curious Learner

Location: Denver, CO & live online one-on-one yoga therapy from anywhere

Favorite yoga style: Therapeutic Yoga, Accessible Yoga

Favorite yoga pose: Savasana

Yoga is…a feeling of vibrant energy even amidst challenges.

What Do You Love Most About Yoga?

Yoga is adaptable for everybody. Really, if you can breathe, you can do yoga. Yoga can be adapted to be accessible and practical, even for busy people. Yoga is most effective in small doses throughout the day! I do yoga breathing to chill me out as the plane is taking off, a few poses in the bathroom stall when I am feeling overwhelmed at work, and a mindfulness meditation when I’m tempted to lose my temper.

How Has Yoga Changed Your Life, Personality And Physique?

I have always been driven and highly successful in school and work. Actually, I was completely addicted to the work and constantly striving for perfection. Yes, I am a Recovering Perfectionist. Before yoga, I was in a lot of pain and I constantly felt anxiety. I knew the mindset of “I should have done this and I shouldn’t have done that.” I was should-ing all over myself all the time (more on this here).

I studied sculpture in art school. Now, with yoga and mindfulness practices, I feel like a sculptor of my body, mind, and lifestyle. I sculpt my body with yoga poses and the posture I hold throughout the day. I sculpt my mind through meditation and choosing not to believe all my thoughts. I sculpt my lifestyle by mindfully choosing how I spend my time.

Most of all, yoga has taught my Recovering Perfectionist self that I can’t be in constant control. However, to be a successful sculptor, you have to let go of control and manipulation. As Michelangelo said: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it…I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

My "sculptures” are a work in progress. I still notice pain and anxiety, but they don’t grip me as hard. I still “should” all over myself, but I catch myself in the act of should-ing, so I stop that mental cycle early. I am constantly reassessing my day planner to make sure my time is spent most meaningfully. Overall, I am simply happier. I feel gratitude and joy more often, even when life is incredibly challenging. The tools of yoga are pretty darn powerful.

What Everyday Things Did You Get Better At Because Of Yoga?

In this go-go-go world, “busy” has become a badge of honor. What is the most common answer to “How have you been?” I notice a lot of people answer with something that incorporates the word “busy.” Yoga has taught me that busy is not the badge of honor—balance is.

Some days, I have to make hard choices; saying “yes” to one thing means saying “no” to 5 others. Some days, sh** happens, and I’m left “should-ing” all over myself. I now have more tools from yoga to deal with physical or emotional pain when it arises. I feel more balanced in my body and mind. Yoga is pretty darn powerful.

How Do You Keep Your Yoga Practice Interesting And Challenging?

I challenge myself to practice, even when I feel too busy. Sometimes, this means putting some music on and dancing to warm up. Sometimes this means just rolling out my mat, setting a timer, and committing to at least 10 minutes (which often turns into more).

What Book, Website Or Person Inspires You?

My grandfather, who I call Pop, inspires me. He is 93 and I believe his longevity and clear mind is due to his positive outlook, work ethic, and sense of gratitude.

I read a lot but I most recommend reading Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

Which Yoga Pose Challenges You the Most?

Sitting to meditate challenges me, especially when I am getting up in my head—analyzing and intellectualizing. Meditating reminds me to go with the flow of life more.

What are Your Go-To Yoga Poses When You’re Stressed or In Need of an Energy Boost?

Savasana (Corpse Pose) is my favorite and most rejuvenating pose, particularly in those moments where life has grabbed a hold of me, shaken me around, and worn me out. In those moments, I lay down in Savasana and do a yoga nidra.

What Do You Listen To When You Practice Yoga?

I listen to a lot of music that spontaneously inspires me to practice yoga (and even dance) throughout the day, including Andrew Bird, Rye, Sigur Ros, Olafur Arnalds, and Michael Jackson.

What’s The Best Advice You’ve Ever Received?

Gosh, that’s a hard one. Since I can’t choose one, I will redirect you to the Sunscreen Song.

What’s Your #1 Piece of Advice for Those Just Starting Their Yoga Practice?

Take mini “yoga breaks” and eat “yoga snacks.” You don’t have to commit to a full 60-minute class to get the benefits of yoga; even just 10 minutes can be significantly beneficial. Even pausing for 60 seconds a day to notice your breath or do a simple stretch truly counts!

Join Ann’s Office Yoga Challenge here on DOYOUYOGA and get practical and accessible 10-minute practices for free.

Website: Ann Swanson Wellness

Facebook: Ann Swanson

Twitter: @annswansonyoga

Instagram: @annswansonwellness

Other links: YouTube