Get REAL with Catherine Gignac, AEO’s Manager of Digital Creative! Read on to learn more about how she uses yoga to help balance the stress of everyday life, her favorite pose and what #AerieREAL means to her.
You’re amazing at yoga! How did you begin?
Haha, thanks! It’s fun to be able to go upside down and stand on my head. Those poses constantly push me to try new, scarier things. But really, that’s not why I do yoga. Work and life are stressful (so gross, right?) and yoga balances all that out. I can have a rough day, go to yoga and then feel completely decoupled from what was dragging me down prior to class. I get far fewer headaches because my back and neck muscles are stronger. I take myself less seriously because I’ve learned to goof around and take risks on my mat. I’ve felt my highest highs and my lowest lows emotionally while practicing, but it’s always healing and empowering to just be alone with my breath and my thoughts. Plus, no one can tell whether you’re dripping tears or sweat! Most importantly, like-attracts-like and the community of yogis at my studio has sourced most of my closest friendships in life. We support each other and often say, “Detox before you retox,” and go out together after my Friday night class.
What’s your favorite yoga pose?
I have a love-hate relationship with double pigeon. It’s a crazy deep hip-opener that feels so good sometimes and so tense others. Yogis often say that we hold our emotional baggage in our hips. We run on them, sit on them, drive on them and they’re the biggest joints in our bodies. When we slowly open them up, we also peel away at layers of built up emotion that we haven’t let go of — kind of like peeling layers off an onion. Sounds crazy, but it’s true!
For somebody who is interested but hasn’t given yoga a chance, what would you say to them?
Just go and try it! Ironically, I hated my first class, but I found myself going to teacher training just a few years later. As a teacher, I always hear things like “I’ve thought about it but I don’t like the heat,” “I’m not flexible enough,” “Oh, I couldn’t do what you do!” but it’s not about that. I have students in my class from 11 to 72 years old (seriously!) of all different weights, health issues, and injuries. We encourage everyone to go at their own pace and do what they can. This week, a student of mine told me she’d been in a car accident and needs yoga to help rehabilitate her back. Another told me yoga helped her remain calm and get through the nightmare of having her newborn in the NICU for many months. Everyone comes to yoga for a physical experience, but if they stick with it, they end up having a total mind, body, spirit experience that few other forms of exercise can mirror.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
My favorite quote is “You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind.” — Yoko Ono. I’ve loved this one for awhile because I’m pretty small in stature but I’m big in personality. Anytime I feel like I’m being underestimated or unheard, I think about this quote and remember we’re all pretty freakin’ powerful and expansive in what we can dream and accomplish. Another really great reading I love to share with my yoga class was introduced to me by my yoga mentor and it’s called the Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Check it out, it’ll move you!
What does #AerieREAL mean to you?
Ah, so much! I’ve loved watching the #AerieREAL campaign grow from a wee idea into a huge movement over the last few years. It’s the best feeling to have friends of mine, all in their late twenties and early thirties, tell me they’ve discovered Aerie and love, not just our undies and bralettes, but what we stand for. I’m proud of be part of the organization who decided to take a risk and start talking to girls in a way that we all relate to and deserve. #AerieREAL has inspired me to be less curated…on Instagram, in relationships, with what I say in my yoga classes. I’m unapologetically me, even if it’s means I don’t please everyone or say and do all the right things.
Be sure to follow Catherine on Instagram @catherinegignac and Snapchat at Cathgig!