The 20-year yoga student chatted with us about Gloria Steinem, pranayama, and finally perfecting her Scorpion Pose.
At 5’2”, Danica Patrick is a force to be reckoned with. The only woman to have led laps in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500, Patrick is no stranger to staring down her fears. The 37-year-old author and longtime yoga practitioner retired from race car driving last year, and today she’s channeling her take-no-prisoners attitude into an inspirational podcast, aptly titled Pretty Intense, in which she interviews famed guests such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Alex Rodriguez about tough topics like what it takes to win, spirituality, and what makes us human. We caught up with her to talk about her new career goals, her yoga practice, and what she dreams about at night.
Yoga Journal: Why a podcast?
Danica Patrick: I just spend a lot of my time listening to inspirational podcasts and watching these types of videos, and I thought that it would be really fun to go deep with people and find out more about the parts of their lives that were difficult or transitioned into something good and find out how they did it. When I watch something or listen to someone speak, I want some action points. What did it take to get where they are? What techniques did they use? How are you going grow—not just as an idea but how are you going to do it. So now I talk to people to find out how they did it.
YJ: What guests are you most excited about so far?
DP: I loved the conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson. We talked about religion a lot it was int bc he’s an astrophysicist. What a cool and smart guy. I feel like it’s going to …
Weightlifting was wreaking havoc on my body and spirit—until I found yoga.
I couldn’t see much in the darkness, but I could smell the tanning oil that covered the toned bodies of women who were nervously clustered together in lines waiting to take the stage. As I stood there in my group, my number pinned to my bikini, I looked down at my body, which I had beat into peak physical condition, and I still didn’t like what I saw. I’m sure I looked confident in my own skin, but what I really wanted to do was to crawl out of it.
I know there are countless women who feel self-conscious about a little squish on their belly or thighs—wondering what new workout or crash diet to try—constantly worrying about making “healthy” decisions around food and exercise. For a long time, I was no different. I was insecure and constantly pursuing the “perfect” body. It was a race that I was never going to win. I was inundated by negative messages in a culture where validation, praise, and value relied on placing in competition. I couldn’t get out of the get-up-and-grind mentality. This chiseled body that kept garnering praise became an addiction.
That is exactly why—despite the three first-place fitness titles I had earned that year—I was left waging a secret war against myself and my body. In that moment in the darkness backstage, my soul was sending out an SOS. I knew something was wrong.
I left that competition and tried to go back to my life as the head strength and conditioning coach at a Denver public high school. I vowed to let go of superficial goals, obsessive negative self-talk, counting calories, incessant workouts, and all-consuming anxiety …
Your yoga practice begins as soon as you wake up in the morning, from the first thoughts that enter your mind to what you have for breakfast. Use these tips, techniques, and practices to clear your head and energize your practice before you even get on your mat.
1. Meditate first thing in the morning.
Many yogis swear by morning meditation, claiming that doing it first thing helps clear mental clutter and set an intention for their practice (and their day). Setting your alarm and waking up before dawn for quiet “you” time also makes it easier to get out of bed and fills you with energy for the rest of the day, according to Ayurveda.
Choosing a mantra for your a.m. meditation session could help you set your intention for the entire day. Here are 13 classic ones to choose from, from Shanti Mantra, a chant for peace, to the Gayatri Mantra, which invokes the light of the sun and helps you transcend suffering. Or, you could choose something more personal. Here, top yoga teachers recommend their go-to favorites, from Lauren Taus’ “I Am Love,” to Kathryn Budig’s, “Be Dangerous. But Be Kind.”
3. Eat a healthy, energizing breakfast.
If you’re going to get the most out of your yoga practice, you need to eat a nutritious breakfast. Healthy choices include a …