Yoga and the restaurant industry go together like booze and the restaurant industry

By Haley Hamilton

If you work in a restaurant, you have your go-to places. They are the spots on your body that, when given a quick breather from the line or the floor, the bar or the host stand, you stretch and crack, bend and massage, anything for a few seconds of relief from the grinding, the clenching, the tray carrying, knife wielding, bottle holding, and endless hours of standing.

For me, it’s my lower back and whatever poor muscle tissue runs along the outside of my neck toward my shoulder. Knees and feet are next, and my outer hips generally start screaming around midnight. These aches and pains come with the job, but the time, money, and will to address them don’t always. Massage, regular trips to the doctor, and structured exercise can seem like luxuries (or a huge pain in the ass) rather than general maintenance when your work week is more physically active than some folks’ trip to the gym.

There is, however, an accessible and relatively affordable measure that can be taken on a somewhat regular basis that will help. You can even do it at home, before or after work, if getting to a studio is unlikely: yoga.

I’ve been practicing yoga — like, actually going regularly instead of taking a class when I’m too hungover to go running — for three years. I’ll preach the gospel of down-dog and reverse warrior to anyone who will listen, but don’t take it from me.

Sam Kanter, owner of Sam Kanter Events, a local event coordinating company, has been planning, coordinating, and booking events by collaborating with and representing restaurants since 2007. She currently works with roughly 35 local restaurants as their in-house event coordinator. Clients can also come to her directly and she will facilitate and organize their event at a local space.

She’s also now a yoga instructor.


This year Kanter completed Teacher Training at CorePower Yoga, a national studio organization that features heated classes of various intensity and rigor. (Full disclosure: I have a monthly membership to CorePower; there is a studio on my block). With studios in Allston, Watertown, Medford, Ink Block in the South End, Fresh Pond, Newton, and pretty soon Fenway, CorePower is one of the most prevalent studio networks in the city.

“Teacher Training was hard,” Kanter says. “I’ve been practicing for six years and it was an intense program.”

A 200-hour program with three classes a week over eight weeks, Teacher Training at CorePower combines seminars with hands-on classes and lots (and lots) of outside yoga requirements.

“I decided to do Teacher Training because I got on a sort of yoga high,” Kanter says. “I wanted to elevate my practice and my understanding of it. It’s one of the only things that de-stresses me — this is a very stressful industry.

“Oh, and it’s also my backup plan if I go crazy.”

Which is understandable. In many ways, yoga and the restaurant industry are polar opposites: At one end you have a school of thought that prioritizes inner calm, listening to what your body needs, and doing what is right for you, at that moment; and on the other you have to do everything, right now, as fast as possible, no matter how badly it hurts. It doesn’t matter if you have to pee or if you want to punch the guy at seat eight in the face. If one of those environments is going to make you snap, it’s not going to be the one that comes with a mat and understanding of personal boundaries.

But Kanter insists there is a space for yoga in industry life and, maybe more importantly, there’s a place for industry life in yoga.

“There’s a lot of people in the industry who like the idea of yoga and understand it would be beneficial to them but also think yoga is scary,” she says. “It’s intimidating to walk into a yoga studio. People have certain connotations about what it means to do yoga, and they aren’t exactly fair, but they make sense.”

Common misconceptions?

That you have to be incredibly flexible and in good shape to do yoga; that there is a right, and therefore a wrong, way to practice; that people are watching you; that it’s about the insane arm balances and body bending; that you have to look good in spandex.

To break down some of these misconceptions and bring her two worlds together, Kanter is planning a series of industry yoga events.

“You can do really simple yoga and it can be beneficial,” she says. “I think this would be a great way to introduce people in the industry to something that can really better their lives. Their physical and, yeah, mental health.”

While there are community yoga events — outdoor yoga, yoga followed by brunch because of course — Kanter hasn’t seen anything like what she plans.

“I want the balance. I’m a yogi, but I’m a drinker and I want to combine the two in a new way. And I want it to be accessible,” she says.

Designed around industry culture, the events will take place on Sundays or Mondays, later in the day so more people can attend before or after work. Kanter plans to collaborate with liquor sponsors, design a menu, and host the events at restaurants she works with in her event coordinating.

The first event is set for mid-September. In the meantime, here are some poses you can try at home:

Legs Up The Wall

Just what it sounds like: Lie down on your back with your bum against a wall and put your feet straight up in the air. This reverses blood flow and releases fresh blood to your legs when you stand up, resetting your legs and feet from all that standing. “If you go home and sit with your butt against the wall and your feet in the air … in 10 minutes it will change your life,” Kanter says.

Forward Fold

Stand up straight, bend your knees as much as you want, and lean forward, your arms straight down, fingers hanging toward the floor. “This releases your lower back and will stretch out your neck,” she says.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Lie down on your back, your arms slightly away from your body, your legs apart, feet flopped out. Seriously: Just lie down. “It’s one of the most mental poses,” Kanter says of the savasana. The mental aspect of yoga is a big part of why it’s important to me. It’s a time to center and take a minute for yourself.”

She continues: “Savasana is a time to let thoughts come to you, and then let them go. Which is important. There’s so much chaos in restaurants and in the industry. I don’t get that calm in any other aspect of my life.”


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