Spirited Culinary Adventures with Natalie Bovis

Zen and the Bartender: Tips from Yoga Teacher Emily Branden


Emily Branden, Yoga Teacher

After a long weekend of bartending, particularly on Friday and Saturdays when I don’t get to bed before 4 am, I wake late morning with an aching back and feeling drained. I enjoy being behind the bar but I am also a person who relishes early nights, good sleeps, and waking to a full, productive morning. Making the switch from my weekday life to my weekend routine is a bit jarring to my system.


When I was younger, I looked for relief from working late nights by having too many drinks with friends, smoking cigarettes or sleeping away the day.  The reality is, however, that way is the worst way to relieve stress and fatigue. Its only digging a hole of bad health and, ultimately, despair.

I didn’t think I’d like yoga, at first.  It seemed boring and preachy.  However, as I opened my mind and body to it over the last few years, I’ve found Yoga to be the most effective way to regain balance: physically, mentally and energetically, and get back on track for the other interests I do with the rest of my week, which include writing, mixology consulting and teaching, and currently, rehearsing for a play. Going to a midday yoga class reminds me to breathe, stretch, strengthen and release. I leave energized, inside and out.

Lately, I’ve seen more and more bartenders in my yoga class, here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It struck me as odd, at first – the gatekeepers of nightlife and nightcaps doing downward dog and sweating through Vinyassa With Music at noon on a Tuesday. I’m used to seeing their faces behind the bar, pouring me a tequila on a night off. But, then, of course, that’s where they’re used to seeing me, as well. Why should I be the only one seeking balance between booze and bliss?

For this post, I decided to ask my yoga teacher, Emily Branden, her perspective on the importance of refueling with yoga, particularly for hospitality professionals, who give a lot of energy away in their jobs. Emily, who is a freelance writer and part-time New Yorker, also puts out a monthly newsletter which you can subscribe to here.

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Q: Some people might think that yoga and bartending are two different universes. However, when I attend your yoga classes, I see quite a few fellow bartenders around the room. Why do you think bartenders, or hospitality professionals in general, are drawn to yoga?

Emily: I think the job itself is draining. You give away so much energy in the service business – yoga at noon is a way for students to recharge their spirit and move energy through that’s not theirs. It fuels them and places them in a connected zone where they can give of themselves again.


Q: How do you define “yoga”? Is it merely a series of stretches and breathing? Is it a life philosophy? How does it affect other aspects of our lives, outside of class?

Emily: Yoga is movement medicine. It connects us back to our divine nature and flow with the universe. The linking of breath with asanas that twist us up in order to release keeps our minds engaged and hearts open. We are creative beings, yoga reminds us to be wild, happy, and free. It spills over into all parts of our life and especially when you’re behind the bar serving or at your profession navigating colleagues and commerce – it keeps us grounded and able to keep flowing with day to day ups and downs.


Q: What are a few simple stretches or breathing exercises bartenders can do throughout the day – or even at work – when their bodies / minds are feeling over-loaded?

Emily: I think three deep breaths can save you from throwing negativity back in someone’s face. It’s a tough gig the service industry. I had friends who worked the piano bars in New York City back when you could smoke in them. The amount of energy spent on serving others is huge, so making sure you’re breathing and exchanging oxygen is a must. Also garudasana arms behind the bar is a way to relax your shoulders and open your heart from the back. Swinging your arms fiercely from side to side while the hips stay straight ahead will give you an energy boost. Or just holding the edge of the bar and then dropping your torso into an L-shape will keep your back aligned. You may also try mantra, repetition of positive sound, like RAM over and over can really keep you in the groove.

2 Responses to Zen and the Bartender: Tips from Yoga Teacher Emily Branden

  1. gaz regan says:

    Thanks for this, Natalie and Emily. I’ve been practising yoga for 10 years, now, and I think that the best advise I can offer to anyone who might be sceptical about the restorative values of yoga is this: Go to just one class. I swear that you’ll notice the difference in your body, and n your head, after just one yoga class. Then you’ll start to get a feel for what it’s all about.

    The other thing that I hear often is, “Oh, I could never get into some of those positions.” Know this: You don’t have to. Yoga teachers will always deal with individual wants and needs, and they always suggest alternative asanas if they see that someone in the class needs that.

  2. […] Zen and the Bartender: Tips from Yoga Teacher Emily Brandon by Natalie Bovis:  Bartending can be a very tough, physically demanding job.  At the end of my […]

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