Sugarland Reveals the Power of Yoga

Jennifer Nettles, Kristian Bush Flex Their Abilities at Concerts

Anybody who has seen Sugarland knows that Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush can’t stand still. Where do they find the energy? That’s easy — yoga. Here, the secrets of starting out, staying active and “show-ga” are finally revealed.

CMT: What do you remember about the first time you did a yoga class?

Kristian Bush: I remember being a bit intimidated that I would never be as flexible as the instructor. Also, I remember being shocked at how much of a workout it was.

Jennifer Nettles: I remember thinking, “Downward dog is so not a resting pose!” Now it actually can be.

What is the biggest challenge for somebody who is just starting out in yoga or for somebody who has never gone to a class?

Nettles: Getting over your ego enough to not push yourself too hard and to realize it is not a competitive sport in any way. There is an intelligent edge that if you push yourself beyond it, you can really hurt yourself.

Bush: I believe the biggest challenge is just getting the courage to try something different or new. Try to forget the stereotype in your mind. Yoga is for everyone — children, athletes, moms, dads, accountants, truck drivers, even country stars.

With your traveling lifestyle, where do you usually do yoga?

Nettles: More recently we have been going off the venue site and attending classes or taking private lessons at local yoga studios. However, we also practice at the venue either in our dressing rooms or in Kenny Chesney’s “Vibe Room,” which is actually where the after-show parties are held. It’s definitely interesting to bring a yoga vibe into such a space.

Bush: Backstage in a locker room or at a nearby gym or yoga studio. Anywhere we can fit a couple of yoga mats will do. Single-wides, double-wides, tour buses, hotel rooms, even outside in the grass.

Have you ever tried hot yoga?

Bush: Yes, not my bag. It is hard enough for me to find and hold the poses without a sweaty, slippery mat.

Nettles: I have tried it and it’s not for me. I get too distracted by myself slipping around the mat in all my sweat. It’s hard for me to get the benefit of a pose I can’t actually hold.

What are the greatest benefits of staying active through yoga? And in general?

Bush: The change in my body was quite a surprise. I have the waist size back that I had in college, and the mental benefit is tremendous. To take an hour or even a half-hour every day helps to keep my mind clear and make space for new things.

Nettles: As with most physical activity, yoga helps boost your immune system. However, it also stretches and strengthens your body simultaneously, while also balancing your mind and spirit. It benefits the whole human.

A music career takes so much focus. Has yoga helped your powers of concentration?

Bush: Absolutely. I have always heard that uber-successful people who write books about how to become uber-successful all have one thing in common: They all meditate every day. I consider yoga my meditation.

Nettles: I wouldn’t say it has helped my concentration as much as it has taught me life principles that I can apply to my work. The idea that life and work has a flow and we would all benefit from not pushing too hard within that flow is so helpful. The conscious awareness of your body and emotional state is helpful, too, in learning when to pause or take a moment for yourself before moving forward with either a show or an interview or even a question.

What exactly is “show-ga”? What are some of the positions involved?

Bush: We are always experimenting with our show. I think we were just having fun naturally playing off each other on stage one day and did backbends facing each other and someone took a picture. (See photo above.) It really became “show-ga” as soon as Jennifer made up a name for it. Whenever she makes up a name for something, look out.

Nettles: Show-ga is actually moments where we incorporate some yoga elements into our physical show. You could see backbends or triangle pose. You never know.

Do either of you have your eye on a more advanced level of yoga as you learn more about it?

Nettles: One great element of yoga is that there is always a way to advance or evolve one’s practice. There aren’t real levels as much as there are poses that you have to practice in order to achieve them. There is always a deeper place to go and more space to open. A way to hold a posture with more alignment or more or less intensity. A way to hold a posture longer. You can take yoga as far as you want to take it. It will never be fully learned or accomplished because our bodies are different every day.

Bush: I’ve heard that some yogis in India can levitate. If we ever do that maybe we can beat Brooks & Dunn out for an award.

What is your favorite part of the yoga experience?

Bush: The feeling when I finish the practice each time. We call it being “blissed out,” a combination of being relaxed, exhausted and peaceful. I love that moment right before the world starts rushing back into my mind.

Nettles: Savasana. That’s everybody’s favorite part. The actual purpose of yoga is to prepare the body and mind for meditation. I love the feeling of space and calm that comes after a practice. The distractions of the day have been left behind when you step on the mat so that when you step off, you are more fully yourself. It is a beautiful feeling. The most relaxed you could ever feel. More than massage. More than sleep. More than … well, more than most anything.

Craig Shelburne has been writing for since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.