TrishStratus.com file photo
By Cary Castagna
Among her earliest memories, retired World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Trish Stratus remembers doing yoga with her mom in the living room of the family home.
That was more than 30 years ago -- long before DVDs, Blu-Ray and YouTube.
For the active tot and her health-conscious mother, their yoga instruction came via a vinyl record.
"We'd just put on the record and do yoga," Stratus says in a phone interview from her native Toronto.
Rudimentary by today's standards, but those early yoga sessions helped lay a solid foundation for what has been a lifelong fitness journey.
That journey -- which included playing field hockey for York University's nationally ranked varsity squad, a stint as a fitness model and her unlikely rise to superstardom in the zany world of pro rasslin' -- has since come full circle.
Now 35, the iconic "WWE diva" devotes much of her time to yoga and her Toronto-area yoga studio, Stratusphere.
Her passion for the ancient practice was reignited in 2005, after she suffered a herniated disc.
At that point, five years of enduring bumps in the squared circle had taken its toll on her body.
The five-foot-four Stratus was sidelined and forced to concentrate on rehab.
"My body said, 'I'm really worn out and I need you to start taking care of me so I can last you a little bit longer than this,'" she recalls.
Physiotherapy, however, didn't do the trick and surgery was proposed.
But Stratus wasn't ready to surrender herself to the operating table.
"I thought, 'Well lemme see if I can take a different route,'" she says.
That's when she turned to yoga.
Her body responded almost immediately. Not only did she avoid surgery, but Stratus also finished out her wrestling career injury-free.
"I equate it to the Gumby effect," she says of her newfound elasticity. "My body, instead of taking the hit, will sort of just go with it."
In 2008, the recommitted yoga disciple opened Stratusphere, billed as Canada's largest eco-friendly yoga studio.
These days, Stratus begins each morning with 20 minutes of her own personalized yoga regimen that incorporates plyometrics such as push-ups and bodyweight squats.
"If I don't get to my hour-and-a-half class later on, or I don't get to the treadmill, at least I've done this 20 minutes," she says. "It sets me up to have a really positive day."
Positive, indeed, because it's not just her body that's reaping the rewards. It's her mind, too.
Yoga, Stratus explains, allows her to disconnect with her often hectic life and spend some quality one-on-one time with herself.
"Just having that awareness, it's amazing how you will approach life differently," she adds.
Stratus, a fit 125 pounds -- down 5-10 pounds from her wrestling heyday, now has the admittedly "overzealous goal" of getting the world to do yoga.
She recently led a yoga class at a Toronto school as part of the third annual At My Best Play Day, a national program designed to encourage kids to adopt lifelong healthy habits.
Inspiring the next generation -- much like she was introduced to yoga three decades ago -- is the key to eradicating childhood obesity, Stratus says.
And it starts with parents showing their children that fitness isn't just about gym class, she adds.
"It's something that can be part of every day. It's about what you eat and how you treat your body and how you end up feeling about your body."
Stratus, who married her high school sweetheart, hasn't ruled out one day doing yoga with her own children.
"No kids, yet," she laughs. "That's next on the to-do list."
Visit www.trishstratus.com and www.atmybest.ca.