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Jessica Biel Shares How Yoga Changed Her Mindset On Fitness

Growing up usually means fewer chicken nuggets and more cauliflower steaks. Fewer vodka sodas and more green smoothies. Sensing a theme here? It's learning to take better care of your body.

That includes an ever-evolving outlook on fitness, and who better to chat about fitness as a lifestyle than Jessica Biel. The actress, wife, mom, and all-around strong human (hi, chiseled arms) might have come from a background of hard-hitting, competitive sports like gymnastics (I mean, have you seen this woman flip?!), but she says it's yoga that really keeps her life grounded and balanced these days. (Related: How Bob Harper's Fitness Philosophy Has Changed Since His Heart Attack)

"I spent so many years of my young life playing soccer and jamming my knees, running and sprinting, and so many years as a gymnast gashing my body ... I realized, as I got older, I can't keep this up," says Biel, who is the face of a new collection of gear and clothes from Gaiam, available at Kohl's. (Check out some of her favorite picks from the line, including a studio-street sleeveless hoodie, and a pair of cropped leggings—a length she says she prefers when flowing.)

But for Biel, her interest in practicing yoga goes far beyond the physical. "The breathwork helps me feel that I'm connecting my mind and the breathing to the different movements—that to me feels like I'm connecting to my body in a way that I don't do on a normal basis." (P.S. Learn more about breathwork, the latest wellness trend people are trying.)

With the ever-present pressure and competition of Hollywood, it's easy to see why The Sinner star would navigate toward the relaxed stillness of yoga and the supportive community behind it. "I want that competitive element in my life in only particular places," says Biel. "In a yoga class, it's really just your mat, your own practice. I've never felt, and I don't feel any sort of physical competition that I think you can sometimes sense in other workout classes."

While fitness has always been a major love in her life, it's gone through a bit of an evolution. Over time, she says she's also developed a heightened awareness of what her body needs in the moment, which also means she knows when to take it easy on herself—with zero regrets.

"I like that yoga is just me with myself, my practice, and wherever my practice is in that moment on that day, then that's where it is," she says. "No one's yelling at me to push harder and go tougher, it's all about me, and sometimes if I want to sit still and lie in Savasana for 20 minutes, then that's my practice for the day." (Related: How to Get the Most Out of Savasana In Your Next Yoga Class

"My body is way smarter than me," she continues. "I can just listen to it and hear it loudly and clearly that I'm doing the right thing for myself, as opposed to pushing and trying to be better than my neighbor."

Biel says this inclusion of self-care and respect for her body from the inside out has become more and more important to her since she became a mom. With that, the reasons she values movement (including her yoga practice) have changed, and along with it, the things that act as motivation. (Related: Jillian Michaels Says Finding Your "Why" Is the Key to Fitness Success)

"Having my mind focused on exactly how I need to look and that perfect bikini body—that's changed," she says. "I just want to be healthy. I want my joints and my ligaments and my body to feel good and free of pain, so I can have fun with my family."

This appreciation for what the body can do, and not necessarily what it looks like, is something Biel says she credits to yoga and the supportive community it fosters.

"I think it takes a lot of years to really start to accept who you are," she says. "I believe that the philosophy behind yoga and the yoga community is not about what shape you are; it's not about what you look like; it's really about health from the inside out. Yoga has brought me a lot of feelings of power and confidence."

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