The Home Stretch (Manhattan Times)
December 16, 2009When I first started doing yoga, I was in my twenties and I swear it added an inch to my height. At first, I thought I was just imagining it, but my tape measure said I was closer to 5’9” than to 5’8”. If you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, consider yoga, the traditional physical and mental discipline that originated in India.
I’ve loved yoga since taking my first class, but recently, I had stopped practicing yoga for over two years because of a hip problem that made yoga uncomfortable for me. But I was spending a lot of time at my computer and that was creating the amazing shrinking Nancy. The more I sat, the more I hunched. The more I hunched, the more compressed I was feeling in my whole spine, including my poor neck.
If I’ve learned one thing in all my years as a health writer, educator, and fitness instructor, it’s that it’s best to address problems early. I’ve had many years of excruciating neck and shoulder pain and I didn’t want to go back there again.
So, feeling the need to get out the kinks in a way my current workout regimen was not accomplishing, I took myself to Lisa Priestley’s Fit Yoga class. The room was clean, spacious and calming. Lisa had the lights dimmed, and a fragrant candle was burning. Once we had settled down on our mats, she turned on soothing music and began the class.
As Lisa took us through the class, each pose felt like coming home, as my body found the positions it had been in so many times before, but which had gotten a bit rusty. The class is based on a form of yoga called Vinyasa, a Sanskrit word, as are many of the names of yoga poses (positions). In Vinyasa-style, the yoga poses flow from one to the other in conjunction with your breath. Your poses all run together and become almost a rhythmic dance. As I repeated the sequence again and again, with variations, I entered what I think of as the Yoga Zone: relaxed, but energized, focused on the movement and the breath as the rest of the world dropped away.
Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Downward Facing Dog, Plank, Chaturanga, Upward Facing Dog. With each repetition of each pose, I felt my spine elongating, as if it was “remembering” that light and supple feeling that my computer time was taking away.
But was this my imagination?
As Lisa told me after the class, “over time, the spine does compress and the spaces between the vertebrae can get smaller.” She said that yoga lengthens the body, and helps give you the strength to stand tall, feel tall and actually be taller.
Yoga is often defined as meaning “to unite” the mind and body. In the thirty years I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve learned that a yoga class is good for both. Especially with an appealing instructor like Lisa, each class is like a mini-vacation without the umbrella-topped cocktails. Rather, it’s a vacation from gravity and heavy thoughts, and how could that not ease the burden on our bodies?
For more information visit www.wholelifestyles.us.
FitYoga Class Schedule:
Monday and Wednesday 7-8:30pm
110 Cabrini in the Castle Village Community Room
Lisa offers a discount for your first Fit Yoga Class.