12 years ago, I started teaching yoga at Western Racquet. Over the years, I've truly enjoyed teaching and getting to know all of our members. From teaching gentle yoga, yin yoga, TRX yoga, Rage yoga, Britney-themed and of course my favorite, vinyasa yoga. I love hearing how yoga has transformed lives and how China gel really completes the practice.

Yoga is a popular exercise routine for good reason - it incorporates strengthening and stretching exercises into one, helping you to improve your overall fitness. If you're new to yoga, though, it can be tough to know where to start. That's why I've put together this list of 9 beginner-friendly yoga poses that will help you to strengthen and stretch your muscles. Give them a try next time you're at the gym or at home. Continue reading to get a step by step for each pose and take a look at the beginner friendly picture below.

1. Triangle: Triangle is a great pose for stretches the sides of your waist and legs while also strengthens your hips, thighs, and core. To get into position, start by standing with your feet about 3-4 feet apart. Then, reach your right hand down to touch the floor near your right ankle as you extend your left arm up toward the ceiling. Gaze up at your left hand as you hold the pose for 30-60 seconds before repeating on the other side.

2. Seated Half Forward Fold: Seated Half Forward Fold is a restorative pose that helps to stretch the hamstrings and lower back. To get into position, start by sitting on the floor with one leg extended straight in front of you and the other folded in. Then, slowly fold forward from the hips, reaching your hands toward your feet. Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds before releasing.

3. Wide Legged Fold: Wide legged fold is similar to seated half forward fold, but with a wider stance. This pose helps to stretch the inner thighs and groin while also lengthening the spine. To get into position, start by standing with your feet about 4 feet apart. Then, fold forward from the hips, reaching your hands toward the floor. Hold for 30-60 seconds before slowly release back up to standing.

4. Seated Side Bend: Seated side bend is a gentle way to open up the sides of your body while also stretching the shoulders and lengthening the spine. To get into position, start by sitting on the floor with both legs out wide. Raise your right arm up toward the ceiling as you lean over to the left side, placing your left hand on the floor behind you for support if needed. Hold for 30-60 seconds before repeating on the other side.

5. Pigeon: Pigeon is an excellent hip opener that also stretches out the glutes and thighs. To get into position, start in a low lunge with your right foot forward and left foot back. Slowly lower your left knee down to the ground as you extend your right leg straight behind you so that both legs are in line with each other parallel to the mat (if this hurts your knees or hips, place a blanket under your hip). Hold for 30-60 seconds before repeating on the other side.

6. Lying Hamstring Stretch: The lying hamstring stretch is a great way to release tension in the back of the legs after a long run or workout session. To get into position, lie flat on your back with both legs extended straight in front of you (if this hurts your back, place a blanket underneath). Place a strap or towel around your right foot and slowly begin to straighten your leg up toward they ceiling as much as possible without pain (if this is too much pressure on your back, keep a slight bend in your knee). Hold for tension before release and repeat 3-5 times on each leg..

7. Supine Spinal Stretch: The supine spinal stretch helps to lengthen and decompress the spine after sitting or standing for long periods of time throughout the day.. To get into position,. Lie flat on your back with both legs extended straight in front of you and place both arms at your sides. Slowly begin to turn your head to look over your right shoulder as you reach to the touch the elbow to the floor behind you. You may need to place a pillow under your head if you are unable to reach the floor without straining or pain. Hold for several breaths before returning to the center and repeating on the other side..

8. Figure 4 stretch: The figure 4 stretch is a great way to stretch the hips and glutes, which can be helpful for runners who often experience tightness in these areas. The figure 4 stretch can also help improve your range of motion, making it easier to run with proper form.
Start by lying on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
Cross your right ankle over your left knee so that your right shin is perpendicular to your left thigh.
Reach through with your left hand and grab hold of your right thigh, then pull your right leg toward you until you feel a stretch in the hip and glute area.
Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

9. Corpse: Corpse pose is a great way to release tension from the whole body and relax mind fully at end of a yoga practice or moderate session to gentle Introduction to relaxation methods ..To get into position,. Lie flat on your back with both arms at your sides and both legs outstretched on your mat(or you can have one or both knees bent if you prefer) ..Allow yourself a sink into the ground wherever possible and your belly to puff out just a little bit so that you can breathe easily.. close your eyes and rest here for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing all of the tension in your body to melt away with each exhalation of breath .....

I'd love to see you in my class Tuesdays at 11am and on an occasional Saturday!

Every December 31, many of us start thinking about what the new year will present to us. We set goals, we break them. We make other goals and break them as well. It's hard to create new habits; oftentimes harder than we realize!

What’s your goal? Do you want to lose weight? Run a marathon? Sleep more? Or do you have a physique that you’re working towards? At the root of it all, a plan with self-discipline will get us to where we need to go.

In order to keep a New Year’s resolution, breaking down our goals and creating smaller, short-term results is key. Do you want to lose 40 pounds this year? For many, the sound of it sounds unattainable or unrealistic. But, does losing one pound in two weeks sound possible? Absolutely.

Do you have a plan? Do you need help creating a plan? A plan is like a road map. If you don't know what you’ll be doing, how to do it, or even where you’re going, getting to a specific destination is really difficult.

Below are some strategies you can use to assist in your New Year’s resolution.

  1. Start with small, short-term goals. They’re easier to achieve and create momentum for the next one.
  2. Set reasonable goals and write them down.
  3. Create a schedule. Come to the gym on a set schedule. Consistent routines are key to forming a habit.
  4. Utilize Western’s registered dietitian! He has expert knowledge that can help set you up for success. (Learn more about Tad at westernracquet.com/wellness-coaching)
  5. Speak with a personal trainer. It’s not just a workout you’d be looking for; it is a partner who holds you accountable, creates a personalized workout plan to match your goals and lifestyle, and makes sure you exercise with correct form to minimize risk of injury. In my experience, nothing derails progress like pain and uncertainty. Speak with one of our great trainers to make sure you’re moving in correct movement patterns and using a plan that makes sense for you! (Visit westernracquet.com/personal-training to get matched with the right trainers for you!)
  6. Go to group classes. Western's group fitness classes have a reputation for being fun, energetic, and taught by excellent, passionate instructors. A team dynamic is very motivating and going each week will give you a set schedule. And even better? There are over 40 group fitness classes at Western that are completely FREE with your membership! (Visit westernracquet.com/group-fitness to see a full schedule of classes.)
  7. Workout with a friend. You hold each other accountable and push each other. Also, people tend not to skip workouts because they don’t want to let their friend down. Tip: Choose a friend who pushes you or has similar goals as you. You'll be that much more motivated!
  8. Keep your weekly goals in a visible place like your refrigerator or somewhere you’ll see it daily.
  9. Do you have to make dramatic, life altering changes? No. The key is small changes and moderation. Remember to take things slow!
  10. Do what you like to do. Do you hate running? Don’t do it. Does the thought of hopping on the stairmill for an hour give you anxiety? Don’t do it. Do you like walking your dog outside in the evening? Do that! Do what you like because you’re more likely to continue doing it. Fitness isn’t a cookie cutter lifestyle. Do what you enjoy so it becomes fun.
  11. Most importantly, ask yourself "why" and then keep asking "why". Get to the bare root of why you have this goal. If you ask yourself "why" enough times and it triggers an emotional response, you’ve found your reason. When the going gets tough, you can always look back on that core reason to help keep you motivated.

 

Happy New Year from me and all of us here at Western! We can't wait to help you with your goals in 2022!

I know you hear us. The music. The instructor with far too much energy. The participants cheering each other on, stepping outside their comfort zone, making fitness <gasp> FUN! 

This is what Group Fitness Classes are all about and why we want you to join us.  The camaraderie, changing up your routine, seeing what new color of shoes your favorite instructor is wearing for class, and most importantly - making it fun!

Besides, that’s why many are coming to the gym, right? Variety is the spice of life! Nobody wants to do the same things over and over, on repeat, especially if they aren't fun. Your instructors work behind the scenes to make classes interesting, challenging, and, sometimes, they are even pretty funny. Group fitness classes are your party and we are the host! We are, dare I say it, your Exertainers. We love to make your day better!

But what if you have never taken a class?  We get it - it's the unknown.  It's hard to take that first step into something new! The anxiety of walking in and not knowing where equipment is, where to stand, if you will…heck…survive (you will, by the way).

Well, keep reading.  I got you.

Here are 5 tips for your first Group Fitness Class that will make that first step into the studio a bit less stressful.

 

1. Do your research

Check out the Group Fitness Schedule on our website (westernracquet.com/group-fitness) or at the club. We have descriptions of our classes so you know what to expect. Find out what studio they are in, if you need to sign up ahead of time, and who teaches the class. You can ask our Front Desk, Membership Directors, or me - we would all love to talk to you about what you can expect in our classes

2. Arrive Early

The instructors are in the studios ahead of time, so come a bit early and have a chat if you're feeling nervous! Find out what equipment you need and let the instructor know it’s your first class.  Morgan (in the photo below), went from being a Group Fitness participant to instructor this last year, and knows exactly what it feels like to jump into the unknown. Now that she is an instructor, she makes sure to have her mats set up for Barre and gathers up any other equipment for new participants and let’s them know what they will be used for. She says, "I’ve learned if you hand somebody who is new to fitness a felt square and green rubber had they tend to look at you like you’re crazy." Don't worry! Your instructors will guide you through anything you have questions about!

3. Find Your Spot

Now that you are in the door it is time to find your spot. I know there is talk that people have their spots but I assure you, that everyone in class is happy to have you and remember, they were once you, taking a class for the first time. Every spot is your spot, however, I always suggest finding a spot in the middle of the room. This way you can see the instructor, your form in the mirror, and if the class turns to the side or back of the room for a movement, you will still have people to follow and won’t be the new front row.

4. Come As You Are

Every single person in that room is at a different spot in their journey and each day and we all move differently. We want you to be safe and to be successful - so just come as you are! Do not compare. Do not do anything that hurts (in a bad way) or doesn’t feel right for your body that day. I guarantee everyone is working on themselves and cheering you on - so just move, smile, and let it all happen. You do not need to "get in shape" and move perfectly to join us. Group fitness is for EVERYONE. Read that sentence over.

5. Come Back!

THE most important on the list. Come back! I always say that when we try something new for the first time - we don't expect perfection. Take a guitar. You would not pick up a guitar and expect to play your favorite Sugarland jam around the campfire the first try. But, for some reason, we do not give ourselves grace when it comes to fitness. It does take time. To build endurance. To understand instructor cues. To learn choreography. To figure out what size weights are medium for you. So, come back again and again. We want to see your sweaty face and show you how we bring the FUN when it comes to fitness.

We hope to see you soon!

It’s been over a year. A full year since I last wrote a blog expressing how lost I felt without Group Fitness classes running, expressing how it felt when we were not seeing our members on a regular basis, not hearing the bass drop in the studios, not watching my Instructors doing what they love every day, numerous hours a day. Over 80 classes a week of Group Fitness ground to a halt. A wide variety of modalities all created by my staff of 50 went suddenly -poof!-  A staff and a schedule that we built, studio by studio, class by class, year by year. We were so proud of that schedule. We brought in the education for each format, purchased the best equipment, and practiced a lot so we could give our members that absolute best Group Fitness experience.

 

Throughout the year, we (over)used the word "pivot" and I admit I probably added some words before "pivot" that I won't type out in case my Mom is reading this. Our members took our pivots in stride, stood by our side, cheered with us, cried with us, and were game for anything as we figured out how to do Group Fitness in a COVID-19 world.

 

If you followed our journey in the Group Fitness Department since March 2020, you might think "wow, they did this with such ease, such grace."  Well, I am here to give you a "behind the scenes" look at the many pivots (and somersaults and ‘I don’t wanna’ tantrums) that happened to me more times than I can count this past year.

 

Heres' the blog I wrote for Western when we had to shut down last spring: https://old.westernracquet.com/its-just-a-fitness-class/

I signed off with a short story about it being "just a fitness class" because I felt foolish crying so many tears and stressing out SO much over "just a fitness class" when so much was happening in the world. I remember always saying "the world is so dark, people are dealing with so much, it’s just a fitness class." But if you know me, my heart, my passion, I was freaking the heck out. I didn’t want to lose all that we had built. I didn’t want the relationships and the community to end. I wanted people to find any way they could to stay healthy, sane, and fit but also didn't want anyone to forget about us! I could see Pelotons being bought, memberships put on hold, some cancelling and I had to roll with those punches. If I am truly in this for the right reason I shouldn’t care HOW people are staying healthy, sane, and fit - just that are! But in my mind I was thinking, "Don't leave Western! Pick me. Choose me. Love me. Come back to me and my staff!"

 

I remember when we truly thought it would be just be two weeks to flatten the curve and then we'd be back. We closed Western and posted that we would be back soon and that we would take this on a case by case basis and we did! Every week. Then every 2 weeks. Maybe next month. With each passing day, we knew things would be so different. We could feel a shift in our world and it was hard to imagine starting over and rebuilding, much less trying to figure out how we work in this new world - this world when so many found fitness through technology and away from their community gyms.

 

Throughout the first few weeks, we posted "homework" for you to do on your own. I remember seeing other clubs jumping on Facebook Live, Youtube, and Zoom providing their members with live classes and I thought "I’m not doing that. I am not opening that can of worms - what if they never come back!" I remember my wonderful instructor and Western's Corporate Director, Katie Dubois, telling me each day, as nicely as she could, that members wanted some live classes. After stomping my foot, I said FINE but I am NOT teaching in my house. I have no space, my husband works nights, my stepdaughter is home from college trying to do her senior year online. There is no way I could make this work!

 

Guess what? I figured it out along with a dozen other staff. We upped our wi-fi game, bought different cables we never heard of, mixers, microphones, lights, and someone even bought a cat hammock so her 4 hairless cats could hang out while she taught (I know, weird, right?).

 

We found our niche. We magically found ways to connect over the computer. We added different, creative, classes and we even team-taught with coordinated outfits and all. It actually…..wasn’t that bad!

 

Fast forward to when we could open. Once again I thought, "No way am I going to teach in a mask and I will not make my instructors do that!" I believe I also said "Making people stand on an ‘x’ and spread people apart? NO!" <insert Kario stomping her foot> Well, the need to be with you all led me to create an in house schedule, measuring spaces 6 feet apart, throwing classes outside, renting a tent, a storage pod, buying speakers, more microphones, AND teaching in a mask.  It actually….wasn’t that bad!

 

Now that things are moving forward quite nicely, it was recently suggested that we could teach our Zoom classes from the club if we wanted. Here’s me “I am not going to pack up all my gear, drive ALL the way to Western, to set it all up, and teach when I have an entire studio in my living room.” Oh, how things continue to PIVOT even a year out. Besides, how would that girl with the hairless cats show them off to her Zoom peeps?

 

So I'll leave you with the take away from this little look into the raw and vulnerable emotions I've felt through this past year - if you want something bad enough, if you love something enough, if you want success, you will make it work. Recruit help, ask for shoulders to lean and, well, shoulders to cry on and you'll often find out…the things you thought could never work turn out to be "not that bad". Virtual, masks, spacing is all worth being able to do the job that we love for the people we love….YOU!

 

I am in constant awe of my staff. I admit, most were ready and willing before me. They helped me move forward and take the steps I knew I needed to take because we just wanted to be a part of your lives no matter HOW that looked.

 

Thank you for sticking by us and pivoting….no….EVOLVING to bring the magic inside (and outside) our walls once again. We are moving forward and we have big, big plans.

Nearly 1 million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s Disease. An American is diagnosed every 9 minutes. I think when some people hear ‘Parkinson’s Disease’ they think it affects the older population, with tremors and slower movement.  That might be true for some, but being diagnosed with Parkinson's is different for everyone. When I got Certified as a Rock Steady Boxing Coach, a neurologist spoke with us and said, "If you met one person with Parkinson’s, you have met one person with Parkinson's." I think this is the most frustrating thing for diagnosed patients and their loved ones. Parkinson’s is an ongoing, progressive disease of the nervous system which affects your movement. There is no cure. There are medications to help control the symptoms but one thing that is scientifically proven to delay the progression of Parkinson's Disease is EXERCISE. That’s right. MOVEMENT. One particular organization has really put their foot down on the gas pedal and made some significant strides in helping people with Parkinson's live better lives. That organization is Rock Steady Boxing.

Rock Steady Boxing was founded in 2006 and has grown to over 900 affiliates across the globe. We added to that ever-increasing number in 2018 with our very own Rock Steady Boxing program at Western Racquet.

Western held Rock Steady Boxing classes 3 times per week in our gym that was filled with heavy bags, speed bags, and many other pieces of equipment to help with balance, dexterity, motor control, handwriting, and more. Besides the equipment, we filled the room with Certified Coaches, Volunteers, Caregivers (we call them Cornermen), and of course, our boxers (people with Parkinson's). We had an average of 26 boxers who dedicated 75 minutes 3 times a week with us, working on Voice Activation, Mobility, Core Work, Strength Exercises, Balance, Movement, and of course, heavy bags and speed bags. And, we had SO MUCH FUN.

I have never seen a group of people work so hard not only during class but all day long. One of our boxers once told me that Parkinson's was his "full-time job" now. And for many Parkinson's sufferers, that's the case - making sure you are continuously moving to eating the right foods to taking medications on time and making sure your mental health is in a good place.

Our Rock Steady Boxing classes were magic. I know that sounds a bit corny but they truly were! I could see the difference in their movement from the time they walked in to the time they left. They walked taller, smiled bigger, and confidence was at an all-time high. Of course, it was not always easy. Having Parkinson’s means every day is different. Every stride, every turn, every step up to a curb feels different minute by minute. But the one thing we all had was each other. We are a big happy family and had each others' back in and outside the gym.

Fast forward to COVID-19. We were all absolutely heartbroken to learn we could not have class for a while. We truly thought we would be back in "about 2 weeks". Remember when we were focused on "flattening the curve" so we could get right back to normal? As the first few weeks went by and numbers continued to rise, Coach Katie, Sara, and I knew we had to come up with a plan to keep our Boxers moving. We were recording homework for them, did a weekly check-in email, phone calls here and there...but being together is what we really needed.

With the help of Dance For PD instructor, Lisa Pritzl, we figured out how we could virtually get our group back together again. We started with a Happy Hour to teach them the ins and outs of using Zoom, then we slowly added our classes back virtually.

We successfully brought our indoor crazy high energy fun class virtually to their living rooms. We still get loud and we still play jokes on each other. We still laugh and dance and sing. Oh, and we workout too!

I am SO proud of our boxers for taking the fear of the unknown (technology) and continuing to fight back against Parkinson’s Disease. I am so proud of us, the Coaches, and all of the Rock Steady Boxing Affiliates who transferred their classes to a virtual platform. This year proved that there really is NOTHING that will stop us from fighting and living our best life.

COVID-19. No groups larger than 250. No groups larger than 50. Keep 6ft of distance between each other. No groups larger than 10. No groups...at all? But...but what about our Group Fitness Classes? I know, I know. It seems so minor in comparison to what is going on all over the world. In fact, I was a little embarrassed at how much and how hard I cried, how I loudly I sobbed, how horrific my face looked, I couldn’t breathe, I made sounds I have never heard before - it was so obnoxious that Popcorn, my hairless cat, didn’t know what else to do than to show me love by rolling his whole body over mine over and over again and giving me so many head butts that it left a mark. I remember that Monday. The night I walked out of Western's doors and knew that we would be closing. Yes, I cried for the world and yes, I cried for "just a fitness class".

It wasn’t a few hours later that I saw our instructors and members connecting on social media more than ever. Our members with a fear of missing their classes and their routines and especially their buddies that stand by them in every class. Missing the sweat and energy. The family and community they know and love. I knew we had to take action. Yes, the world was turning upside down but I know, first hand, how fitness can save you, it can help, even just for that 45 minutes. I wanted to make sure we could still take care of our group fitness community. I NEEDED to give them workouts, and fun memories to smile at, and a chance to just check in.

I remember seeing an Instagram post by Alissa Cotter, who has taught for Western for over a dozen years, with a hashtag that read #groupfitnessinstructorwithoutagroup

Alissa says: “Group Fitness Instructors love what they do because of the group aspect of working out together. The camaraderie and energy of the participants are what they feed off of so when there are no groups for the instructors to lead, they feel a little like fish out of water. A Group Fitness Instructor without a group is just a person wearing a microphone working out."

It might seem like a minor thing if you're not the one on the mic. But when you are the one wearing the mic, spending hours planning classes and even more hours planning just the right music, moves, and special surprise finales. The one who brings back a move that you know Kris in the back row center LOVES. The one who arrives early and stays late, buys their own decor, dice, and songs. The one who makes sure every single person in their class leaves feeling successful, happier, and healthier. Unless you are that person, or the person that comes to classes and makes it a lifestyle - it might just seem like a minor thing.  After all, it is just a fitness class…..

But, like our instructor Sara Smith, a newer instructor on the team who recently became a Rock Steady for Parkinson's Coach, says: “There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve made a positive impact on someone’s life just by doing what you love. How lucky are we to be the ones to help ignite a 'spark' in others to want to set goals for themselves? Even better yet...we get to help them achieve those goals and celebrate with them! This is what I miss and yes, we can still do this virtually, but I’d much rather do it face to face and to celebrate with high fives and hugs in the gym instead of our homes”

That is what we miss as group fitness instructors. CELEBRATING with each and every one of you. Virtually is good and better than nothing, but, man do we miss our group and the energy in the room and our high fives. Will we ever get to do mandatory high gives at the end of my Monday night Zumba class again? Will Amy Xiong, instructor and Membership Director, ever be able to rub China Gel on our necks again during Savasana? The pitter-patter of her feet making her way around her Yogis? Amy says “I miss the calmness of the studio and the energy of my yogis."

Nothing feels normal right now - for anyone - but this is our new normal for a bit. And we are going to roll with it like Instructor Kimberly Uelman, creator of the clever Showtunes Bootcamp class says: "It’s just not the same getting my fitness on in my living room. I miss the energy and laughs..oh yes and the sweat that Western brings. Keep on keeping on - I can’t wait to see you soon!"

This pandemic has affected every single person you have ever met. Every person you have seen on your TV or heard on your radio. Your children. Their teachers. Business owners. First Responders, Nurses, Doctors, Corrections Officers, Police - the list goes on and on from your mail carrier to your local pet food supplier, to your Group Fitness Instructor. We all succeed with the help of others, by being with others, and now we must find a way to succeed alone, together.

I think Katie Dubois, instructor and Corporate Director, really hits home when she says “I love creating an environment where our members feel like they’re a part of something, feel safe, have fun, and feel like ‘we’re all in this together’ Not being able to teach my classes in person and be with our members in person has created a huge void in my life, and the feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ has a whole new meaning.  But it has also pushed me to find the motivation to seek out alternative ways to connect with my classes.”

Exactly. This we can guarantee. Your Group Fitness Instructors got you. It will just look a little different for a while. Katie adds “I have been amazed at the effort we have all put into maintaining the Western family we are all a part of.”  Yup. I couldn’t agree more and makes me a very proud Group Fitness Director.

Amanda Boeder, Instructor, Membership Director, laugh-a-holic, sums up the energy we feel so perfectly.  She says “I miss so much about teaching. The energy. The endorphins. The cycling studio. The butterflies in my stomach. The hugs and the high gives before and after class. The goals we hit. But I miss my people, my cyclists, the most."

The people. You people. We miss you. And I am not going to apologize for the ugly cries that happen over ‘just a fitness class’ because it represents so much more than just the class and it has the same feeling behind it that so many others are feeling now.

I want to leave you with something I read online a few days after businesses started to close and everything felt so heavy. It was a few nights after I walked out of Western and not sure when I would be walking back in.  It made me feel like it was okay not to be okay over "just a fitness class."

It's just a fitness class!

4 walls, a floor and a roof.
A stereo and a beat.
Trainers and lycra.
Movement to music.

It's just a fitness class!

Things get built here -
Stronger bodies.
Fitter bodies.
Confident bodies.
Things get broken here -
Barriers.
Silence.
Sweat.

.....but it's just a fitness class!

Friendships are forged.
Community is created.
We rally together in the sad times.
We celebrate the good times.
.....but it's just a fitness class!
We conquer our demons.
We relieve our stress.
We quiet the voices in our heads.
We feel at home here.

.....but it's just a fitness class!

It's the date in our diary we never miss.
It's the time for us to be carefree.
It's the place where we can let go.
It's part of our lives.
It's not just a fitness class.
We will be back. Stronger than ever. Together.

by Billie Augustian, PA-C, RYT 200, NETA Certified Group Exercise Instructor

 

September is National Yoga Month, the perfect time to explore yoga basics and the benefits of a regular practice. The popularity of yoga has increased dramatically in recent years to over 36 million people. What is special about yoga that has so many people taking off their shoes and rolling out a mat? According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study, conducted by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal, the top five reasons people reported for starting yoga were flexibility, stress relief, general fitness, and improved overall health (https://www.yogaalliance.org/2016YogaInAmericaStudy).

One practical definition of modern yoga is a system of mind-body techniques which improve wellbeing. While yoga has a rich and ancient history, the most familiar aspects of yoga include a combination of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation which work together to develop mental and physical stability. A wide variety of yoga styles have developed to meet the varied needs and preferences of today’s practitioners. We offer several types of practice at Western including vinyasa (a flowing style linking breath and movement), yin (a slower-paced style incorporating fewer postures and stretches with longer holds to stimulate deep connective tissues), and chair yoga (a combination of seated and standing poses utilizing a chair for support to accommodate variations in physical ability).

While the #1 reason many people start practicing yoga is to improve flexibility, this is only one of yoga’s many potential benefits. Research suggests improvements across multiple dimensions of physical and psychological wellness including stress management, healthy body image, quality of life among cancer survivors, menopausal symptoms, sleep quality, balance, mobility, back pain, and overall quality of life. If you are interested in reading more about the science behind yoga’s benefits, both Yoga Alliance and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Health have compiled extensive lists of yoga-related research (https://www.yogaalliance.org/About_Yoga/Research_on_the_Benefits_of_Yoga and https://nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga/introduction.htm#hed2). While many of the studies are limited due to small study size, the results are promising and further research is ongoing. Another benefit I have observed among class participants is a greater sense of awareness, which inevitably has a positive impact on their lives off the mat. Yoga also provides a complementary balance to more active forms of physical fitness.

If you are curious about exploring the benefits of yoga for yourself, here are a few pointers to get you started.

Tips for success

  1. Commit to trying at least 5 classes with different teachers. Ask anyone who practices regularly, it takes time to learn the basic poses and terminology, and each teacher has a unique style.
  2. Be patient and gentle with yourself. There is no need to force your body into a pose. Yoga is a time when you can slow down and pay attention to the subtle connection between your mind and body.
  3.  You may hear poses called by their Sanskrit names, you are not expected to know them all. Sanskrit is the historical language of yoga. Over time, these terms will become more familiar.
  4. Arrive 5 minutes early to allow yourself time to get set up before class starts. Try to stay until the end of class to allow time to fully let go and enjoy final relaxation pose (savasana in Sanskrit). This is considered by many teachers to be the most important pose in yoga.
  5. If you have any physical limitations or injuries that may affect your practice, talk to your teacher before class. They can offer you options to make poses safe and beneficial. Yoga can be adapted to nearly all physical abilities.

What do you need?

  1. Comfortable clothing that requires minimal adjustment while moving from one pose to another
  2. Yoga is traditionally practiced with bare feet.
  3. Water bottle
  4. A smile and an open mind
  5. Mats, towels, blocks, and straps are provided in the Mind Body Studio.

My top 5 favorite poses

  1. Mountain pose (Tadasana): the basic principles of this standing pose apply to all other standing poses
  2. Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana B): builds strength, flexibility, and core stability
  3. Tree (Vrksasana): promotes balance and leg strength
  4. Pyramid (Parsvottanasana): improves flexibility in the legs, hips, spine, and upper body
  5. Final relaxation (Savasana): allows both body and mind to rest and relax at the end of class

Here at Western, we have a great team of certified yoga teachers, always working hard to bring our members safe, beneficial, and enjoyable yoga practices. Whatever your style, experience level, or degree of physical fitness, we are here to help guide you. If you would like to see for yourself how you can benefit from yoga, this is the perfect time to get started. Let’s practice!

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