LEWISTOWN - This month is about breathing, flexibility, strength and relaxation. This month is about stress management, muscle building and improved circulation. This month is National Yoga Month, a national observance and awareness campaign, sponsored by the Yoga Health Foundation, to educate about the health benefits of yoga.
"Yoga practice is centered on the self rather than the outside world," said Dawn Treaster, yoga instructor at the Juniata Valley YMCA. "A yoga class reduces stress, increases lung capacity and stretches muscles that are neglected in other exercise routines. When class is over, you leave rejuvenated and refreshed."
Treaster has been teaching yoga locally since 1998, focusing on the mind, body, breath and how they work together, she said. In that time, as a teacher and student, she has learned that yoga requires concentration and stamina.
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE BOYER
Candace Carper, left, leads Don Welker, Mary Bratton and the rest of her class with yoga positions Tuesday at Yoga Massage and Body Work Center in Lewistown.
"While yoga is relaxing, it's important to remember that it should be difficult. You have to be willing to put your spirit into each pose," Treaster said. "However, yoga also caters to each body type with various pose adaptions to work within limitations. Foam blocks can be used to raise the floor and bands can be used to reduce the impact of a stretch."
Besides strength and flexibility, yoga practice can also provide higher levels of focus, calm and balance, said Candace Carper, owner and instructor at Yoga, Massage and Body Works Center in Lewistown.
"People start coming to class for the exercise, but once they attend regularly, they start to see how yoga affects other aspects of life," Carper said. "Unexpected situations are handled calmly, aided by proper breathing, stress is handled with strength, aided by increased mental stamina, and healthier food choices are made, aided by a better understanding of the body."
YOGA IN THE AREA
Instructor: Dawn Treaster
When: 8-8:50 a.m., every Saturday for six week sessions
Where: Juniata Valley YMCA, 105 1st Ave., Burnham
Offer: Free class Sept. 22
Instructor: Candace Carter
When: 4-5:30 p.m. every Tuesday and 6-7:30 p.m. every Thursday
Where: Yoga, Massage and Body Works Center, 5 E. Third St., Lewistown
Offer: One free class for any new student in September
Instructor: Dhruva Maharaja Das
Yoga: Hatha and Bhakti
When: 4:30-8:30 a.m. every day
Where: Gita Nagari Yoga Farm, 534 Gita Nagari Road, Port Royal
Offer: Free yoga session and vegetarian lunch by appointment
Carper has been teaching yoga for seven years, specializing in small classes that focus on posture and breathing technique. A typical yoga class, she said, consists of a few minutes to center, followed by a warm-up and then some strength work. Sessions normally end with a form of meditation referred to as corpse pose, where the body lays in a neutral position on the floor. There should always be at least five minutes of relaxation at the end of every class, she said.
Yoga can also be used to renew faith or continue on a faith journey, said Dhruva Maharaja Das, president of Gita Nagari Yoga Farm in Port Royal. Though the compound is home to a self-sufficient, non-violent and spiritual community, the public is welcome to a daily spiritual yoga practice, he said.
"Bhakti yoga is a lifestyle that takes yoga off the mat and into our everyday lives where every action, word, thought and activity is an offering of love and devotion to the Supreme Lord," Das said. "We focus on re-establishing our relationship with the Supreme Lord and all his parts and parcels."
This type of yoga session is usually practiced in the early morning, running for an extended amount of time and beginning before sunrise. It's meant to provide an enlightened perspective on the self, others and the environment, Das said.
No matter the type of yoga or the personal goals associated with it, the health benefits of yoga experience cannot be denied, said Dr. Arvind Suthar, cardiologist with Lewistown Hospital. He has been practicing yoga for a year-and-a-half with 45 minutes sessions at least three mornings a week. He has even recommended yoga to patients with various health or pain issues, he said.
"Yoga involves a lot of breathing technique which can help patients with respiratory conditions as well as helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol," Arvind said. "The focus on increased flexibility helps people with arthritis, chronic back pain and multiple sclerosis."
A good tip when practicing yoga, Arvind said, is to do so on a relatively empty stomach. The concentration on breathing requires the abdominal muscles to work harder than breathing normally. If your stomach is less full, there is more room to breathe deeper and with a consistent flow, he added.
For National Yoga Month, the Juniata Valley YMCA is offering a free yoga class from 8-8:50 a.m. on Sept. 22, the Yoga, Massage and Body Works Center is offering one free yoga class for new students during regular class hours in September and Gita Nagari Yoga Farm is offering a free yoga session and vegetarian lunch, by appointment, throughout the month.