Richmond's practitioners laud yoga's healing and soothing benefits. 

Peace of Mind

What do you do when stress overshadows the joy of the holiday season? How do you cope with any stress, whether arising from your job or global events? "Stress is not bad in itself," explains Nora Vimala Soler-Pozzi, yoga instructor and director of Integral Yoga Institute, "it's how you react to the stress. We all want peace, health and happiness. Yoga gives us the tools. Still the body, and the mind follows."

Many Richmonders have already discovered the benefits of hatha yoga. The largest category of yoga, hatha is the physical practice of synchronizing postures with breath. Every movement accords to either an inhalation or exhalation. Developed in ancient India to cope with life's inevitable physical and emotional challenges, yoga is a complex system in which the postures of hatha are but a part.

Hatha yoga is practiced in a wide variety of forms. Integral yoga emphasizes flexibility and relaxation. Iyengar develops strength and endurance through numerous standing poses and a frequent use of blocks, straps and blankets to deepen stretches. Ashtanga is a rigorous workout and flexibility training rolled into one. These and other forms share the common goal of increasing awareness of the body along with mindfulness of the present moment. This meditative quality distinguishes it from conventional stretching techniques and fitness programs. Practitioners quickly learn that the effects of yoga go beyond physiology, that it works on emotional and spiritual levels also.

At Yoga Source in Carytown, Randy Parrish began practice two years ago for the "strengthening benefits." An automation engineer at Enterprise Management, he discovered that his attitude toward his practice of yoga mirrored his attitude at work. "The postures are so physically demanding, you can never reach their end. The more emphasis I put on achieving, the less satisfying it became, and the more likely I would injure myself. I learned to accept where I was. When I worked with my limitations, things fell into place. In translating this into my daily life, the bottom line became, I did the best I could, I learned from it and could build on it, and perhaps do better next time. I've learned how to be OK with outcome."

Lynne Brooke, instructor and a Yoga Source owner, finds yoga "supports my experience as a mother, wife, sister, friend, teacher and conscious observer. It peels back layers of emotions locked in my body. It touches the true spirit of myself."

Practitioners come to yoga for a variety of reasons - chronic pain, insomnia, high blood pressure, back problems, anxiety, depression, a desire to be fit. Nancy Tatum Glenmore, instructor and owner of Glenmore Wellness, believes that "the population needs to slow down and focus inwardly. Hatha is the best place for a new student to start." A registered nurse and gerontologist, she cites a few benefits: "It soothes the nervous system, increases the flexibility of the spine and joints, and makes breathing more effective."

Maintaining flexibility is the reason that integral yoga student Jaclyn Miller began practicing three years ago. "I was concerned about post-menopausal osteoporosis. ... I got involved because of the physical benefits and then got interested in yoga philosophy. ... I haven't changed my whole life, but yoga has helped me to be more gentle in how I use my body."

Rosemary Sabatino, a devoted student of Karen Pace, director of Synergy, is proof that you don't need a nimble body to practice yoga.

She welcomes Pace's gentle approach toward the stretches and twists. With a 10-inch stainless steel rod fusing Sabatino's spine, she insists, "If I can do it, anyone can do it."

"What's important," says Linda Bunn, instructor and director of Yoga Motion, "is that you go at your own pace. Honor your own level and be respectful of your limitations."

Each yoga instructor contacted for this article lauds the benefits of yoga as one of the greatest gifts to give to yourself or a loved one. Many have personal stories of how yoga changed their lives — healing physical or emotional trauma, back pain, kidney failure, stress — or improved their attitude. "Many try to buy happiness," says Soler-Pozzi. "The best gift is health and happiness. You can take it wherever you go." "Peace of mind exists," says Bunn. "It's just that we often don't give ourselves the chance to experience it." To increase those opportunities, especially for the holidays, all the centers offer gift certificates.

Glenmore Yoga & Wellness Center
11232 Patterson Ave.

Integral Yoga of Richmond
3604 Ellwood Ave.

Synergy at the Fitness Connection,br>Byrd Ave.

Yoga Motion
7124 Forest Hill Ave.

Yoga Source
3122 W. Cary St #220


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