By Lisa Browdy
I recently wandered past a store window with a sign that announced "September is Yoga Month!" So I've gotten in under the wire for this Fitness Friday. But as Kate Wester, owner of Yoga Trek in Oak Park says, "Every month is Yoga month."
If you want to build strength, improve your flexibility, or achieve balance (physically and mentally) then you might want to give Yoga a try. And if you have tried it once and it didn't click for you, it might just have been the wrong style. Yoga has exploded in popularity in the last decade, and it is very easy to find a class in many different styles, from restorative to athletic.
Yoga Trek, located in the Harrison Street arts district, concentrates on Ashtanga and Vinyasa classes. Vinyasa is my favorite, because the movements flow from one to the other, and every class is different. Ashtanga is a bit more athletic, and runs the same series of poses, or asanas, each time.
Other styles include Iangar, Hatha, Kundalini and Bikram. Some classes have a lot of chanting, others will give you a serious workout. What they all have in common is a concentration on bringing the mind and the body together through focus on breathing. "Linking the movement to each breath makes the practice meditative," Kate explains. "The attention to breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress and even supports the immune system."
I can certainly vouch for that. I started taking Kate's class at Yoga Trek four years ago – not coincidentally, the same time my first child became a teenager. I needed to manage stress and add some strength training to what was a pretty cardio-centric exercise routine. I was pleased to notice that the colds I got at every change of season were not appearing anymore.
I'm very glad I gave Yoga a second try, after dismissing the first class I had been to years before as just a lot of lying around and breathing. If you are curious about Yoga, Kate suggests that you find an Introduction to Yoga class and have the teacher help you with your alignment. Take a few different styles of classes and see what "fits" you best. People of different ages and fitness levels need to find a way to practice that is respectful to them and their bodies.
Yoga classes tend to be on the long side – usually 90 minutes, so it is hard to fit more than one class a week into a busy schedule. The nice thing is that it is fine to practice Yoga once a week and get benefit from it, and it balances nicely with walking or running during the rest of the week. Yoga Trek offers two free classes on Sunday afternoons, Community Yoga from 4:30 to 5:30 and Community Meditation from 5:45 to 6:15. For the rest of the class schedule, consult www.yogatrekcenter.com.