Breath, Stretch, Meditate

Recently I find myself increasingly curious about meditation, yoga and obtaining peace of mind. I am not sure if it has to do with all of the Oprah programs I am watching or more the desire to find a way to keep my mind clear enough  to write when I am up against the deadline (as I always am). Truth be told it is a fair mixture of both, I am a huge fan of Oprah’s LifeClass  any Own program and I still have a 2 page analysis paper due from before spring break(please don’t judge me). Whatever it might be that is bringing on my constant stress and cloudy mind I have found that a few things actually help to clear it.

After years of wanting to do yoga I finally took a friend up on an invitation to join her at a Sunday afternoon session. The experience was a memorable one; me struggling to balance my self on one leg or hold positions with every muscle trembling while the rest of the class seemed to flawlessly glide from position to position. I lost track of how many times I said to myself ” I thought yoga was supposed to be relaxing and calm”. But as the session was concluding , I found myself down on my yoga mat calmly breathing , mind effortlessly drifting off unaware of the macho body building men who had earlier watched me head over to the yoga mats.

When the lights finally turned on and the instructor told us she looked forward to seeing us next week, I was floating over to my friend with the surrealist feeling of serenity I had have ever experienced. I felt somewhere in between sleep and euphoria. The rest of the day and subsequently the next one as well was filled with great clarity. In the time after, I spent nights  practicing breathing exercises to help settle my thoughts enough for me to fall asleep.

Since then I have developed a weekly routine of attending a Sunday evening yoga class courtesy of Oswego’s fitness centers. What has made my yoga classes even better was learning that other SUNY schools don’t all offer classes without paying a separate fee. How lucky are we to get a yoga class that not only winds down as the sun sets over the lake but not  have to pay an additional fee?

The health benefits of yoga are substantial I am sure but I’ll leave that up to a professional or someone with more knowledge on yoga practices to tell you. I’m just here to say yoga has definitely been a great stabilizer in my life.

Getting Flexible with Tara Stiles

I don’t know about everyone else, but I take the term “group exercise class” very seriously. As in, I don’t go unless I have a friend tagging along. Call me crazy but I need to have that moral support when I’m exercising in front of a group of strangers and the instructor can zero in on me at any second. I know from working at a gym that most instructors don’t judge (unless you show up to spinning class in cutoff jeans and hiking sneakers), but you never know about the other participants.

That’s why I dragged my best friend, Liz Shaftic, to a new yoga class when she came to visit here in NYC. After taking a six hour bus ride to arrive at 42nd Street at 12:30a.m. on a Friday night, you’d think I’d let her snag some extra shut-eye the next day, right? Wrong. We were up bright and early to head to Tara Stiles’ Strala Yoga in NoHo.

Due to some unexpected subway construction that seriously derailed our arrival, Liz and I kicked things off to a good start by showing up nearly a half hour late. However, we were still able to grab a yoga mat and jump into downward dog with one of the most prominent yoga instructors in the nation (Not to mention her husband, Michael Taylor, who’s studied and practiced Eastern movement and healing techniques for more than two decades, joined us for class).

Now, before you start thinking I’m a huge yoga guru because I work at FITNESS and really love participating in fitness-related activities, let me explain something: yoga has never been on the top of my priority list. I usually forget to stretch before and after my workouts (I’ve gotten better, though!), so contorting my body into various positions and holding them peacefully is not something I’m usually good at. But being the adventure-seeker that I am, I figured I’d give it a shot.

Although the “Strong” class I took is normally an hour and 15 minutes long, I was only there for 45 minutes and I still got a sweat-inducing, muscle-blasting workout. Tara took us through a variety of poses that didn’t just stretch the muscles. We did core, leg and butt exercises that really strengthen the muscles as well. By the end, my tank top was drenched with sweat and I realized I shouldn’t have bothered to shower before class. Don’t forget I was only there for 45 minutes — I can only imagine what I would have looked like if I was there for the full class.

Tara was also extremely nice and helpful with each class participant. She corrected my form when necessary, as a good instructor should, but she didn’t point it out to the rest of the class. In the middle of a pose, she quietly walked over and adjusted my body. And to make things less embarrassing, she cracked a joke and always had a bright smile. I noticed she was like this with all the participants rather than just with me because she knows I work at FITNESS.

Although all these things are great, I haven’t even gotten to the best part: the price. Yoga classes in NYC are typically $20 per class and can be close to $300 a month if you’re a regular goer. But Strala Yoga offers a unique, affordable opportunity: $10 a class.

“I want to make yoga affordable for everyone so that it can be something that’s easily integrated into everyday life,” Stiles told me after class. “We make the classes enjoyable and affordable, so we always have people coming back for more.”

This really could be the best deal around. So if you’re in NYC, pick up your yoga mat (or rent one there for $2) and head over to Strala Yoga. I promise, you won’t regret it. And look for me while you’re there — I’ll probably be the girl near the back trying to twist in various directions.