By Kolbe Gelbaugh
We’ve all heard of or seen it—hippie, soulful people, beachy vibes and incredible flexibility—if that is your general understanding of yoga, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Yoga studios and at-home practicing are on the rise in popular American culture with no limits as to who participates.
And while yoga has regained popular interest in the recent years, the practice originally dates back more than 15,000 years.
Surviving thus long without any enforcement by government or papacy, you might wonder, what exactly is the significance of yoga that’s survived the practice through centuries?
“Yoga is a constant in my life that I know I can always come back to when needed,” said Paige Roman, a college student and yoga instructor at The Loft pilates and yoga studio.
“It’s a creative outlet for me. Both teaching yoga and practicing yoga help me take a step back from the busyness of life, which allows me to step into the present moment,” said Roman.
And while yoga is comprised of movements and breath, the combination is meant to reach further into your being than simply exercising it.
“It’s a spiritual practice. Yoga is a lifestyle. It’s the practice of being conscious on multiple levels—not just the physical part,” said Stephanie Ayres, yoga instructor at 8 Limbs Yoga, 218 Riberia St.
Ayres, healthy and glowing in her early 30s, believes that her choice to practice yoga from a young age has helped her create a different, healthier lifestyle. That was the whole point when she really began practicing in her teen years.
“I really wanted to live a clean, pure lifestyle and yoga really helped to facilitate that because everything you do off the mat reflects what you do on the mat,” Ayres said. “ If you’re staying up late and not eating healthy that’s going to be reflected in your practice.”
Contrary to the general affiliation of yoga and ‘hippies’ Ayres believes the practice really is for any and everyone. The meditational base of yoga allows for those with physical limitations to practice as well.
“I’m in the camp of whatever works for you,” Ayres said “and if that means modifying to an extreme level because of injury or physical limitation then that’s okay. It’s so much better to modify and still reach the frame of mind of spiritual yoga rather than not be doing it at all because it’s not right.”
Yoga is a combination of meditation, movements, and controlled breathing, it’s not meant to be intense. The practice should suit your physical limitations as well as slightly stretch them.
Ultimately, the goal is to reach the meditative state of mind and feel that through the rest of your body.
“If you can just sit with yourself for five minutes and practice that form of yoga then you’re going to help your mind clear,” Ayres said. “Over time you’ll have a lot more patience, less attitude, and more understanding and compassion for people.”
There are multiple forms of yoga practices so if one style and pace isn’t for you, there’s others to choose from that would suit your interests. Ayres practices and teaches Ashtanga yoga, a popular style among other yogis, involving more athletic treatment in the sequence of postures and greater focus on stamina.
Susan Rossel, a middle-aged Connecticut native, has practiced yoga since her teen years and finds local studios wherever she travels. While in Florida, she found her way to 8 Limbs Yoga Studio for Ayres’ Tuesday morning session.
“I have fallen in love with Ashtanga. It’s everything I’ve been looking for in yoga, it’s moving meditation,” Rossel said. “Each movement is connected to a breath. If you’re using your breath and engaging your core, you’re going to break a sweat.”
Rossel testifies her own life experiences have been heavily impacted by yoga in similar ways that Ayres and Roman describe.
With the health benefits of yoga reaching the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the body, it’s no surprise that the practice is finding its way into greater popularity in the 21st century.