Who thought Yoga?

Letting yoga in and anger out, a first semester gym class

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Waking up in the morning and training myself to change into my gym clothes instead of my school clothes was difficult. Even more difficult the actual act of attending and participating in gym class.  But having gym first hour turned out better than I expected.  Ms. Carol Henson my teacher, was fun. She was always happy and giving her all to make the class enjoyable.  Ms. Henson’s gym class was different than traditional gym classes, it was a Yoga and Pilates class.

Yoga  originated in the Indus Valley civilization approximately 2600 B.C. Ancient yoga poses have been found on artifacts of the ancient world.  Yoga started out as a way for people to focus on applying and understanding the world. Modern Yoga aims more to improves personal   relaxation,exercises,breathing and positive thinking of the individual.  That the way to create a peaceful and more accepting world is to focus on the individual person and start there.

Pilates mirrors yoga in that it focuses on much of the same aspects such as breathing and centering oneself.  Joseph Pilates, developed these exercises to help strengthen the human mind and body.   Modern Pilates focuses on precision, flow and efficacy of each movement, and breathing.

The positive effects of Yoga and Pilates cannot be overlooked from people practicing such a unique form of fitness.  Yoga and Pilates allow options such as improvement in;

  • flexibility
  • muscle strength
  •  posture
  • cartilage and joint breakdown
  • spine strength
  • bone health
  • blood flow
  • blood pressure
  • focus
  • balance
  • deeper sleep

 

When examining the change and affect the yoga class had on myself  all these improvements happen slowly over time.  I can bend down and touch my hands flat on the floor, something I could not do at the beginning of the year. My body is stronger and leaner.   During the course I would recognize how free and healthy I felt  hours after participating in the class. My posture improving and my balance becoming increasingly more stable.

I am not a serious yoga follower yet I found the results too good to be true and when leaving the class at the end of the semester, I promptly signed up for yoga classes at Fitness 19. After my first Yoga class at Fitness 19, I was amazed at how much I loved it.  The class was an hour long and was held in a small room.  A small lamp sat in the corner of the room casting shadows.  A speaker with calm music was playing softly in the middle of the darkened room.  The teacher was a woman who talked in a relaxing voice and moved the class at a slow pace.   The gym offers a more intermediate yoga class on Sundays.  In the yoga class, I found time to not only get into the position but really try to relax and focus on what my intention was for that class.  I found that I was living in the present moment.  The class was small with only seven other members participating and I was the youngest person there.  I found that it was a place where I could really quiet myself in order to hear the rest of the world.  Focusing on my mental strength was a big part of the class and can help me improve in other areas of my life.

The Yoga and Pilates class at school was not simply yoga and pilates. Aspects of the other gym classes were integrated into the curriculum.  Ms. Henson had the class jog in the first part of class and stretch.  The class routinely did agility’s such as skipping and lunging.  Then Ms. Henson had her students do the dreaded wall sits. The mile was just as unpopular as the wall sits, but offered motivation to improve each time the class would run.   The aspects Ms. Henson brought from other gym courses helped strengthen her students to be able to hold their bodies up during the yoga part.

Ms. Henson has been teaching at West Bloomfield High School for 19 years.  But her teaching career extends to 39 years of teaching around the US.  Ms. Henson has taught in Florida, California, Utah and Arizona. Ms. Henson loved teaching in the classroom where she instructed science and health.  At West Bloomfield, She teaches physical education.  Her favorite part about teaching is the relationships that are built between the students and teachers.  Ms. Henson also pointed to how much she loves the “Aha” moment students have when they achieve what they thought was impossible. She thinks that bringing yoga classes to the curriculum is enhancing and enriching.  “Yoga class is a different approach and a different style than traditional physical education and gives students an exposure into something they might like to pursue when they go off to college or live on their own, For some kids it wont click until later on.” Ms. Henson then shows me poses from a yoga magazine.  I ask her what her favorite yoga pose it and she says,”Oh, I know have one, I think the one I’m most proud of learning is crow.” The yoga position crow  is a balancing act on a persons two hands with their knees sitting on the top of their arm.  Ms. Henson shows me just what it looks like and I showed her how I am working on that exact pose.  Ms. Henson then explains what yoga means to her. “yoga focuses on left brain in the beginning, because you have to concentrate on learning something new, the whole body and mind is involved.  Once you are comfortable with it, the right brain takes over and you enjoy it, that’s when you connect the body and mind. And breathing helps incorporate the central nervous system which keeps everything in the body connected.”

Yoga and Pilates is not for all people.  But it was perfect for me. The impact that Ms. Henson had on bringing yoga into my life was huge.  I am constantly finding new ways to connect my body and mind with peace and balance. I am always looking for ways that I can bring the peace of what I find on my Yoga mat to the other areas of life.  It is a gift to be able to balance the ups and downs that life brings.  At least, that is what I have found. Peace in chaos and the ability to open my mind to new possibilities.

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