Sun, August 8, 2004


Ask the Yoga Instructor

Are you too intimidated to try a Yoga Class?

A dear friend of mine suggested I should try a yoga class to see if it might help me with my fibromyalgia. ďIt just might help you feel better,Ē she said. That was back in the early 1970ís and I am so grateful that I listened to her and gave yoga a try. Yoga has changed my life. However, it took a bit of talking on her part to convince me to go. I felt intimidated, because I thought I had to be totally flexibly to participate. I had these images in my mind of people sitting intertwined in strange positions. My very first yoga session was a Beginners Yoga class at the Miami Dade Community College. I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to put all of my fears to rest. There was no feeling of competition. The instructor gently coaxed us into positions that were different, but made my body feel good without any pain or strain. I thought I knew how to breathe, but learned that I was doing mostly upper chest breathing and my breath was very shallow. Yoga taught me how to relax mentally and then coaxing my muscles to relax which in turn helped me manage my fibromyalgia condition to this day. I can honestly say, I feel better physically and mentally in my ďolder yearsĒ than I did in my 20ís.

There are no reasons to feel intimidated to not try a yoga class. If you try a class and for some reason donít like it, donít give up. Not all yoga classes are alike. Keep trying different classes and instructors until you find the one you like. What is so great about yoga is that you do only what makes your body feel good. Not all poses are for every body. We are all unique and our bodies are structured differently. Some people are loose in the hips, others arenít. Some people have long legs, some donít. We respect that and only do what is right for the individual. In yoga we honor what we are feeling. How deep one goes into a pose is directly related as to how one feels, never going to the edge of pain, not holding our breath or straining, but going into a pose by breathing and relaxing. In yoga we are always striving to get well or maintain wellness. The practice of yoga cultivates balance, physically and mentally. No matter how much physical exercise we do, it wonít benefit us if we donít address our mental state. Negative stress will play havoc with our mental and physical being. A good yoga practice will address both the physical as well as the mental state.

What do I need to know before I attend a class?

Try to arrive 10 - 15 minutes before class starts, giving you time to meet the instructor and allowing you to ask any questions you might have and advise the instructor of any physical limitations. A t-shirt and non-restrictive shorts or pants with an elastic waste will allow you to move freely. All poses are done in bare feet. Bring a mat or thick beach towel, or invest in your own yoga mat. Donít eat two - three hours before class. Practicing on a full stomach might cause cramps or nausea; digesting food takes energy away and will make you feel sluggish.Do turn your cell phone and pager off. Leave the gum at home. Bring a towel if you sweat a lot. Try to be free of scents that might distract or offend others. Some people are quite sensitive and allergic to certain scents. Stop your practice if you feel any pain, discomfort or dizziness. Remember, there is no competition in yoga. Let the instructor know if you need to leave class early. If you do need to leave early, do so prior to deep relaxation to keep from disrupting others. All you need to do is to be aware of your breath throughout your practice, be relaxed, do the best you can and pretty soon you will enjoy the new found strength and flexibility and the wonderful feeling of wellness and harmony in body, mind and spirit.

Ilse Mindling is a Yoga Alliance registered and certified instructor, instructing in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. She may be reached at (941) 204-0095 visit:

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