Holistic Health: Yoga Yearnings

MiMi Yeh

Madonna made it popular. Alternative health gurus have praised it for changing their outlook on life. Yoga, that’s what I’m talking about. It ranks up there with pilates, tae bo, and tai chi. Like Starbucks and spinning, it’s one of the fads that all the New Age Hollywood elite indulge in.

Yoga is suddenly everywhere. Yoga has as many variations in styles as Victoria’s Secret has in underwear. There’s Bikram yoga, “power yoga,” where people perform excruciating stretches in a heated room. Basically, stretching in an oven. Tantric yoga, a la Sting, opens up the energy of the pelvic and cranial area (read – sexual energy). With all the trends out there how does one figure out what is real?

Trial and error.

Like any good scientist, you need to find what works for you. I’ve done meditation in conjunction with yoga. Whether you like Randy Yee or prefer to take a yoga correspondence course (yes, they really do offer them.), the overall aim is to strengthen the joints, restore energy balance, and generally promote a sense of well-being.

Some styles choose to combine the spiritual with the physical in emphasizing the path to enlightenment. However, regardless of whether you believe in one God or eight, the emphasis upon breathing and energy is the same. Yoga is based upon the theory that the breath-control and energy movement. Chakras are the key parts of the body where energy may be manipulated. In breathing in, one absorbs the energy. Properly synchronizing the breath with yoga techniques, theoretically allows a person to align their aura.

Spiritualism aside, it is common sense to use your breath to work for you. Without going into lactic acid buildup, weightlifters often emphasize inhaling and exhaling while doing strength-training exercises.

Here at UMass Boston, we have yoga on Mondays from 11:30am to 12:15pm, taught by Joel Grossman. That particular class was fun. The first time I took the class, there were a number of beginners. Joel ran through some of the basic positions such as “Worshipping the Sun” and played relaxing music throughout. We focused on deep-breathing and meditating, nothing too complicated versus some of the showy acrobatics at your local gym. The atmosphere was laid back, people wearing loose clothing, and laughing at the occasional joke.

The class itself took place in one of the rooms of the McCormack building, across from the Beacon Fitness Center. My only complaint: it was a poor location since there was very little space for any more than 6 people. I found it relaxing simply because there wasn’t the pretentious calisthenics that one finds in some places.

Yoga is an ancient practice that, like anything, has become somewhat watered down over time. But the same rules still apply, if it doesn’t feel good, don’t do it. Yoga is supposed to be a liberating experience, not spiritual boot camp. If you don’t subscribe to that particular brand of spiritualism, then just enjoy a deep cleansing breath. Exhale. Repeat.