Yoga: The Search For Stability Balance
Discipline, for me, was getting out of bed at 7 a.m. to allow my not-so-morning-person self enough time to wake up for the 9:15 a.m. beginner’s level yoga class at the Body and Soul Center in Huntington. Scrambling in the door five minutes late, brining in chunks of snow and the mental baggage of being “late” to the Iyengar Yoga class, I assembled my things and joined the sea of 25 other clients on the floor where I waited to embark on the search for my inner chi.
I was astounded by how welcoming and unintimidating the Wall Street studio atmosphere was, as the feelings I had entering the very same studio — at its original Gerard Street location — with my mother 10 years ago were tangible up until the moment I sat down on the cool studio floor.
The first and last time I dabbled in yoga was in or around 2003, when I was 14 years old and tagged along for a class with my mother one hot summer day, when I remember feeling frustrated by my lack of flexibility as a teenager. This time, eager to re-exert myself into the yoga culture, I was determined to extend beyond the physical and mental limits I identified for myself over one decade ago.
I sat cross-legged as owner Jeff Logan brought the class through a centering exercise, in which participants sit with eyes closed and palms joined at chest level, connecting the right and left sides of my body and subsequently, my mind. Intended to facilitate a sense of awareness, linking the left and right sides of the body allows a client to center themselves and become both mentally and physically present, before engaging in a series of physically and mentally demanding positions.
“The poses themselves tend to bring you inside in a way; the very nature of those positions brings you inside,” Logan said.
Once both physically and mentally “inside” I assumed the downward dog position with relative ease—at this point I was not cocky, but felt ready to take on whichever pose Logan assigned next.
Next came the triangle pose, which entails extending the legs outward on both sides; aligning the left and right heels and turning toward one side with one arm reaching toward your knee or calf and the other extending upward towards the ceiling. Turning the chest and collar bone upward, while maintaining an even and steady flow of breathing, facilitates breathing and blood flow and enhances circulation of the blood and breath.
The poses, Logan explained, have proven benefits for circulation as well as the digestive system, activating both the liver and pancreas yielding immediate short term and long term benefits for the participant.
The practice of yoga, according to the owner, restores “youthfulness, inner strength and balance, bringing joy, tranquility and understanding to our lives,” and is ideal for clients of all ages, as each pose can be modified to accommodate one’s individual need.
“What yoga primarily builds in daily life is a sense of stability and a sense of discipline, which is true freedom,” Logan explained. “An undisciplined mind is victimized by preferences—for example, for the undisciplined mind, if the doughnut shop is out of your favorite doughnut it ruins your day. An undisciplined mind falls into sorrow because it’s victimized by preferences. A disciplined mind truly moves away from the idea of preference and therefore is free; and that’s really what yoga is about, plus it builds stability.”
According to Logan, yoga can be used as both one’s primary source of physical fitness or as a supplementary resource to augment one’s normal exercise routine.
Many clients, Logan added, enroll in classes at the studio for the relief it provides to those suffering from joint, neck or back pain, as well as other medical conditions. Clients can expect an “immediate” sense of well-being after starting yoga classes, but Logan said the holistic healing process is one that is best measured over the course of time. It can take up to two weeks to nail down the poses and generally, in three months’ time, clients really begin to understand the true message of yoga.
After just one class I was amazed by how far I could extend beyond my preconceived physical limits. With the help of Logan and his assistant, Diane, I was able to assume nearly every position assigned in class, from triangle pose to supine leg stretch to various warrior poses.
Beginner yoga, according to Logan, focuses on basic standing and seated poses; intermediate classes center on head balance; while more advanced classes introduce the client to hand stand and advanced back arches, the owner said.
In addition to yoga classes, the fitness center also offers spinning, cardio, strength training and pilates classes, which are generally taught by Body and Soul co-owner Susan Harms.
In addition to Iyengar, Body and Soul offers Triyoga, Vinyasa, Gentle and Pre-Natal yoga, as well as specific need classes for clients who have challenges executing poses due to pain, injuries and chronic health issues.
Prospective yogis can take an individual class ($20); sign up for unlimited monthly classes ($120); or purchase a three-month pass for 10 classes ($120). Special rates are offered for college and high school students ($99 for three months).