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Putting yoga to work for you

By Donna Cipolloni Tester staff writer

If the word yoga conjures up images of people twisted into pretzel shapes or balancing themselves on their fingertips, then it's time to take a realistic look at what yoga can do for you.

Today's desk-bound workforce is likely to suffer a myriad of ailments, such as shoulder and lower-back pain, tight hips and hamstrings, and stress; yoga can help with that. But beyond alleviating physical aches and pains, the practice of yoga can also assist with balancing other aspects of your life.

"Yoga has many benefits," explained Ann Hunt, yoga instructor at the Energy Zone and owner of Evolve Yoga in California, Md. "It can improve your flexibility, strength and balance; lower your heart-rate; balance the endocrine system; calm the mind; teach you to relax; help you sleep better; sharpen your concentration; elevate your self-confidence; and enable you to make more thoughtful life choices."

The Energy Zone offers three types of yoga classes: Stretch & Flex, Yoga Flow, and Yoga Levels 1-2. There was also a new yoga class introduced in October to address the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (see sidebar).

Stretch & Flex offers gentle yet active stretches, movements and postures. Yoga Levels 1-2 is a mixed-level class of individual postures focusing on specific areas that may include hips, shoulders or the side body and is a particularly good class for desk-bound employees to work out their kinks. Yoga Flow is a moderately fast-paced, continuous movement class appropriate for individuals with prior yoga experience, although beginners are welcome.

"Yoga is appropriate for all ages, at all stages in life, and for all shapes," Hunt said.

Postures can be modified or altered to fit an individual's needs, and the use of props in classblankets, blocks and strapsmakes postures easier and safer by avoiding undue strain and fatigue.

"The instructors also provide hands-on assistance to help individuals find their proper alignment and maximize the benefits," Hunt said.

In addition to yoga postures, all classes focus on breathing and strive to teach participants how to stay focused.

"We live in a highly-stimulated environment," Hunt said. "We're often hijacked by our to-do lists. We teach people how to relax, focus and filter out distractions. This is useful information that goes well beyond the yoga mat."

Interested in trying yoga before making a commitment? Anyone with base access is invited to take one class free. All classes are taught by instructors who at least 200 hours of training certified by Yoga Alliance, the U.S. governing body for yoga. An eight-class drop-in pass is $72, or $36 for E1-E5 service members, and a four class pass is $36 for everyone. Passes can be purchased at the Fitness and Sports Office at the Drill Hall.

For detailed descriptions and the days/times of all yoga classes, visit www.cnic.navy.mil/Patuxent, click on Fleet and Family Readiness, then Fitness and Sports and look for the Energy Zone link.