Yoga fit for old and young

Published 1:03 pm Monday, March 13, 2006

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Just walk into one of the yoga classes at the Brewton YMCA and you just might become instantly relaxed. Relaxation is just among one of the many benefits of practicing yoga, and with more people becoming educated about the ancient practice, yoga participation has increased dramatically around the United States, even winding up here in Brewton.
Wikipedia says that yoga is a family of ancient spiritual practices that originated in India, where it remains a vibrant living tradition and is seen as a means to enlightenment.
According to yoga instructor Stacey V. Fuqua, a regular practice of yoga builds strength, flexibility, self-esteem, discipline, concentration and focus. It can also improve mood and tones of the body.
On Thursday morning, Fuqua was busy with a group of seniors who regularly attend the weekly exercise class. The Senior Adult Yoga class meets every Thursday for 45 minutes.
The group of women were laying flat on their backs atop a yoga mat, following Fuqua's instruction. Fuqua steps to each lady and rubs massage oil on the temples, adding to the relaxation state held at the end of each class.
The women focus on the facial muscles by noticing any facial tension and then they relax those muscles, all while concentrating on their breathing. The yoga philosophy is to breath in the nose and out the nose, which is different from aerobic exercise, which focuses on breathing in the nose and out the mouth. Breathing helps increase lung capacity, Fuqua said.
From insomnia and hot flashes even to the fear of flying and smoking habits, experts swear that yoga helps improve overall health and well-being. Fuqua said that yoga also helps increase circulation, strength, flexibility and stamina.
This week marked the fourth class, and Fuqua said that attendance has been up each week. Typically, a lot of people are afraid to take yoga because it looks strange, but for the most part first timers get over that fear once they step into class.
Fuqua said that she tells each of her participants in her class that yoga is not supposed to be competitive.
As the women finished the class, many walked out rejuvenated.
Peggy Bracken attends Fuqua's class regularly. She tells Fuqua at the end of each class that she feels better than she has felt all week – and that's each week, Fuqua said.
For those opting to buy a yoga video to escape looking silly in front of others, Fuqua highly recommends taking a class over a tape.
Incorrectly holding a pose can cause serious injury, she added.
Fuqua is also a massage therapist. While she was in school her instructors encouraged everyone to do yoga for the health benefits. Massage therapy is very strenuous and yoga helped with her muscles and stretching.
Yoga tones muscles as well as lengthen them, and in Fuqua's opinion, is more well rounded and healthy overall than some exercise regimes. Plus, Fuqua said, all you have to purchase is a mat.