Monday, March 13, 2006

Lost my balance, lost my footing, found a reason to go on -- yoga

Amber Gibson shows Jackie Cummings
some basic yoga moves at the
Purdue University Stewart Center on March 3.

Everyone I know who participates in yoga on a regular basis appears to be fit -- both physically and mentally. I have done yoga a handful of times, and each time I promise myself I will enroll in a class.

Unfortunately, I've never made good on that promise.

In an effort to motivate myself, I decided to find out more about yoga as a profession. Perhaps unveiling the truth behind the physical and mental benefits would finally get me to make a commitment. An invitation by local yoga instructor Amber Gibson to a class proved to be just the kind of experience that I was looking for.

Gibson started doing yoga at 15, but like many people, didn't stick with it. After 10 years of inconsistent practice, she finally committed to making it a more stable part of her daily routine.

"Yoga made me more aware of things, and whenever I was consistently doing it, I felt like I could better handle whatever life threw at me," she said.

After a few months of attending classes, she was asked to teach. She took an at-home certification class, and within months realized she wanted to know all that she could about the many forms of yoga.

"Yoga incorporated my interests in health, fitness and spirituality," she said, "and I wanted to share those benefits with other people."

Gibson currently teaches classes two classes a week, soon to be four, and usually has between eight and 12 students per class. She is trained in two forms of yoga styles, Vinyasa and Hatha.

We practiced Vinyasa in our session, and Gibson exhibited saintly patience with me as I lost my balance, my footing and -- almost -- my interest, all during my first "cosmic dancer."

Determined to figure out how she kept that smile on her face, I pressed on.

Since becoming an active yogini, Gibson has been able to quit smoking, deal with stress and anxiety better and become more toned physically. The physical benefits, she said, almost equal the mental.

After doing a bit of research on, I found out that a one-hour yoga session can allow you to burn up to 400 calories, twice the amount than a person burns playing baseball or golf and the same amount of calories burned doing moderate calisthenics.

For me, stretching and breathing sounds pretty good when faced with the option of jumping around for an hour.

Gibson thinks people are often misled about the nature of yoga, mistaking it to be about flexibility.

"It's about learning to quiet your mind and get in touch with yourself," she said.

"People today live so externally. It's hard for some people to just sit and be. Yoga helps change that."

After trying a few more moves, I actually forgot that I was there on assignment. I made a mental note: Exercise that gives a workout to the mind as well as the body is a glorious thing.

Gibson, who is currently a certified instructor, plans to attend workshops and intensive teacher training to become a registered yoga teacher.

"Everyone comes to class for different reasons," she said.

"Having a variety of training helps you to accommodate everyone's needs."

She said to put herself "out there" and build a student base, she hangs fliers, established a Web site and hands out business cards on a regular basis.

"You have to be a people person. Networking is a big part of building classes."

After class was over, I witnessed Gibson chatting with students about a variety of topics, and saw how capable she was at putting people's minds at ease about their performance. As I left class that night, I felt peaceful and relaxed, similar to the feeling when you've just stepped out of a jacuzzi.

The next morning was a different story. As I struggled to get out of bed, every muscle in my body feeling like it was on fire, I had to remind myself that the pain was a good thing.

All in all, the experience was motivating and enlightening. Gibson taught me a lot of little tricks about stretching and breathing, proving herself to be a motivating teacher that offers great advice. Her patience, mental and physical balance and caring nature are a credit to her profession.

As for me, I have once again made a commitment to myself to enroll in a class. I figure if yoga can do for me what I've seen it do for others, I have nothing to lose.

Except, of course, the 10 pounds I've gained since Christmas.

By Jackie Cummings
March 13, 2006

No comments: