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Times reporter poses and stretches in exercise class

Savannah King attempts yogalates

POSTED: July 30, 2013 1:00 a.m.

There was a time in my life when I considered myself something of a living-room yogi.

In college, I enjoyed a quiet, predictable video-led yoga practice at home after class. Even when I was pregnant, prenatal yoga videos kept me balanced and optimistic that my expanding girth was only temporary.

But in the three years since my son was born, at-home workouts became a luxury that simply weren’t worth the steep price of waking up an hour early. I’ve tried here and there to resume my yoga practice at home in the evenings, but frankly, it’s not possible to hold a pose and stay focused on my breath while a small child climbs up, under and around my legs.

Recently, I decided my only reasonable option for working out meant joining a gym with a child watch center. So, I joined the J.A. Walters YMCA in Gainesville and have been taking group yoga classes Tuesday nights for a few weeks now.

Stefanie Long leads the class through an hour of poses that strengthen and stretch all muscle groups. While I enjoy Long’s style of leading yoga, she said she always encourages people to try a variety of yoga classes with different instructors to see which styles and methods work best for them. Taking Long’s advice into consideration, I attended a yogalates class Wednesday afternoon.

I never took a yogalates class before, though I have some experience with both forms of exercises. Heather Phillips teaches the class and explained the two forms of exercise compliment each other.

“Yoga and Pilates are both mind-body classes,” Phillips said. “It’s taking it a little bit slower and we have intention with movement. We’re using our breath as well to power through our moves or relax in our moves if we’re stretching.”

The class started off typically enough, we grabbed our mats, took off our shoes and did a few Sun Salutations, a fairly quick warm-up that moves through several yoga poses.

Phillips urged class members to listen to their bodies and move into poses in a way that worked for their bodies. She explained slight changes in posture and positioning can make a difference in which muscles are being worked or stretched. The key is to shift or modify poses for your benefit.

I stole a peek at my classmates while we held our arms out in front of our chests in Chair pose. My fellow yogis were all at different levels physically, but everyone seemed totally focused on the movement of his or her body and breath.

Phillips explained most of the time she fuses elements of yoga and Pilates through the entire workout. This particular day she split the two up with the headstand serving as the mid point.

Phillips showed class members how to hold their bodies and safely lift their feet in the air above their heads. She encouraged them to use a wall for balance until they had more practice.

Lyn Deichert asked why the pose was beneficial. Phillips said inverted poses, such as the headstand, help bring blood into the core and suggested only those who wanted to try the pose and felt strong enough should try the pose.

The man next to me, Tim Ridgway, lined his mat up with the mirrored wall and pulled his legs into the air. He made it look so easy I had to give it a try.

I pulled up next to him on the wall and tried to do as Phillips instructed. Though she coached me through the movement, fear kept me rooted.

“Maybe it’s something to work on at home,” Phillips said.

Ridgway handed me a towel to put under my head and said he’d stand beside me in case I fell.

I put my head into my cupped hands and pulled my legs as close to my body as I could. One leg slowly made its way up, then the other. I leaned my heels against the wall to stay steady.

When the excitement of being in an actual headstand wore off, I realized I had a serious problem.

“How do I get down,” I asked my new friend.

“Slowly, one leg at a time,” Ridgway said. “I think.”

With his help, I managed to get my legs half way down before falling over to my side.

That headstand motivated me to push harder through the last half of the class which focused on Pilates core moves.

Deichert told me she’s followed the principles of Pilates for a long time but has only been taking the class for two months. She said she’s glad she tried the class because she loves the way it makes her feel — strong but relaxed.

Classmate Laura Kirby said she takes the class to help keep herself limber, which helps prevent injuries when she runs. She said people always recommended she take a yoga class but only recently started.

Both women agreed since starting yoga they’ve seen improvements in their body.

It seems each person in class had his or her own motivations for trying the workout and after a few sessions found an enjoyable aspect.

I’m glad I took Long’s advice and tried a slightly different style. I’ll still go back to her class on Tuesday nights, but now I know I’ve got options and I can do a headstand, well almost.

In Gainesville and Hall County, plenty of yoga, Pilates and combination workouts are available. A few variations are taught at the YMCA, the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center in Gainesville and the North Hall Community Center on Nopone Road, in addition to several private studios and gyms.


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