Yoga class draws interest from the community

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 11/3/98.

A new class is being offered through the Community Education this fall. It isnt your typical class of athletic skills or craft work.

Two Cats Yoga offers the participant an opportunity to relax the body through gentle exercise and quiet the mind through breath work so a feeling of physical, mental, and emotional relaxation can occur.

Every Monday, the yoga class meets in the elementary music room. The lights are turned down low and mood music plays in the background while Mary (Alex) Hoeschen takes the class of 22 through the various stretching and relaxation exercises.

Hoeschen, Melrose, is the instructor. She taught yoga four years and has studied and practiced yoga for more than 15 years. She quit teaching just two years ago. In fact, she came out of retirement to teach the class in Paynesville. I stopped teaching to concentrate on an intellectual aspect of yoga, the philosophy. It feels like I took a deep breath and now Im ready to teach again to see what Ive learned, she said.

The study of yoga encompasses multiple levels of benefits: physical, emotional, and spiritual, she added. In addition to the physical benefits of yoga, the mental or emotional focus is on stress management.

The yoga format I direct is entry level. Im available after classes to give individual attention to students who have a particular goal or consideration or students who have previous experience and want to progress, Hoeschen added.

A former long distance swimmer and ballet teacher, she has found yoga rewarding. Hoeschen explained that yoga was developed in the east many thousand years ago.

While our western culture focused on progress in science and technology to study disease, eastern culture used an introspective approach to learn about disease. While medication and laser surgery are often appropriate measures, neither can heal the physical and emotional tension that is a product of our lifestyle. While yoga is not the answer for everyone, it has proven over centuries to be an answer. As westerners, we now have easy access, even in rural Paynesville, to tap into that knowledge.

The physical exercise (Hatha yoga) of gentle stretches and traditional poses or postures help to relieve physical and mental tension when combined with breath work (Prana yoga), Hoeschen explains. The focus on breath work invites a calm and quiet mind, slowing down, then stopping the constant chatter in our minds of the should have/could have/have to/what if variety. It clears the mind and eases emotional upset so you can arrive at a balanced state where both the body and the mind can relax. Breathing is the mind/body connection.

Hoeschen explained many people are skeptical of the mind/body connection. I ask them to try this: close your eyes and think about a fresh lemon. See it on your kitchen counter. Now cut it in two. Pick up a piece of the lemon, feel it. See its juices. Smell its distinct fragrance. As you lift it slowly to your face, the aroma of lemon becomes stronger, more distinct. Open your eyes. It is likely that you are swallowing more right now. Your mouth has produced more saliva to dilute the strong acid in the lemon juice to protect your stomach lining. Your mind triggered this physical reaction in your body. The mind/body connection was real, the lemon was not, she said.

Hoeschen stresses yoga is exercise and not a religion. It invites a feeling of serenity that we think of as being of a quiet spiritual nature. Spirituality is not a religion. Yoga is based intellectually on Zen philosophy. Zen is not a religion. Zen is often confused with Buddism which is a religion, she added.

Stress management, relaxation therapy, and creative visualization are all phrases from the 90s that are being marketed to the public. Call it what you will, but it involves yoga. But what is often marketed as a yoga class turns out to be a physical fitness class. Theres a lot of confusion about what yoga is. I talked to someone who thought it was a dairy product (yogurt)! Hoeschen said.

Various breathing techniques are presented and the classes conclude with a guided relaxation session.

Hoeschen said the class does anywhere from 20 to 25 postures, poses or movements and at least a dozen types of breathing techniques over the time period of the class.

My personal teaching style is to further integrate yoga into my daily life. Many students dont have the opportunity to fit an hour of yoga into an already busy day, so I offer suggestions for putting a layer of yoga on top of whatever theyre doingtalking on the phone, doing dishes, watching television or brushing their teeth.

Hoeschen reported, one student came to her second yoga class saying the week before someone had tampered with her car during class. When she got in her car after class, the seat and mirrors were all out of adjustment. But the doors had been locked. Then it occurred to her that after one class of yoga, her posture had improved. She readjusted her seat and mirrors, and leaves them to remind her to drive with good posture. She has added a benefit of yoga to her daily routine whenever she drives.
Sometimes people are nervous when I say I meditate when Im driving. A huge aspect of meditation is to be focused and attentive. Frankly, Im alarmed to think there are people driving around who are not meditating! Hoeschen added.

Mary Janotta, class member, said she has always been curious about yoga and enjoys the class.

Laura Thompson said the breathing they practice in class is a lot like what she teaches in childbirth classes.

I find the class different, Phyllis Putzke said. The yoga isnt strenuous but yet it is exercise. I enjoy the relaxation techniques and find the class very soothing.

Yoga is so simple for the rewards we get, she added. It is an activity the whole family can do together. I appreciate the balance between mind and body and the interaction that helps a person release tension.

Through yoga I have learned and shared skills that are of personal benefit and useful in my daily living. Like so many other things in life, one keeps the things one can use and lets the other pass. I have chosen to keep the part of yoga that serves me, concluded Hoeschen.

Return to Archives