Tara Blumenthal, who owns Tara Yoga (200 Park Circle Drive, Suite 4, Flowood, 601-720-2337), has been a yoga teacher for 15 years, so she has seen how it has grown and changed. Recently, the Jackson Free Press did a phone interview with her about what beginners should know, important things to remember when practicing yoga and more.
What would you say to someone who is starting yoga?
Check out the studio that you're going to attend. ... Find out about the instructors, find out if they're certified, find out their experience, and then also look at from a long-term perspective. One of the things that we do at our studio (is) offer people a non-intimidating first class free, and then we allow them to buy a class package that gives them a price break. It doesn't expire. I always tell people to be careful and mindful of the deals anywhere you go that sound too good to be true, because sometimes they usually are.
From a physical standpoint, if you are dealing with an injury or loss of range of motion, definitely contact the studio first ... and reach out so we can have a good conversation with you on what your needs are. ...
I've been working with athletes for a long time, and so we'll have folks specifically come in for mobility and speed, and then we have some folks that are corporate, 8 to 5, and they really need to move because they've been sedentary all day, and de-stress. We feel like we can pretty much meet most of the needs that people have.
What are some important things to remember when practicing yoga?
Each class has a style or personality of its own, so I think one of the most important things to remember for people is it's not a competition. Most things nowadays are. Yoga is one of the great places where you can walk through the door, and let go of your competitive nature, let go of your to-do list, and just really practice really good self-care.
One of the things to remember when practicing yoga is to breathe. ... (Also), I definitely think (you should) let go of the preconceived notions that you have if you're a new practitioner, and come and enjoy because you can definitely build some strength that you didn't know you could do through yoga practice, and also, perhaps, enjoy the workout, as well.
... The thing I hope to stress to people is to try a number of different styles of classes. Don't just go to one class and either write yoga off or on for you because there are so many different kinds of classes that can meet your needs. If you tend to be super high strung and stressed and always on the go, then you may be attracted to the faster-paced classes because you think, "That's what I want to do," but it may be counter-intuitive, and maybe going to a class that moves a little bit slower and that's a little more methodical could actually help you (combat) some of your anxiety and help reset more of a natural rhythm. I always tell people, "Don't take your friend's advice on what yoga class you should go to." Check in with a professional first.
What's your favorite yoga position?
One of my favorite yoga poses is in the very end ... relaxation; that pose is savasana. When I first started practicing, it was hard for me to do, not only mentally but physically because I had a lot of low-back pain, so laying flat on the floor just didn't feel great. Yoga in general was challenging for me due to weakness, poor balance and hyper mobility.
Over time (and) a steady practice, not only did I find that I one of my favorite times of practice was that stillness and that relaxation, but I also made some pretty significant changes in my body so that I could actually lay flat on the floor without any pain. That was an exciting thing for me. ... [I] feel like that quiet time in between the moving part of yoga and the rest of your day or the rest of your night ... we just push the reset button. Let's see if we can hold onto that a little longer.
Any other tips or information to remember?
I'd stay away from the trendy kinds of yoga. People
oftentimes think that with yoga, if they don't go to a hot class or fast class that they're not getting anything out of it, and in my 15 years of experience as a teacher, (I've found) that actually the opposite is true. If you go to a class (as a new student) where you build up your own body heat naturally, you're going to get way better health benefits than if you heat your body up unnaturally and maybe pull a muscle or overstretch a ligament. One of the things we like to do is educate people on safety, so new students should really stick with a regular-temp class or a lightly warm class, not an overly heated class, because oftentimes they're not 100 percent sure on body mechanics or what they're doing to their bodies, and they end up usually creating more injury than good in those classes.
I just tell people to stay away from trendy stuff, start with something that sounds more accessible to you. We can always go in and make the classes harder. We have some FLOW (and Core) classes here where you definitely get hot, and you'll need a shower afterward and a meal, you know? The important thing is to know the lane that you're driving in, like which lane are you driving in, what does your body need because our bodies are really kind of intelligent, and so if we test our body gently and carefully, it will respond well. If we overtax immediately, I don't think our bodies respond well. We actually end up creating the opposite effect of what we were going for.
The biggest myth in yoga is that you won't build strength, and it's not a core-strength activity.
Why is a practice like yoga important?
That depends. A lot of people come to yoga for different reasons nowadays. ... One of things I think that people don't realize about yoga, or one of the misconceptions, is yoga is not just stretching. ... What we do at our studio encompasses strength-building and mobility and balance, and then the delightful byproducts of that are stress relief. Sometimes, depending on the nature of the severity of the situation, people will say, "Oh, I didn't realize I could lose weight with yoga," or "I didn't realize that I could get my blood pressure (or) stress level down," so those are some of the byproducts.
We do like to tell folks who come in before class if they have a significant injury or diagnosis by a physician, just to make sure they're coming into the right class, that we can accommodate them because safety is really important, and you definitely want to make sure that if you start off with a healthy challenge level, we can always build that up, so I think the sky is the limit when it comes to yoga.
As much as it's out there, I think some folks are still in the dark on what yoga could actually do for you, but in my personal opinion, being a practitioner for the last 15 years, the sky is the limit.
For more information, visit tara-yoga.net.