Body by yoga
By EILEEN SCHULTE
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 25, 2001
Inside a room at Lifestyle Solutions Fitness and Yoga Studio, Cheryl McDonald dimmed the lights and lit a candle that sat on the CD player.
Everything about the room was soothing: the beige carpeting, palm plans, orange Oriental throw rug. Relaxing music poured from speakers near the wall of mirrors.
This was advanced powerflow yoga, a powerful 90-minute cardio-vascular workout that would leave beginners sore for a week. And it's just one more sign of yoga's evolution.
"Yoga has become mainstream in the last few years," said Pat Massey who owns the Tarpon Springs fitness center. "It has finally gained the respect of the fitness industry."
Kurt Gratzol, 54, is a believer. He began taking three yoga classes a week at Lifework Yoga Studio in Clearwater about a year ago to improve his strength and flexibility, but found it had an even greater benefit.
His teacher is Claude Griffin, who founded Lifework Yoga Studio 12 years ago, and has been teaching the discipline for 38 years. He credits yoga and clean living for a lifetime of good health.
"I'm 70 years old," he said. "I stopped smoking and drinking when I was 28 or 29. At 70, I teach several classes a day. I'm building a building by myself. I don't use any drugs, not even prescription drugs. I help people get healthy using alternative (techniques)."
Griffen described yoga as a way of uniting mind, body and spirit. One class he offers called Yoga For Your Mind, helps clients set goals. Sometimes the goal is simply to find happiness.
"I found there was more to life than just going to work and being driven by money," she said. "The yoga is the body portion for me. Meditation is stretching the mind, sitting very quietly and being by myself."
While yoga doesn't typically cause people to change professions, it does get them to slow down and listen to the whispers of their bodies, said Denise Britton, 45, president of the Suncoast Yoga Teacher's Association and Palms of Largo Holistic Health Spa director.
Britton said she has been practicing yoga since she was in junior high school, and has seen interest in the discipline wax and wane, "but during the last year there's been a huge resurgence."
"Only now I believe I can earn a living from teaching," said Britton, who will resign her post as spa director to be a full-time instructor.
Britton can thank movie stars and models like Christy Turlington for her good fortune, and said "when people recognize celebrities and professional people who are doing it, it gives them a lot of reason to try it themselves."
Right now, she said, there isn't a gym that doesn't offer it. The teaching approaches have become more varied, active and aggressive like power yoga and ashtanga. But it's still yoga, an ancient discipline with 3,000 postures.
It's the same yoga Anita Rao, owner of Yoga Shakti in Safety Harbor, learned as a child from her father in an open courtyard in central India, where she was raised.
"It's a whole philosophy. You do all these postures, then you go into relaxation and meditation, then you are growing spiritually," Rao said. "It calms your mind, and you are focused. You are aware of where you are at the present time."
She said through yoga and meditation, you deal with the physical body to achieve mental clarity.
It takes people to such a high spiritual level, "you notice that everyone is a divine spirit," she said.
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