Yoga. The word creates images of handstands and people twisting their bodies into pretzels. I always thought that in order to be considered a true “yogi” I needed to be able to contort my body in painful, unnatural ways.
Despite that, yoga was intriguing to me. I watched videos online and became more familiar with the terminology, slowly understanding what makes millions of people practice everyday. I even started to notice a shift in how I carried myself. Yoga slowly started moving from a physical practice to a mental practice as well.
After I moved to Jackson, I shortly found The Yoga Center of Jackson and my teacher, Deborah Perry.
Deborah started yoga about thirty-four years ago, right after having her last child. She wanted to find a fitness class to get in shape and eventually found one called “Stretch and Flex.” She soon fell in love with the class and attended as much as she could. After finding a book on yoga, she realized that the class had been practicing yoga all along.
“My teacher didn’t want to call it a yoga class because people would not have been as comfortable attending a yoga class thirty years ago,” she told me. At the time, there was a huge stigma about yoga and what actually defined it.
After attending consistently, Deborah was approached about assisting in the class. She started her yoga education and slowly transitioned into teaching. Eventually, her teacher decided to drop the class.
“I went to every class around town to try and find something else. but that’s when I came to the realization that nothing is the same as yoga,” Deborah explained. “Yoga is just different. I continued for a little while to teach her class and call it ‘Stretch and Flex.’ Then I realized that I was just going to go ahead and call it yoga.”
Soon after Deborah made that decision, many people left her class.
“People believe that yoga is a spiritual practice, but it isn’t,” she told me. “It’s an ancient exercise used for health of the whole person.”
However, other people who were looking for a yoga class found their way to Deborah. She eventually started her own studio and in 2001 opened The Yoga Center in Jackson.
I asked Deborah what she felt was the most beneficial aspect of practicing yoga.
“Yoga means ‘yoke.’ You are yoking your mind and body together. We are always living in our minds or in our bodies. If you are not connecting your mind and body, then you are not paying attention to your health or what you are putting in your body.
“If you are in your head, then your mind is racing, and your heart rate accelerates, and your body is not digesting. We are constantly in fight or flight. It makes you less mindful about everything you are doing. When your mind slows down, you can become more aware of what’s happening in your body. Your emotional system is very tied to what’s going on in your mind and body.
“Yoga is more than just physical; it’s holistic. It strengthens, circulates blood flow, massages your organs, and works your whole body.”
The Yoga Center of Jackson offers classes for all ages and levels, with a variety of classes from beginner to advanced. All props are supplied, making it an easy start to anyone’s yoga journey. Here's a beginner exercise for those of you who want to start the new year off with a relaxed body and mind.
Stand in Mountain Pose with feet hip width apart.
Move into Chair Pose by slightly squatting back and raising your arms over your head.
Lower your arms and slide your left leg back into a standing lunge with the back foot raised, making sure the front knee is over the front ankle.
Lower the back foot and raise both arms over head into Crescent Pose.
Lean your upper body forward into Leaning Crescent Pose.
Pivot on the back foot into Warrior 1.
Slide the right arm done the back leg and lean back into Reverse Warrior.
Straighten the front leg and bring the left arm down towards the ankle, either resting it on the shin or bringing it down to the ankle in Triangle Pose.
Rise from Triangle and step both feet up to the front of the mat returning to Mountain Pose.
Repeat on the other side.