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Yoga nomad

Mind, body and some really hot rooms

Ashtanga is the way to go for a good butt-kicking.

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Before Power Flow was offered as a fast-paced guaranteed-to-make-you-sweat gym class, the practice of yoga involved the mind, spirit and body for over 5000 years. There is science behind why yoga is so beneficial and can provide overall healing and health. In 2002, I got my first taste; friend and New York artist, Hannah Corbett, introduced me to hot yoga. I became an instant fan.

Soon venturing beyond hot yoga, I discovered various yoga styles and dubbed myself a yoga nomad in 2006. Exploring different energies and locations, learning yoga disciplines, gaining a spiritual sense of yoga as more than a fitness fad and experiencing classes led by the area's talented instructors became a passion. Whereas health clubs and gyms have members, yoga schools have students that go to learn yoga in classes led by teachers. This learning is "sadhana," which literally means to practice what's been learned and learn more during each practice. The first and most important yoga lesson is that yoga is as much about the breath and mental repose as it is the physical poses. Depending on the class, yoga ranges from hyper-intense to ultra-gentle.

Ashtanga is the way to go for a good butt-kicking. I was blown away by the level of intensity involved at the Serenity Yoga class. With constant transitional motion (vinyasa) from one challenging pose to the next, Ashtanga is not for beginners. A base knowledge of poses, form and strength is needed for this cardio-intensive practice, which is offered at Ashtanga Yoga Tacoma and Olympia's The Bandha Room in the traditional Mysore discipline.

Tacoma's newest yoga location, Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center is on Sixth Avenue.  It is unique in its nonprofit status and offers an income level-based sliding fee scale. Managing Director Vania Kent Harber says, "Our mission is to make yoga available to everyone."

Samdhana-Karana offers invigorating morning classes, adaptive yoga (hatha/vinyasa with props), stress reducing lunchtime classes and relaxing evening classes with yoga nidra (yogic sleep). A free weekly community class, as well as a selection of prenatal, meditation, beginner and gentle restorative yoga classes are also available.

I feel like the recipient of an enormous bear hug from the inside out when I finish hot yoga. The 95-105 degree heated environment typical of 90-minute Bikram hot yoga is said to promote muscle detox and provide easier flexibility. When I visit Hot Yoga Tacoma, my heart rate is elevated greatly for at least half the class and my mind is empty - focused solely on breathing and not falling down. I'm a believer. A less heated option is OlyYoga's vinyasa class held in an 80 degree studio.

The intermediate flow class at Tacoma‘s Source Yoga and the vinyasa class at Puyallup‘s Yoga Soleil coordinate breath and movement for an aerobic workout. These classes strongly encourage prior yoga experience.  Basic calisthenics are incorporated: planks, toe touches, side bends, push-ups - all necessitating concentrated balance while requiring muscle-building power to flow through each pose.

Recently I attended a 90-minute Kriya yoga class led by guest teacher Chivito Cowa at Serenity Yoga on St. Helens Avenue. I got a glimpse into the fullness of yoga (the physical and spiritual) through chanting, breathing exercises and guided seated and moving meditations.

Given my nomad status, my practice has no regularity; I base it off of what I feel I need each day. Our bodies and spirits need different things daily because we are ever-changing creatures constantly in motion. I believe many athletes turn to yoga after their physical abilities begin to be limited by pain. I know I cannot run every day; I cannot lift weights every day, but I can do a different type of yoga daily for exercise while reaping added benefits of a quieter mind, reduced stress and improved confidence.

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