Yoga, according to Marilyn Eberhart, certified yoga instructor at Jefferson DeFrees Family Center, "enhances physical health and mental awareness by encouraging students to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the body while maintaining close attention to the body and the breath."
"It promotes emotional balance through relieving stress and deep relaxation," said Eberhart. "Yoga addresses the mind and body and the action of yoga prepares the body, especially the nervous system, for stillness and calm."
Rachel Tome, a local Kripaulu yoga instructor at the Audubon in Jamestown, N.Y., said, "Yoga helps you learn to breathe and get thoughts out of your head and focus on centering yourself."
"I started yoga several years ago when my mom and I were trying to lose weight," said Tome. "I had this epiphany to go to yoga to help gain muscle strength, but what I realized it was more than just exercise."
Tome, who said she suffered from depression, acknowledged that yoga helped her get through that period in her life and to become aware of what is going on inside herself.
"When I was younger I had an illness that left me with a lot of pain and fatigue," said Eberhart. "For myself, I used yoga as a way to build up my immune system and I have kept with it ever since."
Both instructors said there are many benefits to yoga, including stress and pain relief, better breathing, improved flexibility, increased strength, weight management, improved circulation and cardiovascular conditioning.
Tome said the history of yoga dates back several thousand years, originating in India where men sought both "meditation and enlightenment."
There are many types of yoga, said Tome, but Hatha yoga is the "umbrella" which encompasses all basic yoga postures and breathing exercises.
In order to start yoga, Eberhart said, " A student initially needs comfortable clothes that are easy to move in and a sticky mat. The sticky mats are used to prevent slipping while in postures and promotes safety."
Other props, said Eberhart, are yoga straps, yoga blocks as well as a blanket which can be used to wrap up in during deep relaxation or support an injured body part that needs extra support.
As far as music, both instructors feel that it should be up to the individual.
"It is a matter of choice when music is concerned," said Eberhart. "I like to play soothing instrumental music and some instructors choose to not play music at all. It should be what relaxes you."
Eberhart also said there are benefits to both group classes as well as doing yoga by yourself.
"For me, I like to work in a group. I like the energy I get from working with even one other person," said Eberhart. "There are is also the benefit of working alone in that you can go at your own pace."
Tome agreed and said when working in a group, "The peace from everyone is amplified. Also, some people do not have the discipline to work by themselves and would rather have someone instructing them on the proper movements, but if you want to work on a specific muscle or body part; it is better to work by yourself."
Tome said it is important when trying yoga for the first time to find the right type of yoga as well as instructor.
"I think it is so sad when someone tries yoga for the first time and they are disappointed that it is not what they envisioned," said Tome. "Some instructors do more strengthening and some like myself are more relaxation. My best advice is to try out different teachers, shop around and see what is out there. There is a type of yoga for every lifestyle and body."