TWISTS ON YOGA: NEW TAKES ON THE ANCIENT DISCIPLINE CATER TO EVERYONE FROM PREGNANT WOMEN TO CONSTRUCTION WORKERS TO SURFERS
A mother and baby yoga class may not be as serene and mindful as your
typical yoga gathering, but a 20-pound infant on your thigh does make for an
effective weight when going into a ''warrior'' pose, and toddlers are very
good at imitating a ''down dog'' pose.
Best of all, participants sometimes put so much into a 90-minute class that
they're ready to all stretch out on the floor at the end.
Boasts Sebastopol yoga teacher Devorah Blum, ''We had nine babies in here
the other day and in our final relaxation pose there wasn't a peep.'' Of
course, three were also nursing.
A roomful of barefoot mothers sitting in the lotus position while newbie
yogis crawl among them is only one part of the changing scene of yoga. In
fact, there would seem to be no end to the new twists on the centuries-old
practice of physical postures, breathing and meditation.
Blum's Yoga Ganesha Studio in Sebastopol also specializes in prenatal yoga
and kids' yoga.
At other Sonoma County sites, you can find yoga classes specifically
designed for horseback riders and one for gardeners. There are yoga teachers
who focus on moves and stretches for surfers, dancers and construction
workers. You can find laughter yoga clubs and dog owners can rent a video on
yoga exercises to do with their pets called ''doga.''
It's no surprise that yoga, traditional or morphed, is popular in the
region, said Allan Nett, a Napa contractor and longtime yoga practitioner who
came up with a form of yoga for blue collar workers.
''People in the Bay Area have an openness to investigate new things.
They're able to cut loose and experiment,'' said Nett.
The lifestyle in Sonoma County puts an emphasis on wellness, said Blum.
''People here are always looking for ways to take good care of themselves in a
Melanie MacDonald of Petaluma counts on yoga to help her ''stay grounded as
a new mom in my very busy world.'' Before the mother and baby class, she took
a prenatal yoga class which she credits for her ''fairly easy labor.''
The physical benefits of yoga poses (called asanas), said Blum, ''help a
mother to regain abdominal strength and tone, aids the uterus in shrinking
back to its normal size and brings stamina to sleep-deprived women.''
The emphasis on mindfulness, which yoga encourages through breathing and
meditation, is useful in ''learning how to become calm in challenging
situations,'' said Blum, who designed the mother and baby yoga class when she
was a new mother and looking for a class she could attend with her baby, help
her get back in shape and meet other new mothers.
Orthopedic physician Gail Dubinsky, a longtime yoga practitioner, designed
a series of yoga moves specific to gardeners after she hurt herself during one
long day of mulching her Santa Rosa garden. She tried to wrestle an overloaded
wheelbarrow and tore up her right elbow.
''After months of therapy,'' she said, ''it occurred to me that gardeners
as a group are all so fanatic about their passion and such universal
over-doers that I could really provide a service in helping them do it in a
more sustainable way, both physically and attitudinally.''
Focusing on the correct way to lunge, reach, bend forward and ''use your
legs to save your back,'' Dubinsky put together an instructional DVD called
Yoga for Gardeners, using Sonoma County gardeners and yoga enthusiasts as
Yoga, said Dubinsky, has ''almost limitless potential for variation and
modification for different needs and abilities of people. Since the physical
arm of yoga is such a comprehensive system for strength, flexibility, balance
and focus, one can pick and choose postures that suit their needs.''
Vickie Morse, a fitness instructor at the Airport Club in Santa Rosa,
combined her two passions for yoga and horseback riding into a yoga for
Riding and yoga, she said, ''share the universal goal of establishing
union. In yoga, union refers to merging all aspects of yourself, attaining
unity of body, mind and spirit. Transferring that quality of union to your
riding will help you to attain the ultimate relationship with your horse.
There is nothing like being in complete harmony with your horse, whether it be
dressage, jumping or even working cattle.''
Her yoga for equestrian classes are for the human, not the horse, although
she has taught mounted classes in which students do their yoga stretches in
the saddle. Generally, students work on yoga moves that help strengthen core
muscles, elongate the spine, open the hips and relax the shoulders.
The physical part of yoga, she said, is ''a natural fit'' for riders. But
so are the breathing and mindfulness parts. ''If you are not mindful you may
be sending mixed messages to your horse. And even subtle changes in your