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Yearning for Yoga

Ancient art garners more interest

January 24, 2010
By RODNEY MINOR, The Leader-Herald

Yoga instructor Ony Antonucci said she likes to tell people the only bad thing about yoga is that it is addictive.

"Once you start doing [yoga] and feel better, you will not want to stop," she said with a laugh.

Antonucci is among the area yoga instructors who said the ancient art is growing in popularity locally.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Rodney Minor

James Meehan, left, helps his daughter, Mackenzie, into a handstand Wednesday at their home in?Amsterdam. Meehan, a yoga instructor, said the handstand position is used in yoga.

The ancient discipline, which is probably most well known for the variety of poses students try and maintain, is getting people's attention for a number of reasons.

Antonucci said at the classes she teaches at the Fulton County YMCA, she is seeing more women come in who are stressed out by work, and want to get more physically fit while practicing something that will help them relax.

James Meehan, a chiropractor in Amsterdam who also is a yoga instructor, said from a physical standpoint yoga can help in a variety of areas, including flexibility, strength, muscular endurance, balance and cardiovascular endurance.

However, the instructors pointed out that yoga is more than just putting the body into poses.

Meehan said in yoga, there is a major focus on breathing. By focusing on their breathing while practicing yoga, practitioners find it to be a great way to relieve stress, he said.

At the end of yoga classes, he said, it is common for students to lay down and focus on their breathing. That also helps reduce stress.

"It's not like running, which provides no time for de-stressing," he said.

Richard Betz and his wife, Marilyn, were certified to teach yoga in 1999. They use a space at the United Methodist Church in Amsterdam. Last fall, they had about 110 students in the program.

Betz said sometimes when people see yoga on TV or read about it in magazines, they get the wrong idea. They look at some of the poses experienced yoga practitioners can do, and think yoga will never be for them.

"[Yoga is] about what you can do, it's not about what you cannot do," he said.

To that end, Betz said they offer classes based on the ability of the student.

They run chair classes for senior citizens, power yoga classes, and classes for the in-between.

The chair classes actually involved the use of a chair. For people who have trouble laying down or standing for long periods, sitting in a chair provides them with an ideal way to get into the basics of yoga. For those who can stand and take part in those poses, it also is a handy way for students to have something nearby to balance themselves with if they need too, Betz said.

Power yoga - compared to an average yoga class - tends to have a quicker pace, poses that may be more strenuous and are held longer, he said.

Meehan said the way the Betzs' break up the classes is different than most yoga instruction, which normally is done with all skill levels in one class. The different classes allow people to find the level that is most appropriate for them.

"It is important people find the level that fits them best," he said.

Meehan said sometimes people get confused and think yoga is a religious practice. While yoga has been and can be combined with a particular religion, he said, yoga itself is not a religion.

At the Fulton County YMCA on Thursday, Ony's husband, Jim, was attending a class his wife leads.

Jim said he got into yoga about 10 years ago. He had been training and running in marathons for more than a decade at that point, and had suffered some related injuries. He got into yoga as a way to helps prevent those injuries.

"It has definitely helped," he said.

Bonnie Ioele of Gloversville said taking the class made her realize she was not breathing properly.

"Unless you go to yoga, you don't realize that," she said Thursday.

Peter Riley, the health and wellness director at the Fulton?County YMCA, said the yoga classes at the facility are a more passive way for people to improve their health, compared to other activities.

"Sometimes people think you need to do vigorous, high impact, aerobic workouts to improve your health," he said. "But that is not the case."



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