[Home Page] [This Week] [Classifieds] [Legals] [Obituaries] [Newsstands] [Subscriptions] [Advertising] [Deadlines] [About Us] [FAQ] [Archives] [Community Links] [Contact Us]

Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, February 9, 2012

Studio founder says
Yoga reduces Americans’ anxiety by helping practitioners feel grounded and find gratitude

VOORHEESVILLE — Each yoga class here begins by finding one’s breath.

“The most powerful tool in a yoga practice is breathing,” says Elex Sheels, founder of No Limits Yoga. “Students can come to class and just the mere change in their ability to take full, deep breaths will make them feel better because they are allowing fresh oxygen into their system,” she said.

“You always start slow,” she said. A class can move students through more energetic poses, but each class ends in a quiet pose, lying on the floor.

“You never want to jump into a yoga practice. The mind would be scattered,” Sheels said.

New yoga students may begin to gain flexibility or to be closer to their divine maker, she said. “You set your intention, and then move into your flow.”

Sheels attributes the rapid recent growth of yoga in the West to people like her first instructor, Bryan Kest, who created Power Yoga.

Kest practices in Hawaii and describes his philosophy at HYPERLINK "http://www.poweryoga.com/"www.poweryoga.com.

“I think Bryan realized that our culture didn't have the discipline, or desire, to master a yogic lifestyle,” Scheels said, “so instead, he took one limb of yoga [out of eight], the asana practice, and created something that was appealing to the American mindset,” Scheels said in an e-mail to The Enterprise.

“Students may start because they are looking for tone or flexibility, but they will come back more and more because yoga will have an impact on the mind, body, and spirit,” Scheels continued. “People don't anticipate this subtle power, but you cannot practice yoga and not have touched all three parts. I think this is why the trend to practice is growing in the United States.”

In the 1960s, neo-Hindu schools were established because of a growing Western interest in Hindu spirituality. Then a second wave of yoga popularity came 20 years later when Dean Ornish connected yoga to heart health, followed by practitioners who were interested in yoga as purely physical, rather than spiritual, exercise. A doctor, Ornish is the founder and president of the not-for-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif.

“There has been such an elevated sense of anxiety within our culture, and so many of us have disconnected from our inner spirit,” said Sheels of the current popularity of yoga. “There is a very powerful energy within and, our yoga practice helps us find that and live with it on and off the mat.

“When students practice yoga, they have the opportunity to feel grounded, find gratitude in the present moment and learn to accept themselves a little more. And, for the record, not all yoga has you screaming mantra for 30 minutes,” she wrote.

“I'm not someone who runs around with a peace flag,” Scheels told The Enterprise. “But, if we can soften our hearts individually, all of us can start to have more warmth, understanding, and empathy for everyone in the world. It sounds corny, but it can really happen,” she said.

“If people can start to look at someone with empathy — without judgment — we could go from there. Everyone could just chill out a little bit,” she said. Practicing yoga helps people develop “faith that it's going to work out the way it's meant to,” she said.

“Close, safe, and low-cost”

Yoga practitioners can now stay close to home, with the opening of No Limits Yoga on Drywall Lane.

Scheels opened the studio last fall, and, with more than 100 class participants already, the classes are meeting the needs of the community.

Scheels said that No Limits Fitness owner Ron Greenfield offered her space to teach yoga in an unused portion of the fitness studio.

“He's been lovely,” Scheels said. “He doesn't charge a great amount of rent, so we can offer this low-cost activity to the community.”

Scheels taught yoga in Latham for four years, she said. With classes there at a cost of $17, many students told her the classes were too expensive and too far away.

“There just wasn't anything here,” she said. She had also been teaching small private classes for friends in Voorheesville. When Greenfield suggested she use his space, Scheels and her husband redid a storeroom, making it a studio, she said.

“Our intention isn't to grow this giant studio, it's to have something here for the moms, empty nesters...something that is close, safe, and low-cost,” Scheels said. Currently, classes run 60 to 75 minutes, and cost $10, she said.

Yoga is “for every body type, whether you're young or old...physically strong or not,” Scheels said. “We can have a beginner in class and an experienced student. A beginner coming in should not have an expectation. Come as you are. You'll learn about yourself. You'll see progress as time goes on. It's the way you work through a yoga class. You can always go deeper in a pose,” she said.

Scheels teaches two classes per week, and her fellow teachers, Linda Conway and Erin Svare, handle four more classes. Each has completed 200 hours of yoga instruction and each is registered with the Yoga Alliance, Scheels said.

“There are a lot of yoga teachers out there who aren't,” she said. Scheels has practiced yoga for 14 years, she said. Taking the classes can help “you realize all the things you didn't know. You learn about anatomy...so people don't get hurt in your class,” she said.

Conway is also a physical therapist, and Svare has a master's degree in exercise physiology.

The women teach morning and afternoon classes throughout the week.

“We wanted to keep our Saturdays open for donation classes,” Scheels said. Svare also teaches yoga to students in Arbor Hill in Albany, and the group needed mats. No Limits Yoga opened on a Saturday for donations and raised $300 to buy yoga mats for the other group.

“It's an entire lifestyle,” Scheels said about yoga, describing it as selfless service. “It's really hard to balance a yoga business. That's what it's about — giving of ourselves. That's what we’re meant to do.”

— By Jo E. Prout

[Return to Home Page]