The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on March 29, 1998 · Page 50
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 50

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, March 29, 1998
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Page 50
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USA WEEKEND'S HEALTH Yoga's wider reach The formerly far-out practice is winning converts — from construction workers to Madonna — who want more strength and less stress. BYBRENDABIONDO Y OGA IS FINDING itself in an unusual position these days. Finally shaking its reputation as a 1960s remnant, the body-bending practice has become a staple in some surprising circles. Athletes use it to tone muscles and increase flexibility. Corporate executives rely on it to de-stress. Doctors prescribe it for everything from sore backs to chronic fatigue. "Yoga attracts such a broad range of people because the benefits cross all boundaries," says Linda Gajevski of the American Yoga Association. Originating in India 5,000 years ago, yoga focuses on deep breathing and a sequence of poses to bring about physical and psychological benefits. Today, more than 6 million Americans practice yoga, and the numbers are growing. Mora athletes appreciate Its high-energy benefits "A lot of people are no longer interested in exercise that beats them to death," says John Schumacher, director of Bethesda, Md.-based Unity Woods Yoga Center, where class enrollment has nearly doubled in four years. "We get construction workers, lawyers, psychologists, bank tellers, a whole range." A quarter of class participants are men, Schumacher says — a percentage that's increasing. Athletes in peak form are turning to yoga for an extra edge. For example, marathoners- in-training from the New York Road Runners Club in Manhattan gather for weekly yoga classes designed to build strength and agility. The athletes follow a series outlined in Power Yoga (SIMON & SCHUSTER, $15), currently one of the top-selling yoga books. Author Beryl Bender Birch says the practice is a "high- heat, high-energy workout" that especially appeals to people who want to build sinewy, not bulky, strength and avoid or recover from injury. Most yoga taught in America is hatha yoga, of which lyengar is the most popular form. But gaining ground is Ashtanga yoga, from which power yoga is derived. This more strenuous yoga builds strength from positions that require prolonged muscle contraction. Among the growing number of practitioners is Madonna. The one-time Material Girl, who started doing Ashtanga yoga after the birth of her daughter, says it has given her better muscle tone, more energy and greater strength. dears the brain — and the arteries Yoga is widely recognized to benefit the brain as well as the body. Denise Rowe, a 38-year-old lawyer in Washington, D.C., was a self-described workaholic before taking up yoga. "It has allowed me to become more centered, focused and relaxed," says Rowe. And because stress is known to harm the body, relaxing can be lifesaving. Yoga, combined with a low-fat diet and moderate aerobic exercise, can significantly reduce blockages in coronary arteries, reports the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif. "We found a strong correlation between the amount of yoga practice and opening up of the arteries," says Larry Scherwitz, research director of the institute. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Other studies have shown yoga to be effective in treating arthritis, diabetes, mood disorders, asthma, high blood pressure and menstrual cramps. Many people use yoga's meditative nature as a path to spiritual growth. "Getting your body in a certain state of fitness and relaxation is a launching point for focusing your attention on meaning-of-life questions," says Gajevski, of the American Yoga Association. "Unfortunately, some people confuse yoga with a conflict with religion. But it can actually enhance religion. "Yoga makes you more of what you are." ca Brenda Blondo last wrote in USA WEEKEND about rock climbing. Washington, D.C., lawyer Denise Rowe uses yoga to de-stress, put Its athletic moves build strength, too. Yoga does... • Attract 6 million Americans. • Alleviate stress and strengthen the body. Yoga does not... • Slam joints like many high-impact exercise's. • Require special equipment. • Conflict with Western religious beliefs. Taking positions Done in a series, yoga positions tone muscles and increase flexibility, while proper breathing brings calm and concentration. mw.uuwMkend.com, you'll find links to sites that introduce yoga's principles and basic positions. 13 U8A WEEKEND • March 2T-29,1W9

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