Health & Wellness: An introduction to basic yoga

Once a month, the Flagler County Public Library hosts a yoga class with Kari Craig as the instructor. The classes are open to anyone, and accessible through a sign-in sheet at the front desk. They last one hour in a dimly lit room at the front of the library, with soothing music and softly spoken, easy to follow instructions by Kari.
Speaking with Kari one on one, she reveals coming into yoga later in life than other instructors, but also embracing it much quicker and more thoroughly than most. Her journey started five years ago, and she has earned two different teaching certifications, requiring a collective 500 hours of study. Taking part in multiple seminars across several studios (including one in India), she wants to extend her love of yoga to as many people as possible.
To the average person, yoga is yoga. The different titles and phrases appear confusing and convoluted, or it did for me. Prior to any research, I was at a loss what yoga was which. There are as many brands of yoga as there are neighborhood sections in Palm Coast.
Each brand is based on the instructor. Kari advises everyone to try yoga, and if you do not enjoy it, find another teacher or studio. The brand that studio focuses on might not be conducive with you. But the next one might.
Some classes include meditative music. Others are silent. One studio might demand perfecting one pose before moving onto the next while others will touch on several. Hot yoga is popular because the added heat makes the body more pliable during the poses. It can offer resilience for the student as well, though that is not the original intent.
Groups ranging from the National Institute of Health to the US Military are studying the benefits of this exercise regimen.
AARP released an article in November 2016 listing the benefits and suggested poses for people in their 50s, a separate list of benefits and poses for those in their 60s, as well as 70s. All of them are what others have said before. Reduced anxiety, strengthening joints, improving balance, and boosting a person’s mood.
I am a disabled veteran and have been active in weightlifting since my teens. For years, people have suggested I take a yoga class, and Kari’s was my first. The stereotype of it being extreme stretching is not unfounded, and not a bad thing. My physical disabilities include my ankles, knees, and back. Spending an hour in different poses and positions provided relief in those areas. The next day, I noticed a calm in my mind and mild soreness in my body.
Yoga is so varied and vast, there is something for everyone. There is no age limit. In fact, Palm Coast is host to studios and classes for children ages five to twelve.
Another physical benefit includes breath control and meditation. For adults, this calming effect achieved in the classes can blend into the day-to-day. Where one might indulge in road rage and scream at the one who cut them off on i-95, they are more likely to catch themselves and breathe through the encounter. Children and teens experience every manner of hormones during their development and giving them an outlet to better understand and process these emotions could benefit them for years to come.
By the end of a class, nearly all muscles are engaged, and joints are relaxed. I, as well as classmates in Kari’s class, report sounder sleep that night, and the sort of euphoric airiness the next day. The feeling is best described as weight being lifted off you.
Not that yoga is a snake oil that will remedy all problems. No yoga instructor will suggest to a student not to listen to their doctor or not take their medication. Yoga is a coping tool. A way to gently push boundaries further and establish a calm in one’s mind. It is meditative without requiring spiritual obligations. It does not challenge the student’s religious beliefs, but offers an additional link between mind and soul if that is what you are looking for.