Soothing flute music resonates through a dimly-lit meeting room at The Center of Craig as women try to master standing postures that their instructor said would improve their health, flexibility and attitude.
Susan Johnston led the first yoga class of the semester Wednesday evening, working to help another group of students feel happy, healthy and positive.
Yoga and Pilates are popular low-impact exercise alternatives because they offer benefits running and weightlifting cannot.
"Little subtle changes are made in their lives," Johnston said.
In addition to weight loss and a toned body, activities such as yoga and Pilates improve mood and overall health, Johnston said.
Mind and body
Plus, they're fun. Unlike running, yoga creates a union between the mind and body, proponents say.
"You're more likely to look forward to doing it," Johnston said. "You're not looking for the hour to be over with."
Johnston has taught yoga through Colorado Northwestern Community College since 1987. She said her enrollment peaked a few years later. She now caps enrollment at 15 so she has sufficient one-on-one time with students.
"It's just gaining popularity because it's something you can do anywhere you're at," Johnston said. "You don't have to go to a class. You don't have to have special equipment for it."
Ready for some fit ball?
Tammy Workman, manager of Trapper Fitness Center, incorporates an inflatable fit ball into her Pilates classes. Other than mats and weights, the ball is the only equipment her students need.
"(Pilates is) de-stressing," Sandy Buckner said. "Your day gets all stressed out and hectic, and this is nice."
She's been taking Pilates from Workman for a year and a half, the entire time the class has been offered there. Buckner said Pilates is hard but worthwhile.
"I don't gain weight," she said. "It helps you get rid of the jiggles."
Workman said the Pilates system is successful because it tones muscles.
"This is more of an overall body workout," she said.
Helping to heal
German-born Joseph Pilates created Pilates. The method focuses on keeping the spine supported and the body balanced.
Workman said those who practice Pilates should supplement their workout with an activity that increases their heart rates.
"There is no cardiovascular involved," she said. "You have to get your heart ticking elsewhere."
The same is true for yoga, Johnston said. The activity works best when combined with a cardiovascular workout.
Yoga is a practice derived from Hinduism, but it is not associated with a religion in Johnston's class. It is a series of postures and stretches designed to clear the mind and work out nearly every muscle in the body.
Yoga is beneficial in lowering blood pressure and bringing oxygen to the site of injury, helping people to heal after surgery, Johnston said.
When her son played football at Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison, his coach required him to do yoga for flexibility.
Yoga student Kristin Cortez said she's seen those results, too.
"My flexibility increased a lot and my balance, and I can concentrate better," Cortez said.
Judy Lewis returned to yoga Wednesday after a 15-year respite. She took the course in the late 1980s and early 1990s to manage her arthritis. She's ready to return to her yoga routine.
"It just makes you feel good physically and mentally," Lewis said.
Fun to learn
Johnston said intent determines results with yoga. Those who practice yoga may use it for energizing or relaxing.
"I've done it to relax in the middle of the night before, when I had a lot on my mind," she said.
Her class is not competitive, and students do not compare themselves to others. Johnston said it depends on each individual's body to know what's comfortable and how far to stretch.
She said everyone has fun learning new postures in class and improving with one another.
"We don't get too serious," Johnston said. "We laugh at ourselves sometimes if we fall on our heads."
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or firstname.lastname@example.org.