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Skip the Fancy Gym and Be Welcome For Who You Are at Serenity Yoga

By Marina I. Jokic

Michele Lyman's studio Serenity Yoga doesn't teach an idealized, celebrity-style version of yoga. Instead, Lyman is more interested in making the yogic discipline accessible and as unintimidating as possible to every one of her students. To Lyman, the predominant image of yoga we see in the media dictates that the discipline is meant for the wealthy, vegetarian, young and skinny, which is a major misnomer. The elitist view of yoga also keeps a lot of potential practitioners away.

In Lyman's opinion, all you need to practice yoga is a little time, your body, and floor space. Serenity Yoga is real yoga that can be practiced by the majority of people.

"Let go of preconceived notions about what yoga is or isn't; yoga is simply the act of staying present, [and] the way we do that is by focusing on the breath," Lyman said.

Volumes have been written on the health benefits of yoga, but suffice it to say that the physical and psychological gains of practicing yoga regularly are far-reaching. Improved flexibility, posture, and building muscle strength are just a few on the list. Through strengthening your core and spine, yoga can protect you from injuries, boost circulation, decrease your blood pressure, and relax your nervous system. The most immediate benefits of practicing is a calmer mind, which translates to better sleep, focus, and self-awareness.

"You'll be able to step back in the heat of the moment to see the situation more clearly instead of simply reacting; you'll be able to choose how to react instead of letting the reaction choose for you," Lyman said.

During class at Serenity Yoga, you will be reminded to breathe throughout the session since awareness of the breath is the cornerstone of yogic practice. We spend very little time noticing our breathing. Yoga brings our concentration back to the breath, the essence of life.

Focusing on one's breathing is the most traditional type of meditation, and facilitates a better practice by fostering self-awareness. Rather than viewing the postures in yoga as a competitive challenge, Lyman wants to encourage her students to see them as a means to stay focused.

"If you attend a class and stay seated for the entire class, focused on your breathing, you're doing yoga," she said. "You don't have to be flexible, in fact, the less flexible you are, the more you can benefit from the practice."

The yogis at Serenity Yoga are open-minded and kind, and are always thrilled to take new students under their wing.

"When you arrive at Serenity Yoga, you will be accepted for exactly who you are," Lyman said.

The classes are designed to be accessible to people of all fitness levels, and the nonjudgmental atmosphere frees students from their reservations.

"We are not interested in folding you into a pretzel, and we don't promote a celebrity ideal of what yoga should be," Lyman said. "We make it comfortable for a teenager and a retiree to practice next to each other."

The selection of courses at Serenity Yoga is a medley of free flowing and strengthening styles such as gentle Kripalu, Vinyasa, Hatha, slow flow, and gentle yoga. There is also restorative Yin yoga and "Relax and Unwind" yoga, which are especially suitable for beginners. The mindful yoga for women uses pranayama or regulation of the breath, mindful movement, meditation, and yoga Nidra to combine the most restorative postures and mental exercises to restore the body and mind.

"Yoga transformed my life," Lyman said. "Yoga has provided me with the tools I need to accept myself just as I am and to focus my mind on the present moment."

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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