Easing Into Yoga

Less stress, improved in-the-moment focus and a healthier sense of well-being are just a few reasons to give it a try. Photography by Coreene Kreiser

Outdoor yoga

WITH BUSY SCHEDULES and email-packed smartphones, it’s sometimes hard to disconnect from the demands of life. The appeal of yoga is its permission to unplug, unwind and devote time to experiencing inner awareness and personal acceptance — a pathway to feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and reenergized.

According to research from the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, yoga has many health and wellness benefits, including a measurable success of easing anxiety. Lessened anxiety, in return, boosts immunity, can ease migraines, ward off food cravings and improve sleep quality.

“I was never the athlete. I wasn’t born flexible and I certainly could never stand on my head,” shares Coreene Kreiser, owner and Iyengar certified teacher of Yoga Vidya North in Traverse City. “I wasn’t here to be skinny or to get flexible. I was here to teach my body, this vessel which houses my spirit, to be a tool to connect deeper into my own soul.”

None of these findings come as a surprise to long-time natural health and yoga teacher Lee Ann Louis-Prescott, Ph.D, owner and educator of the Yoga Center for Healthy Living in Brighton. “Since I started practicing yoga I experienced peace of mind, a sense of calm and the sensation of being grounded or centered,” she notes. “I found myself experiencing less stress and pain relief, and a better focus on the present.”

Louis-Prescott has been teaching yoga for over 35 years with the strong belief that “yoga is for anyone, any size, any type.” The most difficult part for any student, she says, is making the time and commitment to self-improvement. Choosing a class should be simple, Louis-Prescott adds, despite the vast array of yoga styles and classes offered. Gentle or basic yoga programs are well-tailored for first-timers, she says. From there, what comes next is a matter of choice.

Yoga pose“I like to think of the styles of yoga practice like styles of dance,” Kreiser explains. “Dance has ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop, just like yoga has Iyengar, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kundalini, etc. Each style of practice is going to appeal to a different personality.”

“I think it’s important when you are starting out to try different styles, and then choose the best path for you.”

The best advice for beginning students, suggests Louis-Prescott, is getting doctor’s approval before starting to practice; arriving at least 10 minutes early to class to settle in and talking with other yoga students.

With so many yoga studios and styles offered around the state of Michigan, there also comes a fair share of yoga retreats that utilize the state’s playground of forests and lakes.

“When students feel more comfortable in their practice, they are encouraged to explore locations that are conducive for yoga,” explains Louis-Prescott, who hosts an annual yoga retreat. These opportunities can be found all around the state, in numerous settings and in various levels of difficulty.

“It’s not just a physical practice; it’s much deeper than that,” Kreiser surmises. “Before yoga, I struggled with anxiety and worry. Yoga has taught me how to control my own mind and not let my mind control me. It truly is freeing.”

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