by Haven Lewis–
It’s 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. Clients come in, one by one, with yoga mats, towels, and water bottles in hand, ready to enter the sauna that has consumed the studio at InBalance Yoga.
“My favorite is the hot yoga vinyasa classes,” says Keala Mason, manager and instructor at the studio.
Mason first became an instructor during her undergraduate years at James Madison University. She was later appointed as Coordinator of Sport Clubs and Youth Programs at the university’s recreation center. As the coordinator, Mason noticed a steady increase in the availability and popularity of yoga classes.
“I think one reason is because we’ve got celebrity endorsements and it’s become something that’s trendy to try, but then people stay with it because they see that it’s not just a trend,” Mason speculates. “It’s been around thousands of years so there’s gotta be something to it.”
According to David Gordon White’s “Yoga, Brief History of an Idea”, the earliest account of yoga is found in the Hindu Kathaka Upanisad, a scripture dating from about the third century B.C.
Yoga Alliance reports that the number of American practitioners has grown 50 percent in the past four years. Why are Americans now turning to this age-old practice as a form of exercise?
Nicole Boyle, owner of InBalance, has been practicing yoga for 11 years.
“I’m 38 now and it feels like I’m aging in reverse. I can do things now that I couldn’t do in my 20s,” Boyle says assuredly.
She believes that yoga has given her the confidence, and strength, to do triathlons, marathons, go on extended hiking and camping trips, and even try Crossfit.
“I think people are attracted to it because of some of the physical benefits, but then they see how well they feel mentally, emotionally, spiritually,” says Boyle. “Yoga can do more than just be a physical exercise.”
Boyle may be right. Yoga Alliance reveals that practitioners have a stronger sense of mental clarity, are more likely to give back to their communities, and have more agile bodies than non-practitioners and the public at large.
Boyle says that her clients typically range from ages 18 to 80. Her business offers chair yoga and community pool yoga for those who have trouble with mobility.
“There’s so many different types and so many different paces. As long as you can breathe, you can do yoga.”