By JESSICA KRAMPE
With our minds busy on the chaos of everyday life, yoga is one way to relieve stress and approach the world with a fresh start. And not every yoga class is as intense as some might assume.
Gentle Healing Yoga is held at 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday at the Unity Center of Columbia, 1600 W. Broadway.
There is a suggested donation of $8, but cost should not be an obstacle. A basket sits out for “love offerings,” or whatever one may be able to contribute.
Run by instructor Carolyn Mathews, Gentle Yoga is a class for people with any sort of limitation. It is also an opportunity for those that feel traditional yoga is too challenging. It is an alternative to the more high pressure and speedy classes.
John Zielinski, who just turned 70, has attended Gentle Yoga for the past two years. He said stretching is important for a man his age.
“My body is in good condition, and yoga helps keep it that way,” Zielinski said.
It has become a stereotype that one must be trim and cute to participate in yoga, Mathews said. Gentle Yoga stresses loving one’s body and keeps a positive attitude when it comes to the benefit of weight management.
“People are welcome no matter what their limitations are or their perceived imperfections,” Mathews said.
The flier states that the class welcomes people with “bigger bodies or weight issues, chronic aches, pain, stiffness, emotional worries or mental strain.” Mathews said any shape, size or type of body is welcome.
Mathews said she tries to put people at ease so they know they are able to go through every motion of the class they feel comfortable doing. She presents variations of each stretch in order to cater to individual needs.
Vicki Trower has been taking Gentle Yoga at the Unity Center for a few months. After falling off a ladder last year, she had issues with pain in her right leg.
“I told her that I was having problems with that leg, and she incorporated things just for me, like a tailor made class,” Trower said. “I got my body back where it should be.”
The class has a personal touch. Mathews is concerned about what the people attending her class need, Trower said.
Like many yoga classes, Gentle Yoga includes both yoga and mediation. “The two combined is the whole package,” Trower said.
Also like many yoga classes, Gentle Yoga is non-competitive. Its goal is to gain awareness of oneself and a more holistic consciousness of oneself. The purpose of the class revolves around the whole being of mind, body, spirit and emotions.
The class welcomes those with emotional limitations as well. Individuals with stress, anger and grief can all benefit from the discipline.
“I believe over time the limits will ease or lift,” Mathews said. “(Yoga can help) them transform into something you can live with.”
With life moving at full throttle, yoga helps relieve the stress by becoming more in tune with who we are. “When we feel scattered is when we are stressed,” Mathews said. “We need to get in touch with our center.”
The combination of active stretches and intake of breath and energy and the relaxation found in guided mediation is intended to help put balance back into one’s life.
“I want people to leave feeling refreshed and renewed, feeling like your burdens have been lightened,” Mathews said.