5.6 min readPublished On: March 31, 2023

Yoga puts improved health, relaxation within reach

With calming yoga meditation music playing in the background, Missy Minner spends several days a week stretching her arms to the heavens, bending her ankles and feet, and twisting her body into a variety of poses.

Missy is a yoga student at One Yoga and Fitness in Clermont. She joined two-and-a-half years ago after balancing dual careers as a real estate agent and banker left her little time to engage in a meaningful exercise regimen. 

Since then, Missy says she feels better from head to toe. Yoga poses such as the cat cow, the child’s pose, and the downward dog have improved her strength, balance, and flexibility. They also provide her with more energy, brighter moods, and increased mental clarity. 

“I can breathe better, my posture is better, and I’m more energetic,” says Missy, a 47-year-old Clermont resident who attends yoga classes five days a week. “I feel 100 percent better mentally and physically. And I love going to yoga class because it’s a quiet, soothing atmosphere.”

Yoga involves physical poses, concentration, and deep breathing. The practice began 5,000 years ago in northern India and was introduced in the United States in 1893. Today, 36 million Americans practice yoga on a regular basis according to the website yogaearth.com. Instructors in Lake and Sumter counties offer different styles of yoga. 

Lakshmi Trambauer, a yoga instructor and owner of Eustis Yoga, says those who participate in yoga often feel a mind-body connection. Yoga can tone and strengthen all the muscle groups, internal organs, and glands. People gain more flexibility and balance. And unlike other exercises, it also helps with proper breathing techniques, relaxation, and meditation. 

“My students definitely enjoy both physical and mental benefits,” Lakshmi says. “Some who joined my class with back issues no longer have to see a chiropractor. Others who were scheduled for hip surgery no longer need it. From a mental standpoint, I have students who tell me they no longer get angry with their co-workers. They’re more relaxed and calm.”

For 23 years, Lakshmi has introduced hundreds of students to yoga by empowering them to come to the mat as they are. People with physical health issues and/or little flexibility are not turned away. 

“You don’t need to prepare yourself to join a yoga class,” she says. “I meet students where they are. Nobody is judging or competing. If you’re willing to simply show up, you’re most likely going to have a good experience.”

One of the classes Lakshmi teaches is ideal for beginners. The class, called gentle yoga, is performed at a slower pace and with less intense positions. The second class, Yoga For All, includes beginners and more advanced yoga students. Both classes end with breathing techniques and a period of guided relaxation. 

“I always remind people that these are not just exercise classes,” Lakshmi says. “They’re about overall wellness.” 

In recent years, yoga has evolved, with instructors bringing a variety of animals to classes, including goats, cats, bunnies, and other furry friends. Participants can do a downward dog pose with dogs, a cat cow pose with cats, and a horse pose with a horse. And performing yoga with animals is not just about the cuteness factor. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that human interaction with animals boosts moods, leads to more positive social interaction, and lessens stress and anxiety. 

People come to Chase Sanctuary and Wildlife Conservancy in Webster to practice yoga with lemurs. These animals, which are native to Madagascar, are friendly and social, making them the perfect yoga companions. The nonprofit sanctuary began offering yoga with lemurs two-and-a-half years ago as a fundraiser. Yoga classes are offered for $75 at 9:30am each Saturday. 

These curious primates touch your arm, sit on your feet, and jump on your head. 

“It’s definitely a different kind of experience,” says Nina Vassallo, co-owner of the sanctuary. “Most people who come here have never been around a lemur. They love to watch these animals do their own natural poses while warming their bellies in the sunshine.”

This unique encounter provides two natural mood-lifters: being around animals and performing yoga. 

“Some people cry because it’s such a moving experience,” Nina says. “Others are just ecstatic to be around an animal they’ve never seen before. The lemurs will come down and visit people who are on their mats, then go back up in the trees, and come back down for a second visit.” 

Another trend has emerged in yoga where instructors offer workouts in mid-air. At Soar Athletics in Eustis, Denise Lloyd teaches aerial yoga, where stretches and moves are performed several inches off the ground in a silk hammock suspended from the ceiling. She says it’s a great option for those who experience joint or spinal pain because they can perform deeper stretches without putting tension on their joint or back. 

“Some steer clear of yoga classes because they can cause pain,” says Denise, a certified aerial yoga instructor. “With aerial yoga, they can stretch without having to endure pain.”

Denise has taught aerial yoga for four years, and currently offers private lessons. She has discovered that some students find it more enjoyable than ground-based workouts. 

“They love swinging gracefully and fluidly with their arms outstretched and twisting into various yoga poses,” she says. “Aerial yoga can be for everyone, regardless of whether they suffer from pain or not. Aerial yoga is both restorative and relaxing.”

Whether performed on the ground, in the air, or with playful primates, yoga is improving mental and physical well-being for millions of Americans. 

Missy, the yoga student from Clermont, will tell you that’s no stretch. She encourages everyone—regardless of their age or fitness level—to try yoga. 

“It’s not intimidating; you just have to be able to walk through the door,” she says. “So many people who are new to yoga find that they enjoy the guidance of an instructor instead of wandering aimlessly around a gym.” 

YOGA BY THE NUMBERS

300M

300M

PEOPLE PRACTICE YOGA WORLDWIDE

36M

36M

AMERICANS PRACTICE YOGA ON A REGULAR BASIS

14M

14M

YOGIS ARE OVER AGE 50

18M

18M

REGISTERED YOGA SCHOOLS EXIST IN THE U.S.

72%

72%

OF YOGA PRACTITIONERS ARE WOMEN

30-49

30-49

AGE RANGE THAT PRACTICES YOGA MORE THAN ANY OTHER GROUP

Sources: Yogi Times, yogaearth.com, The Good Body

HEALTH BENEFITS OF YOGA

Of regular yoga practitioners who were surveyed:

86%

86%

FEEL A REDUCTION IN STRESS

69%

69%

REPORT A POSITIVE INCREASE IN MOOD

59%

59%

FEEL AN IMPROVEMENT IN SLEEP QUALITY AND QUANTITY

77%

77%

REPORT FEELING PHYSICALLY STRONGER

37%

37%

WHO DRANK EXCESSIVELY AND/OR SMOKED CIGARETTES CREDIT YOGA WITH ENCOURAGING THEM TO STOP

STRIKE A POSE

JOIN YOGA TODAY!

Source: yogaearth.com

About the Author: James Combs

James Combs
Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County's many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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