Stress relief for locals comes in an ancient art

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff

  Mary Richardson drives from Stoney Creek every Tuesday and Thursday night to relax her mind and stretch her muscles by practicing an ancient form of physical exercise that focuses on a union of the body, mind and spirit.
  Franklin Health and Fitness Center, located behind Sycamore Shoals Hospital, offers a Yoga class for those interested in increasing core strength and flexibility. Designed for beginners or advanced, the class has something everyone can enjoy.
  "It's all about becoming more supple. I have problems with my joints and stretching, and so far this class has been the only thing to make a difference in my movement," said Richardson, who has been attending the class for four weeks.
  Back problems have plagued Richardson for years. Yoga has enabled her to sleep better at night. According to Richardson, she was not always as flexible as she currently is, but within a few short weeks she has improved her movement significantly.
  Darlene Taylor, a full-time Yoga instructor at the fitness center, began her career in fitness 20 years ago and discovered the benefits of Yoga six years ago. She has been practicing the ancient art ever since.
  Taylor sets the mood for her class by dimming the lights and instructing her class to breathe. Breathing is the single most important factor while practicing Yoga, to ensure relaxation and proper mental clarity.
  "Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth," said Taylor. While performing poses that require strength and stability, breathing is essential added Taylor.
  Switching from pose to pose, Yoga is based on a system of symmetry and balance. Each body part -- from the tips of the fingers to the angle and position of the feet -- are key to achieving the highest level of muscle conditioning.
  Partner Yoga, a segment of the class, gives people a chance to interact with others and use their energy to achieve balance. The tree balance pose requires two open-minded people to push off one another, creating a symmetrical figure.
  Susan Sugar attended the class for the first time on Tuesday and was very relaxed after the class. "Some of the positions were difficult but I enjoyed it. I'm glad I did it and I will be coming back," said Sugar.