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10 San Diego Uptown News | Sept. 30–Oct.13, 2011

FEATURE My heart’s pilgrimage to yoga

By Ashley Garman SDUN Reporter

Yoga is a growing practice,

with over fifteen million Ameri- cans participating and another eighteen million interested in try- ing it out. For those of you in the latter category, I’m right there with you. My mission: to attend my first yoga class and share what I learn with other rookie yo- gis. My source: Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in Normal Heights. I was running late, as usual.

Trying to maneuver the streets, I parallel parked in a space way too tiny and dropped my water bottle on the ground in my haste to get to the door on time- probably not the best way to start my first yoga experience. As a chronic wor- rywart, I was overanalyzing my preparation for the class, perhaps a clue as to how much I could benefit from such a calming practice.

After checking in, I turned

off my cell phone (a painful thing for an on-the-goer like me), took off my sandals, and entered the studio. Light blue walls: check. Lavender scent in the air: check. Bamboo flute music playing

softly: check. All the ingredients for relaxation were present. The instructor, Brenna,

encouraged us to close our eyes and breathe to transition from the outside world. “Some see yoga as an escape from the world, but it’s also a new way of seeing the world,” she said in a calm voice. I resisted taking notes. Looking around at the other

students, I was surprised at the array of people practicing yoga. There was a middle-aged woman with curly hair down to her waist, a young athletic couple and a 60-something year old man in a cut-off screen tee for a motor- cycle club.

Though Brenna didn’t ask if anybody was new to yoga, I’m sure my body language gave it away. My brow was wrinkled up as I strove to breath and pose “correctly.” I kept stealing glances around the room to see what everyone else was doing. There were students of all levels, but each individual seemed comfortable and content with their own abilities. The laid back vibe along with the music and tone of Brenna’s voice must have seeped into my body and mind


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because I was finally able to let go of my skepticism and anxiety. My resistance melted away and I embraced the “sweet stillness.” The class finished with an exchange of “Namaste,” though it has many interpretations, here it meant there is a light in me and there is a light in you; together we are one. This idea of connectedness is at the base of yogic practice. Rachel LaBarre, an instructor at Pilgrimage of the Heart, said yoga is a spiritual path that helps us realize our true nature.

Sujantra McKeever, founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart, said that yoga has a large spectrum of what it can offer. People come for a variety of reasons, such as the physical or mental relaxation to the emotional stimulation or deep reflection of your being. Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga strays away from specializing in one area of interest and instead prides itself on being a pure form of yoga that is accessible to anyone. For beginners, LaBarre suggests gentle, or restorative yoga: a slow paced practice with mild stretching. Hatha yoga is also good for beginners and is

offered at three levels. Hatha is also practiced at a slow pace and focuses on alignment of the body and breathing.

My Rookie Struggles What I learned from class plus suggestions from Pilgrimage of the Heart’s instructor Rachel LaBarre and founder Sujantra McKeever

Breathing slowly

Lining your breath up with the poses and lung capacity will come with time. In addition, breathe through the nose so you don’t get dehydrated.


This will also come with practice. Brenna gently pushed down on my back, getting my hands to stretch further across the floor. Though my muscles felt strained, it helped me realize my own body’s potential for higher flexibility.

Hurting wrist during Down Dog Take weight off of the base of your hand by bending your knuckles as if you’re clawing the ground.

Unfamiliarity with poses Know your method of learning.

Stigma and skepticism

Although mainstream culture sometimes teaches us to dismiss the “cheesy” or “fluffy” sides of ourselves, yoga is rooted in spirituality and teaches that we each have a spirit and a light inside that connects us all to each other.

Things to know from the Pro’s. Anyone can do it. Try out different studios and instructors. Know what you want to get out of it. Patience. Yoga isn’t learned in a day: it’s a journey.

For those who are look- ing for a bit more of a chal-

see Yoga, page 14

Some learners are visual and need a demonstration. Some are auditory and can learn by listening to a description. Kinesthetic learners need to their bodies moved to understand. If you have a specific need, let your instructor know before class.

Clothing Wear whatever you are comfortable in. A good rule of thumb is to wear anything you would be comfortable in at the gym.

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