Yoga delivers benefits of exercise, plus much more

CHARLES TOWN – Why do you need yoga? When I first began practicing I thought I was in for some exercise. I admit it, I liked the long, lean look that the so many movie and music stars seemed to have gained from their yoga practice. This I thought before I ever stepped foot on a mat. What I’ve discovered since has changed my life. From the first class I took, the benefits were apparent to me, and were so much more than gaining a certain look. As I continued to practice, I knew that eventually I wanted to teach so that I could share the gifts I’d received.

I define yoga as the practice of physical postures and breath connection to develop strength, balance and ease, both physically and mentally. The yoga practice helps relieve stress in our daily lives as we become physically more comfortable and mentally more connected.

Yoga is certainly part exercise in that it can lower body fat, normalize weight, improve muscle tone, coordination and balance, and increase strength and resiliency. But yoga is so, so much more. Done regularly, yoga will improve sleep, decrease pain, increase immunity, increase joint range of motion, increase breathing functions, improve circulation, help maintain proper detoxification processes, create a sense of well-being and calm and thereby improve mood, increase attention and learning efficiency, as well as a host of other wonderful effects.

I have learned more about myself through the practice of yoga than I’d ever imagined possible. As a mom of two and a business owner, I know that life is both unpredictable and demanding. Stress diminishes our ability to focus, fight infection and make conscious decisions, as well as countless other problems and illnesses that arise from living in a state of habitual stress.

A regular yoga practice can help diminish this. One of my favorite teachers, Vanda Scaravelli, who taught until she was 89, said that, she learned to come to her practice, and to life itself, without effort: “The way was to do it relaxing, without effort, with the wave, with movement, with breathing. All of this makes the practice of yoga very agreeable. You can reach the same things without strain. There is a way of doing yoga poses that we call “asanas” without the slightest effort. Movement is the song of the body … This song, if you care to listen to it, is beauty. … We sing when we are happy and the body goes with it like waves in the sea.”

I know that yoga is a practice that welcomes all. No prior knowledge, fitness or flexibility level is necessary. I have learned, and have seen proven again and again, the benefits of yoga accessed by all ages and all body types. Done in a non-competitive environment, the yoga practice can be like an oasis in an otherwise stressful world.


– Jala Yoga’s Charles Town location debuts Saturday with a 10:30 a.m. class taught by Christa Mastrangelo Joyce at the studio at 307 W. Washington St. As in Shepherdstown, Jala Yoga shares space with her brother Phil Mastrangelo’s Mellow Moods Juice Bar and Café. For a schedule and details on the classes available, go to jalayogaflow.com or call 401-440-0279.

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