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Yoga classes at Longview Museum of Fine Arts stretch body, mind

By by Peggy Jones
May 9, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Drop by the Longview Museum of Fine Arts any Tuesday or Thursday around noon, and chances are, you will get a glimpse of a whole lot more than fine art.

You could call it "yog-art" - yoga practiced amid some of East Texas' finest art.

"I can not imagine a better place to do yoga," said instructor Carlyn Short. "It is just, unbelievably, yes, a wonderful place to practice yoga. I put on some soft new age music and you find something - some piece of art - to focus on."

Short is in her sixth year of teaching Iyengar (pronounced "eye-yen-gar") yoga at the museum.

Most of her participants are women who work downtown.

Two days a week they change clothes and go a few blocks to the museum to spend an hour bending, flexing and stretching.

"Yoga, in the beginning, was an exercise system to loosen joints, increase flexibility. It helps you use your body optimally," Short said.

No one knows when yoga began - thousands of years ago - but it is certain that it originated in India.

Today, there are many forms of yoga - Bikram yoga and Anasura yoga have become widely popular in recent years, Short said.

Those forms make yoga more of a physical challenge, she said, and less relaxing.

"They're not true to the original form of yoga. There's even dancing yoga now," she said. "People are prone to stick yoga on the end of anything and expect it to be be accepted."

However, Short teaches the old-fashioned Iyengar yoga that focuses on structural alignment of the body through the development of various postures, or "asanas."

Her certification is in "Yoga-A Fitness Approach."

Participants will enjoy a number of health benefits; among them, she said, are better flexibility and balance and improved strength.

"After all, we do planks and sideline planks and squats," she said.

Yoga is considered a weight-bearing exercise that helps fight osteoporosis and stretches the spine. Yoga also has been shown to improve scoliosis, curvture of the spine and even asthma, Short said.

Practicing yoga also improves a person's resting breath rate and resting heart rate.

"You develop just an all-over better mind set," Short said. "Yoga allows yourself to be within your body and allows your body to tell you what it wants."

She said the deep breathing practiced in yoga changes the oxygen level in the blood, which promotes more relaxation. It also removes carbon dioxide, which is said to promote anxiety.

Proper breathing is a big part of yoga.

Particpants hold their posture during an inhale for three or four deep breaths, Short said. They then move on the exhale.

Her routine begins with the standing pose, rolling the shoulders back and down, which eases tension.

Then she leads the class into the Namaste pose (which is a standing pose, with hands clasped as in prayer).

"Namaste ('na-mas-stay') basically means, 'The spirit within me honors the spirit within you,' " Short said.

She does not incorporate religion in the yoga other than to "mentally slide the philosophy of the best of all great religions into the practice - calmness, inner peace, mental peace and mental flow."

Cost of a class is $5 for non-members. It is free for members.

Although they usually work out on a carpeted floor, Short said, it is definitely "BYOM" - bring your own mat.



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