Water Yoga Gives Access to Would-Be Participants

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The Roanoke Times (Virginia)


BLACKSBURG - Yoga's benefits are touted for everybody, but not all yoga is for every body.

Nicole Boyle, owner of In Balance Yoga studio, believes this so fervently that she and instructor Ellen Goldlust are offering free sessions of a yoga hybrid accessible to people whose warrior pose wobbles on land.

Partnering with Blacksburg Aquatic Center, In Balance is leading classes in water yoga each Thursday afternoon through April. Standing chest deep in the pool, participants move through traditional yoga moves such as the half moon, the triangle, and the cobra. Buoyed up by water, they rise on their toes, balance on one leg, and execute deep bends that would topple them elsewhere.

"We feel that pool yoga allows people with joint pain, injuries, or other body issues to get exercise in a way that doesn't hurt them," Goldlust said. "Being immersed and supported by water can take away the fear factor. It's a low impact way to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion. It may be the only way some people can get exercise."

To do water yoga, one doesn't need to be able to swim. Or even understand yoga. Goldlust guides participants through poses - asanas, they are called in yoga language.

She often has the yoga practitioners moving in sequence with their inhalations and exhalations. Goldlust asks them to notice how their back feels in one pose, their feet in another. Yoga, whether in water or in the studio, is all about breathing and body awareness.

"I ask everyone to focus inward, to notice their breathing and their body sensations, to feel the water around them," Goldlust said. "Yoga is a time for getting away from all the demands on you, all the texts and phone calls. It's a time of calmness and peace. I think water helps create a feeling of physically slowing down and relaxing."

Goldlust asks participants to concentrate on centering their body, using small movements, adjustments in the position of shoulders, spine, hips and legs. Conditions such as arthritis, MS, obesity, pregnancy, and injuries can make traditional yoga practice on land extremely difficult. The force of gravity during standing poses may be too great for some people's level of conditioning.

While most yoga exercises will be easier in water, a few seem more challenging as participants try to hold a position with the unaccustomed weight of water pressing in from many directions.

"Use your core muscles as you find balance," Goldlust said.

Goldlust says water yoga has long been her favorite type. In 2016, she commemorated her 50th birthday year by becoming a certified yoga instructor. When Boyle asked Goldlust to teach their summer water yoga classes at Clay Corner Inn's pool, Goldlust said she was delighted. Now she teaches water yoga regularly at Blacksburg Aquatic Center, donating every other class she teaches to In Balance's community service effort.

Lynne Krulich, aquatic center director, says her facility began waiving the pool fee for water yoga participants when In Balance started offering the class free this winter.

"It's a great community service the aquatic center can do," she said. "We love having water yoga here and being able to support In Balance Yoga."

Steve Reisinger has been coming to water yoga since it started in Blacksburg. "I never miss a class if I can help it," he said. "It's helping me with my injured leg. And maybe with old age too. I just feel better when I do this."

Rebecca Absher, another regular, says the yoga moves give her a little more mobility after each session.

"Water yoga is better than regular yoga for older people," said Florence Richardson, who has attended twice. "It's just wonderful exercise."

"This class is for all levels and ages," said In Balance owner Boyle. "Triathlon athletes have come in after a race. We also have folks with joint replacements who've never tried yoga before. The water acts as a wonderful supportive prop."

Boyle says she will continue to offer water yoga classes in the summer, although they will move to Clay Corner Inn and the Blacksburg Country Club when the weather warms up.

"We'll announce our schedule on our website, www.inbalanceyogastudio.com," Boyle said.

In Balance Yoga offers a range of yoga classes at its studio in Clay Court at 401 S. Main St., Blacksburg. Offerings include hot yoga, warm yoga, prenatal yoga, therapeutic yoga, yoga with wine, and a kick-butt yoga called yoga barre that combines ballet, pilates, cardio-vascular conditioning, and yoga in a low-impact workout.

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April 1, 2017


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