"I have a vision of Bayview where there are as many places for yoga as there are liquor stores, so everyone has access to yoga within a block or two."
-- Sudeep Motupalli Rao, yoga teacher and Quesada Gardens resident.
by Elizabeth Skow
Living in the Bay Area, it's hard not to notice how popular yoga has become. One can spot yoga enthusiasts any day of the week, in almost any neighborhood (or even the airport!), their thin foam mats protruding from a backpack or wedged under an arm.
Close to 11 million Americans practice yoga. WebMD
Yoga may seem daunting to newbies who see the brochure pictures of perfectly fit bodies bent into impossible poses, and who sense a mysterious spiritual side to it all. The truth is, there are as many ways to practice yoga as there are people who want to try it.
While media images usually show thin, flexible people with impressive physiques, yoga can work for any body type and isn't just about getting fit.
A typical yoga class includes an instructor moving participants through a series of body movements, stretches and held poses, while explaining each movement. Instructors often will take a few minutes at the beginning of a class to ask who is new to yoga, and may offer the class something specific to focus on during the session.
A participant might sit in one pose and focus on breathing for minutes at a time. Or might meditate in some other way. It's up to the participant whether or not that is spiritual or something else.
For Sudeep Motupalli Rao, Bayview Yoga, yoga is about union with the cosmos, and should not be treated like just another fitness routine.
"We are never alone when we practice yoga," Rao says. "You can do yoga as exercise without awareness and sensitivity which could result in injury."
Rao advises that people should always listen to their bodies. If something hurts, don't do it. Not everyone will be able to do all the poses, but alternate movements and poses can easily be substituted.
To find out if yoga is right for you, it's best to just try it. You can start at almost any fitness level, and build from there. You will feel more relaxed, and could experience better flexibility, strength and balance.
Yoga at the YMCA: Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 to 7 pm. Saturdays and Mondays are beginner classes, Wednesday and Friday are intermediate/advanced. The classes are free for YMCA members, and $5 for non-members.
Yoga at Bayview Opera House: Mondays at 4:30 pm. The suggested donation is $10, but nobody will be turned away for lack of funds.