Spirtual stretch

The Prague Post

Yoga provides strength while exercising your mind, body and soul

In today’s hectic world, finding time to relax, much less exercise, is often a difficult task. Work and family commitments often take chunks from our day before we even have time to schedule a coffee break. For those looking to balance mind and body, yoga may be the answer.

“Ultimately yoga is being present in the moment,” says Monica Angelucci, director of Prague Yoga. “I try to teach my students to be physically, emotionally and mentally present. When one is present, the mind is quiet, and when the mind is quiet, one is at peace.”

Prague Yoga, founded in 2004, underwent a large expansion last October. They now offer about 20 classes a week. They include Vinyasa Flow; Yoga Elements, a beginner’s class that teaches the basics and foundations of yoga; Ying/Yang Yoga; Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Viniyoga Flow. No matter which class you take, yoga will undoubtedly work your muscles and focus your mind.

It’s this combination that Aruna Singhvi, director of Yoga Studio Prague, stresses to her students.

“There’s an element of fitness that’s different,” she says. “People come to yoga for a variety of reasons, but the biggest category is they are stressed and not happy. I want them to feel good and accept themselves as they are.”

Singhvi has been teaching yoga in Prague since 1993 and opened Yoga Studio Prague in 2004. She wants to make sure she connects with each of her students.

“When people come, I try to give them an understanding of what yoga is to me,” she says. “It’s respect for yourself and your body.”

Yoga Studio Prague offers lessons for beginning and advanced yogis, prenatal and postnatal classes, as well as yoga for kids. Singhvi says she focuses a lot on the breathing, because, when it is done right, it has many benefits.

“I want to make it as complete as possible for students to experience an inner stillness, not just the physical,” she says.

Breath and focus is what beginners are told to think about, not exercise, when they first attend a class at Bikram Yoga Prague. Also known as “hot yoga,” Bikram yoga is a set of 26 postures done in 42 degree Celsius heat. Studio director Tereza Bonnet-Šenková believes the breathing is what makes yoga different.

“Low, slow, flow breathing is the aim to strengthen your cardiovascular system and have your heart beat slow and strong,” she says.

But it’s not just your cardiovascular system that gets a workout here. Bonnet-Šenková says Bikram yoga also works participants’ skeletal, joint, ligament, muscular, digestive and endocrine systems. A standing and floor series, two breathing exercises and the heat ensure all muscles, organs and glands are stimulated regularly.

“Bikram Choudhury, [the founder of Bikram yoga], didn’t ‘create’ the yoga, but the sequence,” Bonnet-Šenková explains. “He took 26 of the 84 hatha [or physical] yoga postures and put them in the proper order. He added the repetition and the heat, which makes the tissues warm and flexible, and then you can stretch and strengthen them without creating any damage.”

No matter which type of yoga you choose, as Singhvi notes, “yoga elements are not only tight abs.”

All three instructors emphasize the spiritual aspects of physical yoga as well.

“Hatha yoga is a practice for mediation,” Bonnet-Šenková says. “First, you take care of your body, and, as time goes on, you grow. You find it in yourself.”

Keeping this newfound harmony outside the yoga studio may take a little longer, but it will happen.

“I tell my students everyday, ‘The hell you are going through for 90 minutes here today is to increase resistance and endurance to all outside factors that can steal your peace,’ ” Bonnet-Šenková says.

Angelucci agrees, adding that “what’s done on the mat should be taken off the mat. It is physical, mental and emotional preparation for living in the moment.”

Or, as Singhvi puts it, “Don’t set any goals, yoga is a journey, not a destination — let go.”