National Yoga Month Sheds Healing Light on the Suncoast
Sep 05, 2015 02:53AM
● By Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
National Yoga Month is an observance and awareness campaign, designated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and sponsored by the Yoga Health Foundation (YogaHealthFoundation.org). This effort to promote the health benefits of yoga amongst the general public began in 2008, and now occurs annually throughout the month of September.
In commemoration of this nationwide initiative, local yogis on the Suncoast are helping indoctrinate their own communities into the yoga movement. Cheryl Chaffee, ERYT-500, director of Sarasota-based Garden of the Heart Yoga studio, offers insight on National Yoga Month’s positive, far-reaching impact.
“Setting aside a month dedicated to yoga is a great way for yoga practitioners to reconnect with their yoga practice. Sometimes we get out of the habit of practicing. We stop going to class. We ‘forget’ to practice at home. National Yoga Month is a nice reminder for yogis to get reacquainted with their practice, maybe try classes at a different studio, or recommit to a daily home practice. It’s also an opportunity for people who have never tried yoga to get started on this beautiful, beneficial practice,” she explains.
The multiple advantages to studying this ancient healing art run the gamut of physical, mental and spiritual. “A regular yoga practice is ideal for reducing stress, increasing flexibility and strength, creating calm and peace of mind, and increasing mindfulness, mental focus and clarity. There are many other benefits too like meeting new friends, learning a new skill, learning a new language (Sanskrit names for the poses are taught in most classes) and learning more about yourself, Chaffee adds.
For these reasons, National Yoga Month has become vitally instrumental in advocating how yoga can enhance an individual’s entire lifestyle and well-being – regardless of experience or activity level. “Anything we can do to foster community ties and involvement is wonderful, and having a designated yoga month certainly helps. Sarasota is a yoga-friendly community. We have many amazing yoga teachers and studios in town, so it’s wonderful when we can all come together for a cause.
“Garden of the Heart always participates in National Yoga Month’s ‘Free Week of Yoga.’ Students who are new to our studio can sign up with Yoga Health Foundation to get a week of unlimited free yoga classes. You must register through the Yoga Health Foundation’s National Yoga Month website,” Chaffee clarifies.
She then continues, “Garden of the Heart is also pleased to be collaborating with other studios in Sarasota to celebrate Global Mala Day which will be held on September 20. We are planning to offer 108 Sun Salutations at North Lido Beach for yoga practitioners of all ages to come out and have fun practicing together.
“People all around the world do this practice on Global Mala Day, so our local community is coming together to be part of a global community. The event will take place from 7:30–9 a.m. There will be live music, and the class will be led by several different yoga teachers from Sarasota. It will be a fundraiser for our local Karma Yoga Outreach Program and the Solar Aid charity.”
A primary objective of National Yoga Month is encouraging people to continue the practice long after September ends, thus integrating this physical and mental exercise into their daily routines. Chaffee’s studio seeks to streamline this process of matching novice yogis with an appropriate class type. “All yoga levels are welcome at Garden of the Heart, from beginners’ and gentle yoga to advanced classes. We offer classes in alignment-based Hatha Yoga which means that we focus on safety and good posture in all yoga poses.
“Our classes are typically taught with a heart-centered theme which gives your mind something to focus on while you are doing the exercises. We also include breathing techniques, relaxation and yoga philosophy in every class. It’s more than just a workout for your body. It’s an overall system of wellness for body, mind and heart,” she expounds.
Despite having originated during the fifth-century BCE, this deeply philosophical discipline still remains relevant in a modern context. Practitioners from every fitness background, ability and stamina can enjoy yoga’s profound, life-affirming benefits. Chaffee aptly concludes, “For me personally, September is a great month to reconnect with my own yoga practice, as well as a time to get out and attend more classes at other studios around town.
“For Garden of the Heart, it is a month when we enjoy an influx of new students, typically people who have never tried yoga before. We love new students at Garden of the Heart, so it’s wonderful observing how the practice benefits people who are new because they can start to see and feel the changes in their body, stress level, sleep and emotions right away.”
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota-Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer, based in Southwest Florida. Her personal blog, HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com, features practical tips for embracing a fit, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.