Yoga, exercise for the mind, not just the body

The treadmill and the ellyptical both have great effects on the body, but what about a form of physical fitness which exercises the mind, just as much as it does the physique? Yoga is the answer for mental empowerment, a spiritual experience, a physical change, and ultimately, yoga is the way to an all around healthy lifestyle. Sid McNairy, Cristina Varriale, and Edith Brotman have all made the move to experience the colorful world of yoga.

For Sid McNairy, the owner of Lifeline Power Yoga in Towson, yoga is not just a form of exercise. Instead, it’s a lifelong journey into a world filled with love, positivity, hope, and prosperity. McNairy was trained to challenge his body by playing and coaching football, so when he decided to pursue yoga, the adjustment was tough.

“There was so much stress being a football coach and trying to live up to the expectations. It was about the ego and when, when, when. I had to get rid of the ego,” McNairy said.

However, the change was a positive one. Instead of enduring the stress, McNairy put his mind and body to the test by engaging in one of the only forms of exercise which expands the mind and the spirit, in addition to the body.

“For me, it became a lifestyle. Once we create the right flow of energy through our bodies, it’s amazing how everything just changes,” McNairy said. “Your lifestyle changes and your eating habits change, just because the energy is moving cleaner through your body. So it becomes less of a belief system, and a more of a lifestyle change.”

Like McNairy, yoga changed Cristina Varriale’s life in a positive way, but the adjustment for her was also difficult. Varriale has been a dancer for most of her life, so when she decided to engage in yoga, she didn’t think the practice would be much different. However, yoga not only challenged Varriale’s physicality, it also changed her mentality.

“The mental part – I look at it as if I’m having a bad day, I can always go into yoga and it will lift up my spirits and make me feel so much better,” she said. “When I first started, I always told people I had a black cloud following over me. But now, everything is so much brighter in my life.”

Varriale is a junior at Towson University, but she also teaches at Sid McNairy’s Lifeline Power Yoga. The practice inspired her so much, she decided to become a teacher and endure six months of intense yoga training. For Varriale though, the long hours were extremely beneficial and empowering.

“It’s so judgement free and it doesn’t matter, anyone can do it,” she said.

Like both McNairy and Varriale, Edith Brotman, a yoga teacher at Charm City Yoga in Towson, found the transition to yoga to be both difficult and uncomfortable at first, she even tried practicing for years before she became devoted. Brotman enrolled herself in her first class in 1994 and hated it. She then tried again to practice in 1997, and said she still didn’t like it or understand it. She tried one more time in 2000, and finally became hooked.

Brotman is a strong believer in yoga’s ability to enhance aspects of life other than just physical appearance. Society preaches perfection and evokes mental pressure, especially pertaining to body image. Yoga is a form of exercise that allows the mind to escape the pressures of the outside world. The practice simultaneously sculpts the body and the mind, and has the ultimate ability to achieve a happy and healthy lifestyle.

“I was first attracted to yoga for its physical benefits, but soon became a big believer in its ability to enhance other parts of my life,” Brotman said. “Yoga challenged so many of my preconceptions about life – the role of stress, how to interact with people, how to care for oneself and others, how to be truly healthy.”

She continued, “Regarding stress, for example, I used to believe that stress was a way for me to be more productive.  Now I recognize that stress is counterproductive and that staying calm and self awareness leads to greater productivity and happiness.”

Brotman also touched on society’s implications and the obsession with perfection. She recommended to practice in a studio or a room without mirrors. By getting rid of the mirror, competition and negative perception will evaporate.

“Mirrors reinforce our western preoccupation with externalities.  We need to focus on how we feel not how we look.  A good yoga environment emphasizes self-study not competition,” said Brotman. “Yoga also helps silence that inner judge and allows a person to let the feelings of love and respect for oneself takeover the driver’s seat.”

These three people made a life change by deciding to practice yoga. Each entered yoga longing for a physical change with a competitive nature common in most athletes. However, McNairy, Varriale, and Brotman all learned to let go of the competition.

Collectively, they were extremely affected by this decision because it led to positive changes in their lifestyles. Each became a happier person and healthier person, and they all believe the same could happen for everyone else.

“Just try yoga and see what it does for you. Escape the fear we live in – the fear of body image, the fear of whats going to happen later,” said McNairy. “You can escape that and begin to live in the perameters that are set there for you. Then all of a sudden, everything changes.”


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