Peace, calm … and baby animals

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Deep breath in. Deep breath out. Clear your mind and relax your body.

When was the last time you took time for yourself to take deep breaths and relax, in every sense of the word? It seems that more and more people are moving toward the calming effect that practising yoga has on the body and mind.

For Nikki Jardine, she has been practising yoga for around 20 years, beginning when she was a teenager and eventually getting her teaching certificate.

“I’ve done all different types of yoga,” she said. “It’s something you can practise anywhere.”

Jardine has recently been teaching classes at the New Glasgow Regional Library with the help of grants from the Health Authority as well as a Vibrant Community Grant through Pictou County Continuous Learning Association (PiCCoLA). As a teacher, Jardine sees the class as a relaxed way to see what the activity is all about with no pressure. This approach to yoga is something that can apply to any community drop-in classes.

“Definitely flexibility and strengthening, relaxation, having that hour to themselves and staying active,” said Jardine about what people enjoy about attending the classes. Yoga classes are good for those who want a more gentle activity to keep them moving.

Jardine likes to begin her classes with a warm up and a big deep breath to help relax.

“A lot of people don’t realize how inefficiently we breathe,” she said.

Balance is another benefit of yoga, whether it be for activities or keeping stability. As you age, yoga helps promote balance and become more aware of your body and what it can do.

“At the end of the class, you can always see a difference in people,” Jardine said. “I also like watching the progress.”

She noted that although a lot of people may assume yoga is for the younger generation, the gentle and varying practice of yoga is great for all ages and it is an activity everyone can take part in as you don’t necessarily have to do any crazy moves like the splits because there are variations. It is not necessarily just an activity for those who are already fit, but a good way to ease into activity because of the basic stretching it includes.

“Don’t be intimidated, it might take a few different classes or instructors to find what they enjoy.” Jardine noted that just as every person is different, every instructor is different and has different teaching styles, so if one class does not suit you, then another one might.

Yoga doesn’t have to be all serious meditation and soundscapes though. Although it is about relaxing and stretching, a bit of fun and happiness can be injected into what some may think is more solemn meditation. For Kelli Cruikshank, fun and relaxation go hand in hand, something evident in her teaching style. Cruikshank has been teaching yoga for three years and currently hosts classes at the Gammon Recreation Centre in Scotsburn.

“I did not want to try yoga because I thought it was just stretching,” said Cruikshank. “I went to class and loved it.”

After beginning yoga in April, Cruikshank was teaching by January of the next year with a gentle relaxation approach. Trying to think of new ways to introduce yoga to different groups, Cruikshank began holding kitten yoga, baby goat yoga and other variations of the class that welcome newcomers in with the enticement of adorable baby animals while sneaking in the relaxation and peace of yoga along with the big-eyed yoga buddies.

“All my classes are all by candlelight with soft music playing — and usually chocolate,” Cruikshank said. “It’s the peace and relaxation that they like… it’s therapeutic.”

Cruikshank teaches her classes to focus more on the peace, and quiet calming meditation rather than focusing on poses and what you are or are not capable of.

“I’m just really pleased that I can offer what that person gave to me,” said said.

Nikki Jardine shows off some of a yoga pose. (Brimicombe photo)