Yoga for Everyone Classes Stretch Appeal to Kids, Veterans, Runners

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), September 14, 2009 | Go to article overview

Yoga for Everyone Classes Stretch Appeal to Kids, Veterans, Runners


Byline: Jamie Sotonoff jsotonoff@dailyherald.com

Yoga has been around for 5,000 years, but these days the practice is being fine-tuned u or, some might argue, better marketed u for specific niche groups.

ThereAEs now Yoga for Veterans. Runners Yoga. Stroke Recovery Yoga. Kids Yoga and Seniors Yoga. Yoga for Fertility and Yoga for Menopause. Dance Yoga. Laughter Yoga. And Street Yoga, for homeless and abused people, to name a few.

In Chicago, thereAEs even a yogic elementary school, the Namaste Charter School, which takes a holistic approach to education.

"Yoga isnAEt about being on the mat and fitting your ankle behind your neck. ItAEs much more than that," said yoga guru, teacher and author Mary Beth Janssen of Palatine. "Regardless of what the title (of the class) is ... weAEre all going. This isnAEt a trend on the cusp, itAEs gone there. ItAEs very exciting."

The yoga practice can be customized for specific groups, making it more appealing to people who havenAEt tried yoga before. In JanssenAEs Kids Yoga class, for example, she addresses her elementary-aged students as "yogis" and "yoginis" and speeds up the pace a bit to keep their attention. She also makes sure she helps the kids focus on themselves and their strengths.

"I had a little girl, sheAEs 8 years old, and she shouted, aeIAEm a yoga warrior! IAEm strong!AE It was awesome," said Janssen. "TheyAEre recognizing that their body is valuable. That they have this individual spirit and itAEs beautiful. TheyAEre not looking at whatAEs external, but whatAEs on the inside."

Yoga can be tweaked for seniors by allowing them to sit in chairs rather than on floor mats. A class at a church can be made more spiritual than one in a corporate office.

Lori Punko, owner of Shanti Yoga in Gurnee, customizes a yoga class for veterans u many of whom are physically or mentally injured from

their service u by doing a gentler version of regular yoga. The focus is on breathing awareness and the poses are held longer.

"It ends with guided meditation. I take them to their favorite beach or their favorite park and we hang out there for a while," said Punko, who offers the class free of charge.

Yoga is especially helpful for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because it helps calm their anxiety, Punko said, and is now being done on some military bases in Iraq.

"I wish we had done this when the Vietnam War was over. Eighty percent of my class is Vietnam vets who are still struggling. Most of them donAEt sleep more than two hours a night," she said.

Going mainstream

Just a generation ago, yoga was thought of as a New Age practice. …

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Yoga for Everyone Classes Stretch Appeal to Kids, Veterans, Runners
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