Yoga Helps Concentration, Improves Health

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Relaxing as quickly as possible might sound contradictory, but Kris Ladau's yoga students spend up to an hour a day, three days a week attempting to do just that.

Ladau, in her 30s at the time, thought she was in great shape from walking the hilly streets of San Francisco and teaching aerobics.

Then one day she took a yoga class.

"I was the youngest one there." Ladau said. "I couldn't do anything."

And thus her passion for yoga began.

Mastering the exercise became a challenge that she's continued to pursue over the past eight years of teaching yoga in Payson.

Yoga, in its four forms, is perhaps the most diverse spiritual practice in the world. Touching many cultures, yoga brings balance to the lives of those who practice it in Payson.

Figurines performing yoga poses, found in the Indus Valley, which is present-day Pakistan and considered the seat of pre-historic Indian culture, date yoga back to 3000 B.C., some 4,000 years before martial arts was developed.

These artifacts link yoga to the Indus-Sarasvati civilization, said to be the largest civilization in the ancient world.

Swami Sivananda Saraswati Maharaj, the father of modern yoga, taught his disciples the five elements of yoga: relaxation, exercise, breathing, diet and meditation.

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In Yoga, you do a position to the best of your personal ability, said instructor Kris Ladau.

Created as a means to focus concentration and improve health, Ladau believes the benefits still apply.

"You can come here for an hour and release your mind," Ladau said. "You can focus on your body and your breath."

When most people talk about yoga, they're referring to Hatha Yoga, the most popular and prevalent form of the exercise practiced today. The main components of Hatha Yoga include controlled breathing, meditation and postures. Certain body positions aid flexibility, and energy development and conservation, mentally and physically, Ladau said.

Marilyn Smith, one of Ladau's students, is limber, and determined to stay that way. "(Yoga) doesn't get rid of the wrinkles but it does get the kinks out of your body."

The gentle exercise of yoga also encourages the development of balance and strong bones, which are especially important for seniors who can decrease their risk of falling and breaking bones.

Lili Stanford, the newest member of Ladau's class, doesn't walk like an 82-year-old woman who had hip surgery last May; her posture and grace are better than many teenagers.

Stanford, who attends Ladau's Monday class, said her commitment to yoga is a renewal of her personal pledge to take care of herself.

"I'm going to do it, I don't do resolutions, I make a promise to myself I'm going to keep my health," she said. "It gives you a lift mentally and living alone I need a lift. To me [yoga] is a religious influence also and I do like meditate."

These are sentiments echoed by Elaine Ellinger, who brought her daughter and three granddaughters to the class.

"If I miss more than one week of classes my body cries out for me to come back," Ellinger said.

Ellinger is one of Ladau's regulars. She has consistently taken yoga classes for the past four years. Stretching, a fundamental of yoga, she said is just one of the many benefits she has experienced.

Yoga, while mellowing and calming Ellinger's mind and body, has also increased the strength of her right wrist.

Like any exercise routine, Ladau suggested visiting a doctor before undertaking yoga.

Yoga classes are available in Payson from Ladau at Rim Country Health & Retirement, formerly Manzanita Manor, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 9:30 a.m. A series of 10 is $50; a series of 20 is $90.

Payson Athletic Club also offers yoga classes at 10:15 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Membership is $30 a month; the cost of yoga classes is included.

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