Yoga Connects Mind And Body

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Imagine the sensation of walking on a cloud.

That's how Jill Morris says her students feel after taking one of her yoga classes.

"At the end of the class I put some really nice soft music on that ultimately relaxes the body and they just feel so wonderful because we've connected with all these different levels of their body," Morris said.

Yoga, for the uninitiated, is a Hindu discipline comprised of a system of exercises undertaken to promote control of the body and mind. It originated in India thousands of years ago, and is the oldest system of personal development in the world.

Morris teaches Acu yoga, a holistic approach to wellness that combines yoga with acupressure, massage and meditation.

"Acu yoga works with acupressure points," she said. "The movements correlate with the meridians.

"When we are applying pressure to the Acu yoga pressure points we are applying pressure to those meridians, thereby opening, releasing and clearing the channels so that deeper healing can occur."

Morris, who is 50, first encountered Acu yoga in a book, and was so affected by it that she traveled to Berkeley, Calif. to be trained and certified by its founder, Michael Reed Gach.

"When I found that it was affecting me on a cellular level, I needed to go out there and tell him that fact and that I wanted to help others understand that concept," she said.

At the time, she was a practicing massage therapist in Boulder, Colo.

"I was working in a health club for several years, but I always felt there's got to be something more I can do for my clients and the people that I was in constant contact with," she said.

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Students who take Jill Morris' yoga class say she leaves them feeling like they're walking on a cloud. "We cover the entire body throughout the three or four days that I teach each week," Morris said.

It was yet another crossroad in her life that brought Morris to Payson.

"Back in Colorado, I had the unfortunate experience of losing everything I had in a fire, and from that perspective I could have chosen to go back to where I came from (she was born in Waukegan, Ill.) or go forward, and one of my inspirations in life is never go back, always go forward.

"My mom was here and I wanted to be closer to her, and I love Sedona and Payson is close to Sedona. Many wonderful things have happened since I've been here."

After first teaching yoga at Chaparral Pines, Morris now offers classes at Payson Athletic Club in the Rim Country Mall.

They meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10:15 a.m. and the first two Saturdays of each month at 9 a.m.

"We cover the entire body throughout the three or four days that I teach each week," she said. "Mondays, for example, we do a lot of flowing types of movements to get the body activated -- kind of like building up the circulation process and feeling better overall.

"Then Wednesdays I do strictly standing, bending and some poses that activate and realign the spine and strengthen other core areas of the body like the legs and back. Fridays I do a whole hour's worth of ab work using only yoga poses.

"It's quite amazing: a lot of my students say their abs are getting tighter, more toned, and they're feeling better overall. And then Saturdays I do a little bit of everything."

Morris recently added a yoga breathing class that meets at 4:15 p.m. on Thursday.

"If we hold our breath, most of the tension becomes tighter and it's hard for us to move through the tension," she explained. "So if we use our breath in a really slow way, it allows us to go into a real relaxed state of being more comfortable."

While walking on a cloud must be a wonderful sensation, it is the stress-reducing and healing properties of Acu-yoga that attract many students. In fact, Morris has her new students complete a health history so she can customize her classes to their needs.

"Anything that applies pressure to the body releases tension, and tension is related to stress factors in one's life," she said. "And if we ignore issues in our body -- like this has been hurting, that is aching, I injured whatever -- it's going to keep on escalating.

"Yoga slowly and gently goes in and releases those areas that are blocked and causing tension. Then they slowly release and it feels healed."

Morris considers Acu yoga a complete system.

"It changes everything," she said, "from weakness to strength, to an over all sense of well-being and flexibility. The mind also adapts and becomes more flexible to stress."

The ultimate goal is to be able to turn your mind off.

"It's hard for us to sit still and turn our minds off," she said. "But the more you turn your mind off, guess what you're going to find -- peace. Just shut it off, for Pete's sake."

Morris also gives massages out of her home. For more information, she can be reached at (928) 468-6046.

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