Yoga for you

- Ann Corvera () - May 18, 2008 - 12:00am

“Calling the course ‘Yoga for Menopause’ definitely felt a little risky. I wasn’t sure if women would actually attend a class with the word ‘menopause’ in it. So many women do not want to admit they’re already of ‘a certain age’,” Liana Romulo, founder and director of Yoga Manila, says of the two-year-old center’s latest class.

Despite the “m” word, the women came – in droves.

“The turnout has been great, with women coming all the way from Antipolo and Cavite just to attend the class. And many, many more are taking leave from work,” says Romulo.

No one understands the changing levels of hormones more than a woman, but adapting to the mood-altering effects of menopause is still nothing short of mind-boggling.

With women today constantly juggling the demands of work and family, the serenity that this practice of uniting the mind, body and spirit brings is the reason why more women sign up for the class – m-word notwithstanding.

The first-of-its-kind yoga class in the country, according to Romulo, had its first run last April and “by popular demand,” Yoga for Menopause sessions were scheduled anew this month at Yoga Manila’s Makati and Alabang studios.

Yoga teacher Linda Naulty leads the regular classes as well as a special two-hour workshop addressing menopausal symptoms head on.

“As the women came out of the first class, I waited by the door, eager to hear what they thought. You know, they were not only satisfied with the class, they were actually grateful to have experienced something so helpful and soothing,” Romulo reveals.

The interest generated by yoga is “part of a worldwide story,” Romulo explains. “Yoga
isn’t just big here. It’s big everywhere. Look at Hong Kong, Japan, the United States, even Eastern Europe.”

Romulo views Filipinos’ interest in yoga as developing from finding a “path to real contentment and inner peace,” which make them come back for more.

“I think most Pinoys, most people, get into yoga because they don’t want to stretch and sweat and become lean. But with regular practice, these same people end up – sort of by accident – not only with leaner bodies but also calmer minds, healthier bodies, and open hearts,” she says.

She stresses that yoga isn’t just about getting into poses or asanas right away. In the Yoga for Menopause class, for instance, Naulty enlists an expert guest speaker to have a Q&A with the students on physical and emotional health topics.

“The Q&A session usually precedes the asana practice, which focuses on standing, balancing poses, as well as floor poses and restorative poses,” explains Romulo, who is also an author and editor of fiction and nonfiction books, including those for children.

Experts talk on specific areas of concern, like a dermatologist on skincare in the menopausal years, a psychiatrist on “menopausal angst.” According to Naulty, the last 20 to 30 minutes of the class is dedicated to pranayama (breathing exercises), relaxation and meditation techniques.

She also gives the students information about vitamins and minerals, and recommendations for healing imbalances.

“I usually gauge my time by how the class is feeling that particular day.  Sometimes they want more asana and that’s fine. Other days they feel tired and want more relaxation, and that’s fine too,” Naulty says. “I just follow the shakti and the grace of the yoga lineage to guide me to give my students what they need at that particular time.”

Lastly, the yoga teacher encourages students to write regularly in a journal, citing it as an important part of the process.

Yoga for Menopause classes combine postures and breathing techniques designed to diminish symptoms of menopause, soothe nerves, promote fitness, as well as aid in the prevention of postmenopausal ailments, according to the Yoga     Manila website.

Naulty likewise draws upon meditation practices to induce calmness and deep relaxation, and will lead discussions about holistic health to support menopause.

The menopause series is only one of the classes Yoga Manila offers. There are also programs on prenatal yoga, yoga for kids, and basic and advanced teacher training courses that lead to international certification which allows those who complete the course to teach yoga abroad.

“Yoga is booming all over the world, and teachers are needed everywhere. It is not hard to find listings online for jobs to teach yoga,” Romulo shares.

She says yoga is relatively new in the Philippines thus no studies have been made yet, but she cites studies abroad which have shown its benefits on kids.

“We recommend that children with ADD (attention deficit disorder) do private yoga lessons,” she adds.

Yoga Manila, in its website, emphasizes that yoga for kids “encourages self-confidence and body awareness in a noncompetitive environment, helps counter school pressures, develops vitality and an understanding and respect for nature, improves concentration and memory, and even helps in preventing respiratory ailments common in children,” among its other benefits.

Yoga Manila recently concluded a certification course called “Teaching Yoga to Kids” in collaboration with Brynne Caleda of the US-based Yoga Ed.

“The course produced not just yoga teachers but teachers specifically trained to teach kids between the ages of 5 and 12,” Romulo explains.

“Yoga Ed. uses yoga to enhance learning, improve health, and foster a sense of personal responsibility. Through games, discussions, yoga poses, breathing, and visualization exercises, children become confident, physically fit, and aware of self and others.”

Romulo adds that yoga “also cultivates some of the habits of mind that help develop students as ‘optimal learners,’ as one Harvard professor said. Why? Because yoga helps kids stay focused and peaceful, which in turn helps them concentrate better and learn more.”

For those not familiar with the fundamentals of yoga, Yoga Manila has a workshop that  examines the basic postures in detail.

“No matter what kind of yoga you practice, you’re bound to get a lot out of Yoga Manila’s Fundamental Asanas workshop“– a series of six classes that explores, in detail, breathing and the alignment of basic yoga postures,” Romulo says.

“Senior teacher Hoze Arando, who has been teaching yoga longer than pretty much anyone in the Philippines, will highlight a specific type of asana in every class, such as headstands or backbends, and discuss its benefits. The half-bound lotus pose has a powerful effect on the liver and the spleen, for example.”

With emphasis on “maintaining the integrity of every posture throughout one’s practice,” she adds that Hoze will also teach the “prescribed number of breath-transitions (or vinyasas) that takes us from one pose to the next.”

The three specialized yoga training courses – Education in Yoga, Yoga Ed. or Teaching Yoga to Kids and Advanced Anatomy (after Basic Anatomy)–– are accredited by the international yoga organization Yoga Alliance, which is based in the US. To be registered and accredited internationally as a yoga teacher, undergoing a 200-hour course “is the basic and minimum requirement.”

Romulo completed 200 hours of comprehensive training under Paul Dallaghan and graduated from a teacher-training school in Thailand. Dallaghan, she proudly notes, “is one of only 35 teachers in world to be officially certified to teach Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga. We are very lucky to have him as our teacher.”

Romulo writes in the Yoga Manila website: “Joined by five others in the Philippines, we began practicing together every morning, and getting to know one another while sipping after-practice coconuts. These were the beginnings of Yoga Manila – a community based entirely on yoga and friendship, born not by design but by sheer momentum and an abiding respect for the Practice,”

Romulo recalls”“getting hooked on yoga” from the moment she started in 2003. “I cannot explain where that interest came from. Perhaps I was a yogi in a past life... I do not know how else I can explain this feeling of being ‘home’ in yoga, where I can be completely myself.””

Yoga Manila has studios in Legaspi Village in Makati City and in Alabang. Inquiries can be sent to info@yogamanila.com or text 0917-522YOGA.

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