By Maria Wyllie
Explorebigsky.com Editorial Assistant
BIG SKY – Lying on my back with my eyes closed, palms and toes facing upward, I’m glad I came to yoga class this morning – glad I forced myself to wake up early to energize my body and my mind.
Shavasana, which translates to “corpse pose,” might be my favorite part of yoga. Ending every class this way gives the body a chance to soak in the workout and regroup before continuing with the day.
Appropriate for all levels of fitness, Santosha Wellness Center’s yoga classes offer something for everyone, from beginner to advanced, young to old.
“Since Big Sky is a small community, and we are trying to offer the gamut of options, variety is nice,” said Callie Stolz, who opened Santosha in late August 2012.
After attending a number of classes, led by different teachers, I gained a sense of how the practice can be altered as one develops a rhythm that’s right for him or her.
Two teachers both instructing in Anusara style, for instance, might lead completely different classes depending on how much focus they place on alignment, breathing or flowing through the poses.
Stolz, whose background is varied but primarily inspired by Anusara the past several years, brings a theme to each of her classes, helping students understand the connection between body and mind.
“What we learn on our mat is so easily translated into what we can bring into the rest of our life,” she said.
In a recent class with Stolz, we focused on moving through the different poses, rather than spending too much time on alignment. As in life, she said, details are important, but it’s key not to lose sight of the big picture.
After the first sequence I was sweating, making it hard to ground my hands into the slippery mat. To my right, another participant was two postures ahead of me, so I frantically picked up the pace.
Stolz must have seen me, because she reminded us not to worry about how fast or slow the person next to us was moving. I found this challenging but also more enjoyable once I could focus on my own movements and breathing.
More of a workout than I anticipated, I left the studio feeling as if I had stirred dormant muscles – muscles I didn’t even know existed.
The next morning I awoke feeling like I had just skied the first powder of the season – sore all over my back, shoulders and arms. I wondered how my skiing and other physical pursuits would improve if I continued to strengthen these forgotten muscles.
Linda Wilton, a former ski patroller at the Yellowstone Club and an avid biker and outdoors enthusiast, now teaches Vinyasa Flow yoga at Santosha. Her interest in preventative health practices led her to yoga, which has helped her avoid injuries by complementing her overall fitness.
“It’s a good balance and supplement to outdoor activities like skiing, mountain biking and climbing,” she said.
Describing the practice as a dynamic movement that includes stretching and wakes you up, Wilton says yoga is a good way to gradually open up the body and increase flexibility. For me, her class was a great way to warm up before skiing.
Hannah Johansen teaches in the Amrit style, which concentrates on the meditative aspect of yoga. Here, I struggled with directing my energy inward instead of just pushing myself physically.
Having spent the past four winters studying the ancient traditions of yoga under a guru in India, Johansen uses the body and mind to harness energetic nature, which she says helps relieve stress while connecting with a higher realm.
By focusing on the details of a posture, Johansen helps students understand how different poses pressure certain spots in the body called “nadi points,” which bring in more prana, or “life force,” allowing the body to take in more energy.
“We do yoga to be strong and flexible, but also to be free. To be free of judgments and restrictions about ourselves, and to be more open to the world.”
Although I am just a beginner to yoga and have only gone a handful of times, I can already feel my body thanking me. Whether I want to work different muscles or give my mind a break, yoga offers benefits I feel almost immediately.
“It’s different than any other form of exercise because it unites mind, body and spirit,” Stolz says. “The beauty of it is that it helps create strength, balance and flexibility within your body, but also within your mind and your deeper self.”
Finding the right yoga class
Students might have to attend a few different classes before they figure out what’s right for them. Listed below are the various types of yoga offered at Santosha Wellness Center.
Hatha Yoga: An all-levels yoga class flowing slowly through breath and movement
Yoga Nidra: A deep meditation used to facilitate healing, better sleeping patterns, releasing stress and creating a greater sense of peace and well being; class begins with gentle movement and transitions into a guided meditation
Amrit Yoga: A physically gentle class that focuses on pranayama, meditation and traditional yogic principles
Vinyasa Flow Level I-II: A flowing yoga class appropriate for beginners to intermediate practitioners
All-Levels Yoga: A style of yoga influenced primarily by Anusara yoga and rooted in universal principles of alignment; follows a heart-centered theme, flowing through the practice by moving with breath and intention
Intermediate Yoga “The Practice”: This class moves with a heart-centered theme and utilizes the Anusara Universal Principles of Alignment; little direction is given, as students are already familiar with of the intricacies of alignment