Mountain Yoga Helps Develop A Healthy Body While Strengthening Mind And Spirit
By ANDREA O’NEILL
Correspondent
MOUNTAIN YOGA CLASS-Terry Tokach, RYT-200, Owner of Mountain Yoga, is shown leading one of her classes. “Yogies” in front are Cindy Rachilla, Chetna Patel, Ami Shah, and JoAnn Kotarsky.

Losing weight or becoming more physically fit is usually the New Year’s resolution most of us employ. Fortunately, there is a way to develop a healthy body while also strengthening a healthy mind and spirit. And, thanks to Terry Tokach who has set up the Mountain Yoga studio in Grouse Hill, that opportunity remains close by.

The diverse capability of a Yoga practice is astounding, affecting every aspect of the human experience, and that diversity is reflected in both the clients that come to Mountain Yoga and their reasons for doing so. Yoga is for everyone -from children to seniors, for those looking for pain or stress relief to those looking to get more fit or flexible, or those who are battling cancer or living with a disability or chronic illness. It can help teen girls develop a positive body image, or it can assist a teacher in calming her students.

“Whatever you are looking for, yoga is there for you,” says Terry. “Yoga provides different things for different people at different times in their lives. What you get out of it all depends on the type of class and what you put into it.”

Yogafit, the type of yoga Terry teaches, that encourages overall fitness, will require you to put quite a bit into it –both physically and mentally.

Yogafit is based on Hatha Yoga and combines fitness with traditional yoga postures -linked together in a flowing format. Recognized by The Yoga Alliance, Yogafit teaches alignment principles in fitness to minimize injury, with a gradual warming of the muscles in preparation for more vigorous exercise. When the body is warm, aerobic flows and strength building poses peak the session. Balance poses are then given to regulate blood pressure, followed by stretching to increase flexibility. The practice finishes with meditation and relaxation techniques to calm the mind and cool the body.

Besides the obvious potential for weight loss and increased strength, improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga, promoting a lessening of aches and pains due to muscle and joint problems. The body’s circulatory system also benefits from the aerobic flow of yoga poses, improving cardiovascular conditioning.

During these classes, Tokach cues her students to “move with their breath”, which promotes fewer breaths of greater volume, having both a calming effect as well as improving various measures of lung function and efficiency. Learning how be mindful of your breath slows down the mental loops of frustration, regret, anger and fear that can cause stress. And since stress is implicated in so many health problems, if you learn to quiet your mind, you’ll be likely to live longer and healthier. A consistent yoga practice also improves depression and lowers blood pressure.

As people practice for longer periods of time, other benefits, and struggles, tend to surface. One learns to tune into their body and their mind. Restorative relaxation and meditation encourages a turning inward of the senses, which provides downtime for the nervous system and better sleep habits. However, the meditation also forces one to examine their innermost self and some can find that intimidating, if not eventually rewarding.

“Yoga is different from any other workout,” explains Terry. “It’s not just physical, it affects the mind and you begin to become more in tune with your body’s signals.”

Yoga and meditation builds awareness and increases feelings of compassion and interconnection; calming the nervous system and the mind, which increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs as well as boosts the immune system.

Terry’s own journey reflects that experience. She originally sought Yoga to counteract the potential effects of a hereditary degenerative illness that causes eventual loss of balance, coordination and flexibility –all of the physical aspects of the human body that Yoga improves. She attended her first class while in college, but typically only went a few times before she would, in her words, “run from it.”

“I would stop going because you have to face things about yourself,” admits Terry. “Sometimes you don’t really like what you see when you allow yourself an open mind; It becomes difficult, but I always came back.”

Eventually, Terry went to Yoga Instructor training and, as things evolved from there, she was able to finally open her mind and truly experience what she had been avoiding for so long. Now that she has allowed herself, Terry has experienced changes one wouldn’t associate with a solely physical workout.

“Yoga has made me more in tune with others and has given me compassion and awareness for other’s challenges and struggles,” says Terry. “I am now able to let go of all expectations and be more accepting of myself. And it has made me much happier.”

Terry’s training culminated in the spring of 2010 with several classes she donated in her basement. Slowly, her classes got bigger and she started to look for other places to share her love of Yoga, eventually finding Gem-Riverside Rehab who opened their doors to Terry as part of their contribution to providing wellness to the Mountaintop Community.

“Gem-Riverside Rehab really supported me the last few years. Otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get started with a client base and bring yoga to so many people,” remarks Terry.

Terry says that time has allowed her to grow as an instructor and be more in tune to her students’ needs, especially those who are struggling with certain poses, their alignment or the flow of the class in general. She also has been able to come up with special programs associated with holidays, seasons, mindful eating techniques and other aspects of overall human wellness.

“When I first started teaching I was so focused on what I wanted to do that I didn’t notice those following my lead. Now I adjust based on the response of the client,” recalls Terry.

Terry has high hopes for the new year and Mountain Yoga’s new space, and is committed to providing a welcoming, warm place for the average person to learn the practice of Yoga and reap the benefits. According to Terry, all you need to bring is an open mind.

“I want people to feel they can escape to and not intimidated,” she explains. “I do my best to make it accessible to everybody –whether someone is in peak physical condition or confined to a wheel chair –anybody can do Yoga.

In yoga, it’s what you do for yourself that matters. -the more you commit to practice, the more you benefit as you effect change in yourself. The discipline a regular Yoga practice brings can help you make changes in your life to overcome dysfunctional habits or reduce pain. Tokach says there will always be a reason to not do something for yourself, but take it one day at a time.

“Make a resolution for today,” says Terry. “Go to class today. The rest will follow.”

Terry’s personal journey was reflected in her welcome on the opening New Year’s Day session:

“We have practiced in parks, at schools, in parking lots, in basements and backyards. It is such a wonderful feeling to have you all here in our home space.”

“Life can change tomorrow; you just have to go with the flow,” concludes Terry.

Literally.

To learn about Mountain Yoga and all the practice has to offer, you can visit their facebook page or stop by Grouse Hill Center for a schedule of classes and events.