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feb. 11 kate column

February 08, 2001

Yoga taught me the art of breathing



Over the last few months, I've noticed that my mother says, "Take care of yourself," as our long-distance phone conversations wind down to good-bye. Like asking, "How are you?" at the beginning of a call, saying, "Take care of yourself," is a fairly standard thing to say before hanging up.

Maybe she says it now that she's 82 and has some health problems she doesn't want me to have. They haven't stopped her - just slowed her pace from the breakneck speed that is her trademark.

Maybe she's always said, "Take care of yourself," but I wasn't ready to listen. Like her, like many women, I am often too busy taking care of other people.

I hear you, Mom, and I'm trying.

I had talked about taking a yoga class for months. My wonderful co-workers and friends - probably sick of hearing me never get around to it - put their money where my mouth was and bought me a private yoga session for my 50th birthday last March.

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Frantically busy as always, I waited until my kids went off to college the following fall to schedule that hour - just for me.

Simone Heurich's Flowering Heart Yoga studio in Smithsburg is beautiful. Heurich is beautiful, and I spent a beautiful hour - just for me. I felt less like a klutz than I expected to, gently stretching muscles that hadn't had enough attention in years. And breathing. Just breathing. Just for me.

It was wonderful. So wonderful that I signed up for 10 weeks of classes with Heurich through Washington County Recreation Department last fall. I'm two classes into a second 10 weeks, and I think I might just do this forever.

This is how I pamper myself.

The Hatha yoga we do in class is about balance - the sun and the moon, the right side and the left side of the body. The style that Heurich teaches is anusara yoga, meaning "in the flow of love or grace," she tells me. For me, it's about trying to find balance in my life.

My muscles are duly stretched in yoga class. But it's not about "feeling the burn" that Jane Fonda exhorted in my old workout video.

In her soothing voice, with caring and humor, Heurich encourages us. "Enjoy your breath," she says. When you stop and think about it, breathing, among the most basic of life functions, is a precious thing.

The 15 to 20 minutes of relaxation at the end of our 90-minute class is simply wonderful and wonderfully simple. I dozed off one week, and I've heard others' breathing sound a little like snoring. At the end of relaxation at the first session after a holiday yoga hiatus, I was surprised by tears spilling from my eyes. I realized it was the first time I had relaxed in a very stressful month.

"Rest with great appreciation for yourself and the kindness in your heart," Heurich says.

After we gently rouse to sitting, we fold our hands together in front of our hearts and bow our heads, saying "Namaste," - that's pronounced nah-mah-stay.

We are bowing to the light - the spirit, heart, the good - inside of us, Heurich says.

It's in there. We know it. It's important to stop and notice. It's a way to take care of yourself.

Kate Coleman is a staff writer for Lifestyle.

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