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November 13, 2013

Local yoga experts promote health and meditation to the masses

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Students can take advantage of four unique yoga classes in one day during the annual Fall Yogaday at The Community House in downtown Birmingham Nov. 17.

Those who do yoga — and there are a lot of them — will tell you that there are infinite benefits to practicing yoga, which works out the body as well as the mind through different poses, combined with meditation and controlled breathing.

But yoga isn’t just for experienced athletes or Hollywood celebs anymore. Experts around metro Detroit are making it their mission to prove that anyone can enjoy yoga, including you. Yes, you.

Caren Paskel is a yoga instructor with Yoga Shelter, which has locations in Birmingham, Grosse Pointe and West Bloomfield. They also have two locations in Detroit and one in California. 

The Yoga Shelter strives to be a place where anyone can go to practice in an eclectic and relatable environment. Gone are the days of rigid, boring classes. There are just too many health benefits to keep yoga contained to only experienced students.

“If you can move, even if you can’t move that well, you can do yoga,” said Paskel. “You’re going to have more range in motion in your entire body. You’ll feel stronger, as well. You’ll gain mobility, flexibility and strength. Plus, you’ll be lubricating every joint in your body, so you’ll have less aches and pains.”

She added that, in addition to general movement, yoga can be a preventative for disease and illness by cleansing organs and nourishing cells. Then, of course, there are the relaxation benefits that come from the discipline’s emphasis on meditation and breath. That’s probably why yoga seems to have only gained popularity over the years.

But even the Yoga Shelter’s seven locations aren’t enough to hold all of the people interested in getting their Namaste on. So Paskel is thinking bigger — like, center-court bigger.

On Dec. 1, Paskel will lead a yoga class on the Detroit Pistons’ basketball court at the Palace of Auburn Hills. From 10-11 a.m. that day, students of every skill level are invited to partake in a yoga class, followed later by a Pistons game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Paskel said the yoga and basketball combination is just another way she’s hoping to show people that yoga can be fun and healthful for the whole family. 

“It’s a yoga class on the court before the game, so it’s multipurpose. You get yoga, and you get the game. We want to promote support of the Pistons and make it accessible for everybody to take a yoga class,” said Paskel.

For the $25 registration fee, participants will get the class and a center-court upper-level ticket to the game. Plus, $5 of the fee will be donated to the Michigan Humane Society. That’s because, Paskel said, the practice of yoga is all about being good to yourself while also being good to other living beings.

“I’m thinking we’ll get at least 200 there, but I really would like to get double that. We want to make yoga accessible to the masses,” said Paskel. “Anybody can do yoga. There’s some music, there’s going to be some live music, some families and some kids. It’s really a great community-building event.”

To learn more about Yoga Rocks the Pistons, visit www.yogashelter.com.

If you can’t wait until next month to get your yoga fix, there are other special yoga events happening locally in November. On the 17th, The Community House in downtown Birmingham will host its fifth annual Fall Yogaday with four different sessions to choose from. The cost is $37 per class or $65 for a complete day of instruction. Learn more by calling (248) 644-5832 or visit www.tch serves.org.

On Nov. 16, Yoga Moves MS and the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation will team up for their annual Party with a Purpose fundraiser at the Troy Marriott. The evening, which includes dinner, a cocktail, a silent auction and several honorees, will seek to raise funds for Yoga Moves MS, an organization dedicated to promoting yoga classes for MS patients.

“There’s tremendous research coming about the benefits of mindful meditation and yoga therapy,” said Mindy Eisenberg, a yoga instructor with Yoga Moves MS. “Anybody can do yoga. We think of it as fancy poses, but even someone with physical limitations can get benefits from some of those same poses. It leads to a state of wellbeing.”

Eisenberg said that in the time she’s been working with MS patients, she’s seen some amazing transformations. One of her students, she said, would go directly to her class from his regular physical therapy. The combination of the two improved his ability to walk in a very noticeable way.

“Yoga therapy is just in its infancy for being recognized as something that should be doctor-supported,” said Eisenberg. “The hope is that, one day, insurers will pay for this. It’s not a magic pill or cure — it’s a complement. It just helps people feel better at the present moment.”

For more information, email yogaspiritwellness@gmail.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.