As winter seems to stretch on forever, some are turning to yoga to bring a revitalizing spark back into seemingly-endless dreary days.
Yogi and Norfolkan Rachel Stratton said yoga is her go-to when she needs to shake off gloominess or stress.
“Yoga is magical,” she said. “It’s the only way I can even describe it.”
Stratton is an instructor and manager of Sacred Yoga in Norfolk. She got into yoga when her mother-in-law, owner Lori Stratton, encouraged her to get a yoga teaching certificate, which involves 200 hours of training.
“I had done yoga like, twice in my life,” she said. “I was like, ‘OK,’ I went through 200 hour (training) with Lotus (Yoga, in Lincoln). I just loved it.”
Rachel Stratton fell in love with yoga, and realized that it was much more about mental wellness than physical training. During the seven months of getting her certification, she was mourning the recent loss of her father, and she said yoga helped her through that difficult time.
“(Yoga) was my therapy,” she said. “It was what held me together mentally and helped me to work through that.”
Yoga has this effect because it’s about connecting body and mind, she said, and bringing an awareness to your own well-being.
“A big aspect of yoga is to really connect to your body and your mind and your breath,” she said. “So when you’re able to do that you’re more aware of how you feel physically and mentally. … you work through it better.”
She also learned that yoga isn’t just for extremely fit, flexible or young people — it can be for anyone.
“No matter where you’re at in life, you can do yoga. … Big, small, old young, if you can breathe you can do yoga,” she said. “It’s so great for body and mind.”
Since Sacred Yoga opened about 10 years ago, the community has embraced its classes and events, she said. The studio has four instructors and 23 classes a week, with a free community yoga class once a month and other workshops.
Rachel Stratton said during the winter months people gravitate towards relaxing meditation and hot yoga sessions. The classes help people break through a sense of dreariness the colder seasons can bring: “It’s like a wall being built up in the wintertime and yoga tears that wall down.”
Time spent at the mat can help with more serious issues as well, said Sacred Yoga instructor Isabella Silva. She is certified in brain health and have done continuing education in trauma informed yoga.
Silva has seen the restorative powers of yoga firsthand after going through personal challenges. She said yoga has helped her build a positive relationship with herself and provide more direction.
“I decided I needed to find something to help me connect with myself to build forward from what I went through,” she said.
Silva guides yogis through gentle yin and restorative yoga classes, in addition to teaching classes at The Zone afterschool program.
Yoga looks different for everyone, Silva said; it’s about “meeting yourself where you are” mentally and physically. And it can be especially helpful in the colder months.
When it comes to beating winter blues, Rachel Stratton and Silva both recommend child’s pose, which provides a gentle stretch while reducing stress and fatigue.
Silva said child’s pose is among her personal favorites.
“It’s not necessarily a super intense stretch for most people,” she said. “It brings your head down, your head is resting and it forces you to sit with yourself, notice what’s going on with your mind, clear away any of that clutter.”
She said people should give yoga a try, because there are so many different ways to practice.
“I have people I talk to, friends and family, who are like, ‘I’m not flexible,’ ” she said. “You don’t have to be.
“Restorative (yoga) — it’s about relaxing. It’s not stretching at all.”
Rachel Stratton said she sees people of all ages enjoying classes at Sacred Yoga, where anyone can take their first class for free.
“I’ve never met a person who came out of a class like, ‘Gosh, I wish I hadn’t done that,’ ” she said. “We have (yogis) 20 years old to late 60s. ... It’s for everybody.”