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VOL. 38 | NO. 40 | Friday, October 3, 2014

Yoga, pilates provide workout options

By Joe Morris

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Aretha McKinney Blevins of Iyengar Yoga Center, center, assists Joyce Quirk during a yoga class.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

Whether it’s a desire to slim down in advance of holiday binging or a New Year’s resolution reboot, many people look at the fall as a good time to kick-start their exercise efforts.

For some, this just means dusting off that gym membership or home treadmill, getting back to spin class, lifting weights or whatever their preferred activity might be.

For others, the desire is to find something more easily incorporated into a busy daily routine.

That’s especially true of the 40-and-up crowd, which juggles hectic schedules that often don’t allow for a set exercise schedule.

This is where yoga and Pilates come in.

There are private studios for each in Nashville and around the Middle Tennessee area, as well as classes aplenty at the YMCA of Middle Tennessee and other fitness outlets.

From beginners to advanced classes, there are entry points for anyone with an interest, and once up to speed, practitioners can take their practices home, or on the road, as they see fit.

Aretha McKinney Blevins leads her class in a stretch.

-- Michelle Morrow | The Ledger

“I would recommend that a beginner to yoga approach it like they would any subject of study,” says Aretha McKinney Blevins, director of the lyengar Yoga Center of Nashville at 12South Yoga.

“If you are going to pick up an instrument, start with the basics. Learn those basic notes, and then learn how to play a melody. Start from the beginning.”

There are many different types of yoga, she notes, and so it’s worth doing some research ahead of seeking out a studio or a particular class.

“Find a place that offers a true beginner’s class,” Blevins says.

“An all-purpose, multi-level class is not always the best place to learn something new. With yoga, a person should learn some of the foundations and basics, and then they can build their practice from there.”

In addition to looking into specific exercise regimens, a person is also wise to figure out exactly what he or she wants out of the effort, adds Andrew Krichels, who teaches Pilates classes at the YMCA’s downtown branch and also operates his own studio, Creative Action, in East Nashville.

“I’ve been doing Pilates for 40 years, since I was a dancer in New York,” Krichels says.

“I got into it because I wanted to tighten and tone my body, and Pilates is a system of exercise that promotes stability, flexibility and strength. A lot of people, especially as they age, are looking for just those things as opposed to building muscle. There’s nothing wrong with Clydesdales, but we are building thoroughbreds.”

Many people who do Pilates also practice yoga, Krichels says, as there is some crossover in terms of shared poses and stretches. Both benefit an aging population, as well as younger adults, he says.

“I have a client who’s 87, and she doesn’t do a “little old lady” workout. She does a solid workout,” he says.

“This isn’t an ageist thing, but more about finding exercise that lets you figure out how your own body, your core, feels, and then working from that place out.

You are very much a participant in how this form of exercise happens.”

Custom tailoring is another reason many people gravitate to yoga and Pilates. While the poses and movement series are uniform, the order in which they can be done, as well as the length of time held and/or number of repetitions, can be tweaked to suit the individual’s overall health, flexibility or any number of other issues.

“There are lots of ways to do it differently,” Krichels says. “I have studied with people all over the country, and everybody has their own system. You study with different people, and you find what works.”

That, he says, is how one builds a lifelong practice.

“Do what you can do; not everybody can do it all,” he advises. “Look and listen. Don’t force your body, and don’t feel like you have to have the same range of motion as everyone else. It improves over time.”

Krichels and Blevins advocate asking plenty of questions early on.

“I like yoga because of the personal nature of the practice,” she says. “I was a runner, and found yoga to be unique because it exercises the whole body, and also puts the mind into a restful state.

“But it’s important to ask questions about poses, and methods, and to let the instructor know what you are hoping to gain. That will allow you, over time, to develop a yoga practice that will let you practice anywhere.”

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