by Edward Vilga There’s an ancient parable about blind men encountering an elephant for the first time. Each feels a different part of the animal––tusk, side, legs, tail, etc.––and each has a completely different take on what he’s experienced. Depending on one’s version of the story, they either come to blows or remain baffled, each person convinced they’ve tasted the absolute truth, yet each confined to his limited experience. The same can be said about experiencing yoga for the first time — you may have heard a lot about its benefits — ranging from increased flexibility to sweaty calorie burning and strength building, to deepened serenity — but you aren’t quite sure where to begin. In fact, yoga classes at Exhale range from offering something deeply sweaty (like POWER), to emphasizing graceful and expansive movement (like FLOW), to exploring stillness and ease (CHILL). How is it that so much can fall under this very broad “Yoga Umbrella?” Indeed, it’s fascinating that something as rigorously demanding as Power (where students could be holding forearm plank for a minute or attempt a challenging push-up variation) to Chill (where 90% of the class is spent lying down and using props), can share the label of YOGA. And yet, oddly the distinctions seem to be relatively minor, given the stronger commonalities the classes share. First and foremost, in any yoga class, there’s a strong and continuous emphasis on BREATH. While in other Exhale classes such as Barre or HIIT, the breath might be mentioned, it’s not usually a continuous part of the instruction. In yoga, however, it’s absolutely central. In Flow and Power, I’m calling out “Inhale” and “Exhale” pretty much every moment, particularly in the sun salutation flow. In Chill, I’m continually bringing the breath into the class’ awareness while holding a deeply still pose or while offering a guided meditation. Blog_0415 Another hallmark of what “makes yoga, yoga” is obviously an emphasis on stretching and increased FLEXIBILITY, even though that can look quite different in each type of class. (One aside: by far, the most common objection I hear about someone NOT taking yoga is that they aren’t flexible enough; ironically, that’s EXACTLY the reason they should begin practicing. No matter what your starting point is — even if when bending over, your fingertips are in a different zip code than your toes — yoga will meet you where you are and allow you to expand and lengthen over time.)

Young woman doing Uttanasana exercise

Interestingly, increased flexibility can be obtained no matter the style of yoga practice. In POWER or FLOW, one warms the body up through movement, allowing for deeper stretching, particularly towards the end of a class. In CHILL,

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