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Re-Evaluating the Pretzel: A UMaine Yoga Class Brings Strength and Reflection to Students

February 7th, 2011

Terry Lacy instructs his yoga students on how to do a successful headstand.

Terry Lacy instructs his yoga students on how to do a successful headstand.

Students focus on relaxing breathing techniques.

Students focus on relaxing breathing techniques. Photos by Elizabeth Nurse.

By Emma Thieme
Broadcast Journalism
Winterport, Maine

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that going to the gym is not my favorite thing to do. I enjoy eating well and doing outdoor activities to stay in shape, but when it comes to exercising, I would rather sweat it out in the sauna or relax in the hot tub at the Student Recreation and Fitness Center than climb for hours on its state-of-the-art Stairmasters. But when I needed to pick up an electives course this past semester, DAN 297: Topics in Dance caught my eye. For three years the chosen topic for this course has been yoga, instructed by Terry Lacy.

To me, dance is a wonderful form of exercise. It allows you to be creative and expressive, while building muscle strength and improving posture and flexibility. I thought that taking a yoga class would bring me back to this familiar form of expression, and I was right!

Lacy is an optimal instructor for the course as he has been practicing yoga for more than 35 years and owns his own studio, Central Street Yoga, in downtown Bangor. His instruction is motivating and careful. He pushes his students to explore the capabilities of their bodies and he respects the differences in these capabilities. “It’s about the journey, not –the pretzel,” his studio website reads.

“I love the fact that yoga can be anything you want it to be. It’s not rigid,” said Lacy. He described how yoga can be beneficial no matter a student’s age or athletic ability “yoga has something for everyone”.

Yoga is made up of 8 “limbs” that act as a doorway into the practice. Physicality is just one of these limbs. A common misconception about yoga is that it is just about physical exercise, but Lacy claims that yoga is much more than athletic ability.

The practice of yoga consists of hundreds of poses, and Lacy usually begins every class with a short lesson, introducing a new pose to his students. He then turns out the lights and begins practice, in which he leads the class through pose after pose with seamless transitions from one to the next.

After just 30 minutes, my body is feeling the effects of a hard workout, but my mind is relaxed. I’m not out of breath, shaky or staring at a screen monitoring my burned calories. I am completely focused on my body and my breathing.

Lacy teaches his students how to use their breathing in order to push themselves deeper into their poses. He often opens with the idea that because the world is constantly in motion, our bodies are never completely still, and therefore we must constantly be exploring possible small adjustments to our poses and postures.  The breathing techniques that Lacy has taught us allow me to focus my mind and push myself deeper into my poses. Whenever we feel that we can’t possibly hold a pose any longer, Lacy reminds us to return to our breath.

Throughout my childhood, I had never been a particularly athletic girl, but after taking Lacy’s yoga class I am re-evaluating this statement. The class was in one word inspirational and in two words life-changing. I discovered that my body is apparently capable of amazing things. After a semester’s worth of practice, it can balance on its elbows in crow pose and bend over backwards for wheel pose. My body was very surprised that these things were possible, now it does them all time.

Lacy ends every class with savasana, a meditative pose of total relaxation. This is a time to reflect, and allow your mind to completely rest as you focus solely on inhaling and exhaling. It is interesting to experience the thoughts that pop up in my mind during this meditation, and to feel them quietly fade away as I allow my body to melt into the floor. The room is so quiet and I believe my slowed but strong heartbeat can be felt throughout the room. When Lacy asks us to bring our attention back into our bodies, I am completely relaxed and ready to handle my life stresses in a more calmer and gentle way.

Lacy’s last words of practice: “let us bow or heads to the infinite possibilities. Namaste.” Namaste.

Posted in Bloggers, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Emma Thieme