Lorena Raigoza started taking restorative yoga at Mission Fitness last summer. That may not seem remarkable, but Raigoza has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair.
Restorative yoga is the art of relaxation — relaxing the body and mind to facilitate healing in the spirit and body. Other types of yoga offered at Mission Fitness are Vinyasa Flow, Power Yoga, Gentle Yoga and Yin Yoga.
Raigoza said she didn’t think she could do yoga and that she would have to get into certain poses. But restorative yoga is different because it’s self-paced. She could practice breathing, calming down and focus on de-stressing.
“I thought, ‘I could use that.’ I’m a college student,” said Raigoza, who is working toward a master’s degree in counseling with the goal of becoming a licensed professional counselor.
She said the yoga teacher wasn’t fazed by her being in a wheelchair or that her joints would pop, which Raigoza thought was cool.
“I’ve been able to move around better. I don’t hear my joints pop as much as they used to. The only time I can really relax, though, is when I’m in the atmosphere. … Everywhere else I’m focused on what I need to do next for school, or homework. … It’s been able to let me be more flexible, move around and have better balance,” Raigoza said.
Karen Campbell is one of the teachers and noted that yoga is for everyone. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how flexible you are. If you are an athlete, recovering from an injury, want to gain more flexibility or get flexibility back, it’s helpful, as well, she said.
Although it’s been popular in cycles since the 50s or 60s, Campbell said since athletes have started doing yoga there is less of a stigma.
Most people say they have no balance, they’re not flexible, or they’re too old, but Campbell said that is the furthest thing from the truth.
“I’m teaching you to use your breath to control your body. The mind’s taking control of the body instead of the body telling us what to do. We’re learning to calm the mind and learning to be able to relax and settle into a pose,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect none. None of us are perfect. We’re all a work in progress. We just do what we can and then back off when we need to. … Not every pose is for everyone. You just do what you can do.”
Butch Denton has been taking yoga class off and on for five years. He said a friend suggested her try it. He did Pilates for two years, but then had to have rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders, after which he started restorative yoga.
Participating in the course has given him more flexibility and made him feel better.
Nancy Minor participates in a variety of yoga classes and has been involved in the exercise for about 15 years.
“Originally, it was more part of a physical fitness program. It just became bigger than that for me. It started out as the one time of day that I didn’t have to think about everything else. It taught me to start working on being more present, being in the moment, stopping the dialogue in my head. … It’s part of the meditation process I go through each day,” Minor said.
Aside from the physical benefits, Minor said yoga helps with balance and core strength.
“But it also strengthens your understanding that you’re part of a universe, not just yourself. …,” she added.
Now in her third year as an instructor, Kathryn Vega teaches yin yoga and aerial yoga.
Vega has rheumatoid arthritis, and for years she used a cane or walker. There was also a time in her life when she was completely bedridden. She was encouraged to try yoga and eventually underwent training to become a teacher, never intending to.
“Yin is a Hatha yoga style, but we take it nice and slow and only incorporate four or five different poses for the whole class. Then we hold the shapes, so the essence is we’re trying to relax the muscles enough to start beginning to stretch the connective tissue that surrounds the muscle which increases the flexibility,” Vega said. “It also is very meditative, so a lot of times sitting still in a shape for five minutes can be a little daunting. But I kind of talk you through it and give you some ideas of how to come right into the present moment without being distracted.”
Other teachers include Michelle Bybee and Marie Vasquez-Brooks.