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Yoga: The art of paying attention

May 8, 2011
Johanna Boyle ( , The Mining Journal

The stage of the Negaunee High School auditorium is intentionally dark on Tuesday evenings. The lights are low, the lighting making it easier to focus.

As I'm fairly susceptible to stage fright and anxiety over speaking in public, I don't typically put myself on any sort of stage if I can help it, but that just happens to be where my five-week yoga class is held.

The Ishpeming-Negaunee-NICE Community Schools have a pretty impressive range of community enrichment classes you can take, and luckily yoga happens to fall on a night when I don't typically have a school board or city council meeting to attend.

Article Photos

Johanna Boyle

On Tuesdays, I pull out my lime-green yoga mat, throw on some comfortable, stretchy clothes and head over to the Negaunee High School for an hour and a half of discovering how my arms and legs can bend in ways that they normally aren't asked to.

Except for the 45 minutes each day that I try to get outside and do something active, I spend a lot of time sitting in my office, typing, doing phone interviews, so getting to try out a new activity and challenge myself once a week is kind of fun.

Class usually starts out with us laying flat on our mats, arms slightly away from the rest of our bodies, just concentrating on breathing, how your chest rises and falls, how your lungs fill and empty. Then, movement is slowly added, starting with just flexing your fingers and toes, until you are moving into full yoga poses like Downward-Facing Dog or Warrior One. The class then ends again laying down, focusing on breathing.

My first experience with yoga was taking the same class last fall, and I enjoyed it so much I had to sign up again, when I got the chance.

I'll admit, though, it feels kind of weird, not bad, just different. I don't get to do much moving that even remotely resembles what you do in yoga for most of the week, so finding myself waving my arms in the air or balancing on my palms and toes with my derriere pointing up toward the ceiling frequently causes me to giggle quietly in the middle of class.

I'm not sure if that is some sort of yoga faux pas, but I can't help it.

With the dim lights and the quiet of the empty auditorium seating, however, it's easy to imagine that I'm sitting there doing yoga by myself, a disembodied voice guiding me through the poses, even with the full class sitting on their mats around me.

For me, the class is really about learning to listen to myself, how my arms or back or legs feel when they move. Usually when I exercise I try to distract myself by thinking of possible column topics or mentally running over my to-do list, but I find it hard to do that with yoga. It's easier to just let my mind stay empty. I focus on extending my arms or balancing on one foot without flailing.

Paying attention to myself was something I didn't do too much prior to taking yoga. It helps, though, because I can really tell when I'm sleepy or hungry or not hungry or thirsty. I should probably pay at least as much attention to what I'm telling myself as when I'm doing an interview, right?

That's a pretty useful thing to learn from one class.

Editor's note:?Mining Journal Ishpeming Bureau reporter Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is



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