Stretching your way to health with yoga Published March 29, 2007 By 2nd Lt. Kim Schaerdel 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Though I try to portray a carefree demeanor, I, like most people, can suffer from the little stresses of life. To combat those worries that can grow into a future wrinkle, I decided to attend my first yoga class at the base fitness center. When I walked into the fitness room, the instructor, Sara, asked me to grab a mat, take off my shoes, sit down and relax. I did as I was told and sat with my legs crossed and eyes shut. Then, Sara scattered scented candles around the gym floor, turned on soft instrumental music and turned the lights off. A calming vibe engulfed the gym and the yoga class was ready to begin. During the first round of warm-up positions, Sara targeted all the areas of the body to wake them up. The main emphasis of the class is breathing. By consciously breathing, I had a heightened sense of my body, which allowed me to concentrate on the positions. Those feelings were shared by a fellow yoga enthusiast sitting one mat over, Capt. Mary Rudy from the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron. "I ran 6 miles before (going there)," said Captain Rudy. "Not only does it help my body recover, but allows me to breathe and forget about the world for a second." As the class progressed, the positions gently stretched my body and I unwound. All the movements flowed together, worked my balance and tested my flexibility. I opted to try the more difficult positions. As a beginner, I did toss and turn at times, but I started to build my confidence in the practice. That confidence was tested when we moved to inversions as I found them bringing my body over my head. Inversions are used to improve circulation, balance and concentration. Well, I sucked-up fears of a neck injury and followed Sara's lead. She clearly laid out what to do, and I found the position challenging but fun. Blood came to my head and my back felt great. Throughout the class, Sara stressed the importance of not getting into a compromising situation or position. For all the positions she shows during the class, she demonstrates the basic stance and shows how to further challenge the body. She stressed that everyone should only do what they are comfortable with, whether it's a seasoned yogi or a novice with the flexibility of a lead pipe. Yoga classes take place on Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. for an hour and a half. For more information, check the monthly fitness center calendar or call the Fitness Center at 784-5568.