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The deeper connection

Photos by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA alumna Shelley Cohen gets some encouragement from Tucsonan Tony Brown (right) as she goes through a difficult stretching move. Cohen was at Yoga Oasis, 2631 N. Campbell Ave., Sunday as part of a class taught by Darren Rhodes. Yoga Oasis has been open for nearly 10 years.
By Lauren Hillery
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
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More than a pop culture phenomenon, yoga is growing as a route to spirituality

Spirituality has rapidly become one of the fads popularized by mainstream media and celebrities, whether it is Madonna plugging Kabbalah or Sting sculpting his body with yoga. But the practice of yoga has 5,000-year-old roots and is much more complex than its popular portrayal.

Yoga, in general, combines spiritual, physical and emotional practices to form a deeper connection with one's self and the outer world. However it is not limited to a singular definition and seems to take on a different meaning to everyone who practices.

For example, Debbie Daly, owner of Tucson Yoga, 150 S. Fourth Ave., defines yoga as "a system of physical exercises, breathing exercises and meditation technique to facilitate healing and enhance people's life experience."

According to, the practice of yoga was said to be formed by Indian sage Patanjali into Yoga Sutra. Sutra is divided into eight limbs: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption).

However, most practitioners today focus on the asana discipline or the physical aspect of yoga.

Yoga is not only a well-rounded form of exercise, but it is also well- rounded in the different kinds of people it can benefit, anyone from age 8 to 80. However, one of the main factors that draw students to yoga is the level of relaxation it offers.

"The main reason students get into it is because they feel stressed out and overwhelmed. It's a way to feel very relaxed. It's very good for the mind," said Darren Rhodes, owner of Yoga Oasis, 2631 N. Campbell Ave.

Not only does yoga allow a break from the rigorous demands of studying and homework, but Rhodes also believes it provides clarity and focus that actually jumpstart students' motivation to study.

"It's energizing, calming and promotes focus. A lot of people are passionate about the practice. They can fully embrace the fact that it's so mental, and it engages the mind in a different way," Rhodes said.

Nursing junior Ashley Taylor has been practicing yoga on and off for six years and believes yoga is a good practice for students because it keeps them connected with their body and other people in their community.

"It's very good exercise physically, but it also feeds me on a spiritual level," Taylor said. "It's more satisfying on many levels than exercising at the gym."

Yoga is definitely considered a spiritual art form, but it is important to realize that it is not a religion nor does it exhibit dogmatic tendencies.

However, time and time again yoga practitioners and instructors alike believe that the practice does offer a sense of community and an alternative to the stereotypical college student lifestyle.

"It's a nice way to connect with peers in a healthy way besides boozing and partying," Daly said.

"Yoga connects (students) to the community. It's an easy way to make a connection," Rhodes said. "It's very good for the body and it's a challenge."

The key of the physical aspect of yoga, according to, is that it combines "The movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath." But, in the thousand of years of its existence, yoga has evolved and branched out. Still, there are a few basic styles that most studios offer a variation of.

  • Hatha - This is the term used for the umbrella of physical yoga. It literally translates to "ha," meaning sun, and "tha," meaning moon. It focuses on the pairing of the opposites. Hatha concentrates on the physical well being of the person.

  • Anusara - Developed by John Friend, this style is heart minded and focuses on aligning the inner and outer body. Its three principles are attitude, action and alignment.

  • Ashtanga - Ashtanga provides a more challenging style of yoga that uses a series of fluid movements, jumping from one yoga pose to the next. It develops strength and stamina and is not recommended for the beginning yoga student.

  • Bikram - Commonly known as "hot yoga," Bikram is practiced in a room with the temperature of more than 100 degrees. It requires holding 26 poses two times each for a designated period of time.

    Although each yoga studio may offer a different style of practice, all studios present their custumers with varying levels of difficulty ranging from basic beginner classes to high-level expert classes.

    At Yoga Oasis, they focus on each class having an intention to allow a connection on a deeper level.

    "It gives the physical poses a deeper meaning, which gives them the power to really create a shift with more than just the body," Rhodes said.

    Four-year yoga student Rachel King, a political science senior, said she got interested in yoga as a way to relieve stress and a place to have a sense of community. But what's more important to her are the mental benefits.

    "It provides a space, not just a physical space, but a mental, more spiritual space to turn inward and be more reflective," King said. "It's certainly good physically. It builds strength throughout the body and flexibility and something as simple as remembering to breathe correctly. And it's a lot of fun."

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