Yoga classes filled by holiday stress Instructor feared no one had time

December 08, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Cary Murphy had doubts about offering yoga-style relaxation classes during the holiday season.

"I thought that nobody would come. The holidays are crazy. Why bother?" the yoga instructor said.

But he decided to try anyway, figuring the worst thing that could happen would be that no one would sign up for the six-week sessions held at the Merritt Athletic Club in Annapolis.

He was wrong. All three classes, even one on Friday night, have at least eight people enrolled -- largely, Mr. Murphy says, because people really do need a mental break from the good cheer, party plans, shopping, wrapping, cooking, entertaining, decorating, travel, family scenarios and daily workload of the holidays.

"One of the reasons holiday times are so stressful is that we don't have quality time for ourselves," he said.

For many in Mr. Murphy's current class, the hour and a half spent there is the only time each week they can escape the stress, he said. Response to the three classes has led him to schedule five classes for after the holidays.

Most of what he teaches, especially in the first few classes, are breathing techniques, body stretches and focusing on body awareness. They are designed to give people a "rest from the merry-go-round" of what goes on in their minds, Mr. Murphy said.

Mr. Murphy, who has been teaching and practicing yoga for better than 20 of his 44 years, said many techniques of learning how to unwind are derived from centuries-old yoga. The methods of learning to step back from the mind's racing are so successful that Mr. Murphy is among health practitioners who teach it to heart patients and people who have high blood pressure as ways to help control health problems.

Even quick fixes have their benefits at holiday time, Mr. Murphy ++ said. People accustomed to yoga relaxation techniques benefit tremendously from just a few minutes a day spent quietly on focused breathing and stretching, he said.

For people who are not familiar with yoga's benefits, Mr. Murphy recommended these quick de-stressers to help cope with the season:

* "Go for a walk. Walks are very underrated," he said. They take people away from the scene of the stress, help clear the mind and can be done anywhere by most people.

* Slow stretching and deep breathing. These can be done in tight spaces. People do not have to twist themselves into pretzels to do yoga stretches. Rather, they just consciously stretch as much as is comfortable for them. Deep, slow breathing can aid digestion, an added benefit at a time of year when many people are given to over-indulging. The combination of stretching and breathing is particularly relaxing.

* Any kind of exercise. "It will get you out of your mind," Mr. Murphy said.

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