Enjoy Free Yoga, Celebrate International Day of Yoga June 21

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Photo courtesy of Tyler Olson/Shutterstock.com

Some years ago, I was visiting my sister, Marie-Helene Fredericks, for Thanksgiving in New Jersey, when she invited me to try yoga with her. I was slightly nervous, as I figured that there would be a lot of poses I couldn’t do, but I went along, wearing her workout clothes. The class cost just $5 and was in the basement of a church led by Fran, a middle-aged woman. She closed the class by saying, "Where you are today is where you need to be," a gentle reminder to the class that it was not a competition and that each person was working on becoming the best version of himself or herself  physically and spiritually  at that time in her or her life. 

I left the class relaxed and have been hooked ever since. The combination of stretches, breathing and meditation that yoga requires has changed me physically and mentally, and when I can’t get out to practice, I do not feel my best self. That’s why I plan to celebrate International Day of Yoga on June 21 and why I plan to keep practicing all year, year after year. 

If you’re looking to try yoga for the first time, you can do so for free on June 21 at the Town of Cary’s free yoga classes. In Raleigh, you can celebrate International Day of Yoga and support yoga for at-risk youth by attending two fun classes offered by “You Call This Yoga"6:30-8:30 p.m., June 21. The kids class (for ages 6 and older) runs 20 minutes, and then adults can enjoy a one-hour yoga dance class with Carson Efird from Evolve Movement and drummer Joe Westlund. Kids can stay with parents for this class. The adult admission fee of $10 or more supports a 2016 summer youth initiative to provide yoga and wellness camp scholarships and yoga classes to youth in Raleigh and Durham. For the kids class, just take a canned food item as an admission fee.

The Ackland Art Museum in Chapel Hill also is offering free yoga to members ($5 for nonmembers) noon-1 p.m., June 20 and on other upcoming dates in its galleries. 

Lululemon in Durham is also offering free yoga on 10:30-11:30 a.m. Sunday mornings.

If you are afraid to try yoga, I understand. So many people worry they won’t have the right clothes or won’t be able to keep up, two concerns that I’ve come to realize don’t matter. Yoga is not about competition or wearing the right clothes. All you really need is a T-shirt and pants or shorts that do not bind you when you move.

Photo courtesy of  stageart/Shutterstock.com

As for keeping up … when I first started yoga, I could only do one “downward dog” pose. At the time, I marveled at what others in my class were doing, but like any form of exercise, the more you practice, the better you get at it. I will never be a contortionist, but I’ve come to realize that a good yoga practice has more to do with breathing fully and meditating than any specific poses.

With time, you will be able to move more fully and even assume difficult poses, and you can carry that ability into your daily life. As my sister says, yoga helps her build focus and learn to relax: "When you learn to relax and breathe through a difficult pose, it teaches you to do the same with life's problems. If you are going through something difficult, you learn to calm yourself, regroup and stay strong through the difficulty."

As a full-time working professional and mother of three, that skill has proven invaluable to her both at home and at work. Ultimately though, we both believe that you should find a form of exercise you love to do, or you won't stick with it. Maybe yoga isn't for you, but you won't know it until you try it. 

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