January 20, 2004 > Healthy-Human Yoga
Something for Everyone
After a severe car accident, Colleen Hernandiz followed conventional therapies and treatments including chiropractic care and physical therapy to mend her body and try to feel good again. A friend suggested the addition of yoga to her treatment plan and, hearing about others who had benefited from the discipline, she decided it was worth trying. "I went to a yoga studio and fell in love with it - being able to work out in an atmosphere that was really peaceful and non-competitive." Visiting the yoga studio and using tapes to practice at home convinced Colleen that it was not only a path to personal wellness - her back stopped hurting - but also to a sense of wellbeing.
When she was laid off from a corporate position in January 2003, Colleen was in a quandary about what to do. Previous retail business experience as co-owner of a health food store in Fremont convinced her that she enjoyed contact with the public and being part of the small business community. She did not want to return to corporate life and says that when the notion of opening a yoga studio struck it was appealing because, "Yoga made me feel good." Although yoga classes were available through some fitness centers, Colleen was unaware of any studios in the area that could provide a true yoga experience. Her vision was of a facility devoted exclusively to yoga. Through research and contacts with other studios, Colleen was able to attract instructors from a variety of yoga disciplines to commit time at Healthy-Human Yoga.
The most common form of yoga practiced in the West is Hatha yoga. It emphasizes balance of the body and mind. The word "Hatha" comes from two words - Ha (Sun) and Tha (Moon) - which illustrate the balance in nature between different types of energy, emotions and breathing. Balance restores the body to a beneficial equilibrium. The five principles of yoga - relaxation, exercise, breath control, diet and positive thinking and meditation - are designed to achieve balance in mind and body.
To enhance the Healthy-Human Yoga experience, Colleen has created an entrance area that immediately removes visitors and practitioners from the hustle and bustle of her location at the corner of Fremont Boulevard and Peralta. The gentle sound of fountains flowing with water combined with the soft perfume of aromatherapy and low lighting break any connection with stress and commotion. A retail area offers mats, clothing, books, music, aromatherapy items and gifts for yoga practitioners. A unique and comfortable line of yoga clothing line designed by Colleen, called "Kama (quality)," will soon be introduced at Healthy-Human Yoga.
Colleen says that yoga can appeal to a wide variety of people spanning all ages and physical conditions. Yoga exercises are based on "Hatha yoga" beginning with stretching and warm-up exercises, followed by a series of "poses" and ending with relaxation techniques to complete the session. Techniques and styles are named after famous yoga practitioners. For instance, "Ashtanga" is a done quickly and can be compared to an aerobic workout while "Vinyasa/flow" concentrates on continuity and flow through the exercises. "Kundalini" adds a bit of spirituality through chants and breathing work between poses while Pilates and lyengar are designed to build strength. While some yoga studios elevate the temperature in their yoga rooms, Colleen says Healthy-Human Yoga does not. Her studio concentrates on providing a quiet and calm atmosphere. Each instructor decides whether music accompaniment should be included. Students are encouraged to attend a variety of classes to experience different styles and teaching techniques and find those that fit their personality and goals.
The variety of classes attracts students of all ages and walks of life. Yoga can be a morning wake-up, a "time-out" during a hectic day or a soothing evening class. Although some associate yoga with spirituality and meditation practices, the movements are not attached or restricted to "new age" devotees. You do not have to be "spiritual" to practice yoga. Classes are actually designed to help everyone achieve increased flexibility and health. For instance, people recovering from injury can heal in a gentle manner at their own pace through yoga. With the guidance of the experienced teaching staff at Healthy-Human Yoga, each student determines the pace and extent of movement during the exercises.
A class might begin with everyone seated, going through a series of stretches - neck rotations, shoulder shrugs, bends and twists. Moving to a standing position, reaching down to touch your toes stretches and serves as a "warm-up" for muscles. The initial exercises are designed to get your body ready for yoga poses that may include bending and stretching in a variety of ways. Some picture yoga practitioners as contortionists but Colleen says flexibility is gained over time with continual warm-ups and stretching. "It is unbelievable how flexible you get after you spend so much time warming your body up. When I started eight months ago at the studio, I couldn't touch my fingers to the floor. Now, I can sit with my legs out straight and bend flat down on the floor." There is nothing 'bizarre' about yoga. "It's all slowly stretching your body to build strength and flexibility without hurting yourself."
Teachers have been through between 200 - 400 hours of training before they are allowed to teach. This is to assure students that someone makes sure the poses are being done properly. Colleen says that the beauty of yoga poses is the ability of all to join, but remain at a level that is comfortable. An instructor might begin the pose at a basic position, then offer those who feel comfortable to "go further" and extend into a more intricate position. "You can stay at whatever position you like which means a beginner and an advanced person can enjoy the same routine at different levels."
Healthy-Human Yoga offerings even include a pre-natal class to "reduce back pain, enhance breathing capacity, strengthen the immune system and prepare the body for giving birth." The emphasis is on creating a state of deep relaxation. New mothers are not abandoned by Healthy -Human Yoga. A special "Baby and Me" class helps mothers and their infants of six weeks and up to share exercise and baby massage followed by a yoga class for moms that includes discussions of child care and parenting As children grow out of infancy, Healthy-Human Yoga can become a part of their lives too. A newly created yoga program, designed for boys and girls, ages 3-7 and 8 -12 has been designed for Healthy-Human Yoga. Using music and song, kids can learn important techniques to promote strength, relax and improve flexibility and concentration. "Many yoga poses are given animal names and the kids love that," says Colleen.
At the other end of the age spectrum, seniors also enjoy yoga exercise at Healthy-Human Yoga. Classes include people of all ages. Colleen says that even those with disabilities are able to participate since instructors can modify poses to accommodate physical limitations. "Yoga for 50+" focuses on strengthening the body and increasing balance and flexibility using the aid of props. Colleen says that Healthy-Human Yoga has a "Plus Size" class which uses a variety of techniques for large people to build flexibility and strength while shedding pounds. "What I like is that while those who go to a gym may not be able to participate in some activities, everyone can do yoga. We have classes that are designed to work on stretching rather than yoga poses and even a belly dancing class for fun! There is always a modification or style to fit."
Want to try yoga? Call or stop by Healthy-Human Yoga to see what it's all about. Prices are reasonable and the soothing atmosphere alone is worth the visit. A low "drop in" price accommodates those who want to try out a class, while the introductory offer of $10 for 10 consecutive days is unbeatable!
37353 Fremont Boulevard, Fremont
(Fremont & Peralta)
(510) 796-YOGA (9642)