Yoga can relieve stress

Staff writer

To sit in on a class with yoga instructor Shannon Hoffer is to wade into a positive, soothing atmosphere, one designed to melt away stress and work up a sweat.

“We are constantly under slow chronic stress,” Hoffer said. “Yoga teaches us ways to alleviate that day-to-day stress and anxiety.”

Hoffer teaches ways to ease stress. Proper breathing is a key aspect of her teaching.

“Yoga links breath with movement and the mind to the body,” she said. “An even deep breath is directly linked to relaxation.”

Breathing properly not only allows one to relax and focus, it also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows a person’s heart rate and helps with digestion.

Yoga students also learn basic postures and small movements that aid in balance and flexibility.

“A lot of people say that they are not flexible or that they don’t want to look silly,” Hoffer said. “But flexibility is still a challenge for me. I find what level people are at and we go from there.”

Hoffer enjoys seeing a student’s eyes light up when he or she pops into a new pose for the first time.

“People are capable of more than they think,” she said.

Amber Smith recently started taking yoga classes with Hoffer.

“At first, I was a little unsteady,” Smith said. “I was scared I would lose my balance and knock someone over.”

However, Smith’s anxieties abated as she followed Hoffer’s direction.

“She’s a great teacher,” Smith said. “The main things I noticed were the great workout I got and how relaxed I felt afterward.”

In class, Hoffer conducts herself with a calm confidence as she demonstrates various yoga maneuvers. She asks for student feedback and provides individual assistance as needed.

Yoga has helped her find balance not only in her mind and body, but also in her life, she said.

“I feel happier, and I smile more,” she said. “I feel like that translates to other people in a sort of ripple effect.”

Through practice, she modified her way of life and became more mindful of her habits, both good and bad.

“I do yoga but I still enjoy a good hamburger and a glass of wine,” she said.

Before she started she had no idea how stress could physically manifest itself in her body.

“I used to get really bad stomachaches and tension headaches,” she said.

Hoffer is no stranger to stressful environments. She formerly worked as a critical care nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

However, in 2009 she completed a 200-hour yoga certificate course in Costa Rica.

“I have a western background in academia and a passion for yoga,” she said. “I began teaching because I believe in positive change and sharing inspiration. Plus it is just fun to do a sweet move and feel like a kid again.”

She encourages men and women of all ages to try it.

“Yoga can help people with weight loss and addictions,” she said, “It can also aid arthritis patients with mobility.”

Other benefits include increased circulation and a general improvement in quality of life.

“Sometimes when I go into class I’m like a knot, but usually by the end of it I’m untangled,” she said.

Hoffer conducts yoga classes at 5:30 p.m. and 7p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Butler Community College.

She also is sponsoring a wellness weekend with Karen Williams on Aug. 9 and 10 at Doyle Creek Ranch in Florence.

For more information, contact Hoffer at (412) 513-6151.

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