By Jeff Weber – Staff Writer
Home News Tribune and Courier News and MyCentralJersey.com, January 4, 2011
Yoga isn’t the new kid on the block in exercise and fitness circles. It isn’t even the old kid. With roots in India dating back thousands of years, yoga is the ancient kid.
And like a fine wine, yoga … which loosely translated means "unite’’ and focuses on the combined well-being of one’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs … continues to get better, and more popular, with age.
That has been the philosophy of the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, 50 Vreeland Drive in Skillman, since it opened in 1996. Originally geared toward residents of the Princeton area, the center now serves residents from all across Central Jersey … especially Middlesex and Somerset counties.
Offering almost 50 different classes each week, the center primarily focuses on the well-known, highly practiced, Westernized form of yoga known as Hatha Yoga. This collection of physical postures is manifested in classes featuring styles such as Ashtanga, Power Vinyasa, Kripalu, Hot Yoga, Spanda, Vinyasa Flow, Vinyasa Krama and Soma.
Shannon Hurley, who has been the assistant to Princeton Center for Yoga & Health owner Deborah Metzger for almost two years, teaches a Monday afternoon variation of Hatha Yoga known as Hatha Flow.
Very similar to Vinyasa Flow, Hatha Flow works through a series of breathing exercises, known as pranayama; the poses and postures for which yoga is famous, known as asanas; and a cool-down "corpse pose,’’ or savasana.
It’s all about centering the body, mind and soul through meditation, proper breathing and an amount of physical exertion that is different for each person. And it’s fun, Hurley says.
“There’s all different kinds of yoga, and every week is different in my class,‘’ said Hurley, who currently is being trained in Vinyasa Flow. "It’s OK to shake in your postures, and you don’t need to be in perfect form or shape to do it.’’
Participants in Hurley’s class enjoy the savasana the most.
“You need to totally let go of everything,‘’ during the "corpse pose,’’ Hurley said, "preparing your body and mind to be clear for meditation. There are times when you hear people snoring because they are so relaxed and fall right to sleep.’’
Hurley’s class runs from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. each week, and most yoga classes usually run from 75 to 90 minutes.
Other popular classes at the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health include Hot Yoga, which is taught multiple times each week, and Yoga for Core Strength & Flexibility.
Erin Kelly, who is associated with the center both as a yoga participant and as a volunteer, is very familiar with both disciplines and currently is taking the Sunday night core strength class.
“It’s been a good way to forget about all the external things going on and become centric with myself,‘’ said Kelly, who lives in Lawrenceville and has been practicing yoga for about a year and a half. "I take in all the breaths and focus on the here and now. That’s what yoga really allows one to do.’’
On occasion, she also attends the Wednesday night Hot Yoga offering and regularly volunteers for the well-attended Saturday morning class. It wasn’t something she was too keen about at first, but Kelly has grown to love Hot Yoga … and the in-room temperatures that often exceed 110 degrees.
“The great thing about yoga is that you can do everything at your own pace. You have to be kind to your body. There is no pressure to push yourself to the limit,‘’ she said. "It’s all about knowing your own limitations.’’
To Hurley, that is part of what makes yoga so great … there is something for everyone.
Come one, come all
In most yoga classes at the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, 60 percent of the participants are women. There are people who weigh 100 pounds and others who are overweight. There are college students and elementary school teachers.
When she first discovered yoga 10 years ago, Hurley was a college student suffering from lack of focus and insomnia. Now 30 and married with children, Hurley’s life is much more organized and calm … all because of yoga, she says.
“It gives me more peace and an outlet to focus my energy on. The positivity is very comforting to me,‘’ she said. "It’s about focusing your mind so you can apply it to your life.’’
And one’s life, Hurley says, once affected by yoga, usually exemplifies the following core principles: nonviolence, truthfulness, no stealing, proper use of vital energy, nonhoarding, cleanliness, contentment, burning of impurities, self-study and a dedication to a higher power.
Yoga is much more than just a collection of awkward-looking poses, Hurley says.
“It’s a growing phenomenon. People are starting to dig it and find that it is more than just a physical practice. There’s so many ways it can go, and so many different people can benefit from it.’’