Yoga practice provides focus in a distracted age

"What surprised me most was how profoundly I was affected by the meditation."

Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini

Yoga practice provides focus in a distracted age

Written by: Angela Taraskiewicz
March 30, 2018


I’ve been a runner for as long as I can remember. I love the feeling of release, fatigue and accomplishment that comes from finishing a good, long, hard run. Being able to get away, log miles, and focus on breath, form and pace has served to keep me healthy, happy and relatively sane for a very long time. But all that impact has a way of taking its toll on the joints. So last fall, when I learned I had strained the deltoid ligament in my right foot, I decided it was time to try something new.

Like many runners I have always incorporated some cross training into my routine, including yoga, but I have never actually attended a yoga class. Instead, I have opted for the flexibility and convenience of a home practice, wearing out the same yoga videos week in and week out.

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I’ve been a runner for as long as I can remember. I love the feeling of release, fatigue and accomplishment that comes from finishing a good, long, hard run. Being able to get away, log miles, and focus on breath, form and pace has served to keep me healthy, happy and relatively sane for a very long time. But all that impact has a way of taking its toll on the joints. So last fall, when I learned I had strained the deltoid ligament in my right foot, I decided it was time to try something new.

Like many runners I have always incorporated some cross training into my routine, including yoga, but I have never actually attended a yoga class. Instead, I have opted for the flexibility and convenience of a home practice, wearing out the same yoga videos week in and week out.

And while those home yoga sessions provided a respite from the road, a solid core workout and increased flexibility, they seldom went further than that. It can be challenging to focus at home amidst the clutter of domestic life. In fact, I used to jokingly refer to sun salutations as “dust bunny” salutations because of the view under the couches and radiators they would inevitably provide.  

So when I learned that a new yoga studio had opened nearby I was more than ready to leave those dust bunnies behind, but I also had my doubts. Would the classes be too demanding? Would the instructor be accessible? Would it be awkward to practice with other people? 

Walking into ONE Yoga in Valparaiso, I felt instantly at ease. Entering the brand new, thoughtfully designed studio through its courtyard (rather than the parking lot) creates a sense of transition that helps prepare the mind and body for practice. Shedding my shoes and bag by the door I was met by a friendly receptionist who confirmed my enrollment in the day’s class.

As I entered the heart of the studio, I was welcomed by a combined social and retail space: a kitchen, dining area, rest rooms and small yoga boutique. The kitchen was stocked with complimentary infused waters and an assortment of healthy treats—dark chocolate, cashews, dried fruit—and the boutique featured a nicely curated selection of yoga gear: apparel, yoga mats, candles and essential oils.  

Flanking the communal area I found two studios: to the left, a smaller, quieter space bedecked with lanterns and candles called the moon studio; to the right, a spacious, bright and airy room called the sun studio.

Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Angela Taraskiewicz
Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Angela Taraskiewicz

And while those home yoga sessions provided a respite from the road, a solid core workout and increased flexibility, they seldom went further than that. It can be challenging to focus at home amidst the clutter of domestic life. In fact, I used to jokingly refer to sun salutations as “dust bunny” salutations because of the view under the couches and radiators they would inevitably provide.  

So when I learned that a new yoga studio had opened nearby I was more than ready to leave those dust bunnies behind, but I also had my doubts. Would the classes be too demanding? Would the instructor be accessible? Would it be awkward to practice with other people? 

Walking into ONE Yoga in Valparaiso, I felt instantly at ease. Entering the brand new, thoughtfully designed studio through its courtyard (rather than the parking lot) creates a sense of transition that helps prepare the mind and body for practice. Shedding my shoes and bag by the door I was met by a friendly receptionist who confirmed my enrollment in the day’s class.

As I entered the heart of the studio, I was welcomed by a combined social and retail space: a kitchen, dining area, rest rooms and small yoga boutique. The kitchen was stocked with complimentary infused waters and an assortment of healthy treats—dark chocolate, cashews, dried fruit—and the boutique featured a nicely curated selection of yoga gear: apparel, yoga mats, candles and essential oils.  

Flanking the communal area I found two studios: to the left, a smaller, quieter space bedecked with lanterns and candles called the moon studio; to the right, a spacious, bright and airy room called the sun studio.

Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini
Photo Credit: Jillian Pancini

The moon studio is designed for meditation and smaller classes. The southern facing sun studio, which has sliding glass doors that can be left open in mild weather, is normally reserved for bigger classes. 

As I worked my way through a variety of classes, I began to realize the benefits of live yoga. Unlike video recordings, a live instructor can see you, correct your alignment, offer you props (bricks, blankets, pillows) to ease the strain of more difficult poses, and even assist you in extending your stretches a bit further. In small classes, as most of mine were, instructors often begin by asking if anyone has particular areas that need attention, which allowed me to target the specific issues I was having on my right side.

Additionally, a live yoga class is better equipped to engage all the senses. Instructors make use of meditative music, aromatherapy, variations in room temperatures, even the deeply sonorous Tibetan singing bowls to enhance the ambiance of the studio and facilitate focus and meditation.   

What surprised me most about practicing live yoga was how profoundly I was affected by the meditation. Before I started my practice, I felt constantly rushed, tuned in to the endless pinging of my phone, busy with everyone’s business but my own. In one of my first classes I went so deeply into meditation I think I may have actually fallen asleep. Another morning, lying in the quiet of shavasana, or corpse pose, during a thunderstorm, I was struck by how frequently my subconscious mind returned to the health and well-being of my children.  As the rain poured down on the roof, their dear faces rose clearly before my inner eye, reminding me powerfully of my purpose. With each breath I realized that I was realigning not only my spine but my priorities.  

After six weeks of practice, I started sleeping better and was more focused at work, more intentional at home, and less filled with anxiety than I was before I started. In one of her classes, owner Sherri Dujmovich said, “We practice yoga so we can sit without distraction.” I have found those simple words to be unequivocally true.