Picture a windswept lake, waves churning, obscuring the view of the lake floor.
Now think of the lake as your mind, and the waves the clutter of your life. Want to see what lies beneath?
Judi Harvin at Focus Yoga in Brookfield may have the answers.
“About 5,000 years ago or so, spiritual practitioners developed a path for quieting the mind so that we could get a sense of our true nature,” said Harvin, who’s been teaching yoga for nearly 20 years. “The mind can be compared to a lake. When a lake is turbulent, it’s difficult to see to the bottom. So our thoughts are like those waves and the turbulence in that lake. When our minds are busy and active, we lose that connection to our deepest self.
“Yoga is really the process of quieting the mind. That’s all it is.”
This quieting is achieved through a physical workout, breathing techniques and meditation.
“Once you understand what yoga is, you can see how it enhances everything,” Harvin said.
There’s been a resurgence of interest in yoga in the past 25 years, Harvin said, including locally. A heightened interest in fitness — but also recently, relieving stress in a dismal economy — may have contributed to that uprising.
“The interest in fitness has also shown a growth pattern,” Harvin said. “Yoga has continued to maintain interest because fads come and go, but yoga has not only maintained it, but it has grown. It offers more than fitness.”
Brookfield’s Jess Smiley began practicing yoga around the time her 13-year-old son, Alex, died of cancer. Smiley said yoga was a way to manage stress for her, and also served as grief therapy in the wake of losing her son.
“It was a really holistic way to bring things together,” Smiley said. “It’s been really good and beneficial for me — body, mind, spiritually all together.”
Smiley, who previously practiced yoga at home, said she started going to Focus Yoga in town to find a community of sorts with fellow practitioners.
Yoga is a spiritual science, a method, Harvin said. While spirituality and religion are two different things, yoga can enhance anyone’s regular religious practice.
Students at Focus Yoga have said they feel like they’ve had a workout and gone to church at the same time.
“It fills a spiritual need,” Harvin said. “It doesn’t take people away from church. Yoga will enhance that for them. That’s how people who are regular church-goers have explained it to me. People who aren’t regular church-goers feel yoga fills a need they can’t get in other ways.”
Focus students come from a wide range of lifestyles, ages and locations, Harvin said. Men and women alike come from as far as the city of Chicago but are primarily from the western suburbs. They are housewives and tradesmen, advertising professionals and railroad yard workers.
“It’s not all Birkenstock, granola-eating people, which is what I am,” Harvin said. “I say that with all due affection, but that’s not the profile of our students.”
Jim Kelly of Chicago found yoga a few years ago. The retired pipe fitter has many of the aches and pains associated with being a tradesman. At age 63, Kelly said he looks forward to his yoga time.
He’s been practicing for three years at Focus Yoga.
“I have the time since I retired, so I’m doing something for my own good,” he said. “I feel better from my workout.”
While his back pain is gone, that’s not the only relief Kelly finds beneficial. There’s also the meditative side of yoga he looks forward to every week.
“I can put the world out of my head for an hour or so,” Kelly said. “I concentrate on my exercises, put away the cares that are going through everyone’s minds these days.”
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