Around the year 2010 or so, yoga entered the mainstream, its jargon spilling over into everyday American culture. Just think about the rise of the popularity of yoga pants, and “ath-leisure” wear as indicators. According to Forbes, in 2012 less than 10 percent of adults in the U.S. reported practicing yoga. In 2017, that percentage had climbed to more than 14 percent.
Yoga, defined as a “combination of breathing exercises, meditation, and physical postures, of Hindu origin, used to achieve a state of relaxation and balance of mind, body, and spirit,” is no longer confined to the studio. Many instructors and practitioners are taking yoga outdoors – in city squares and parks, on beaches and lake shores and even on paddle boards atop the water.
That’s where Patricia Ploeger, owner of Omcore Yoga & Body, on St. Simons Island, can often be found, integrating body, soul and spirit with the Golden Isles’ natural surroundings. She began practicing yoga in 1994, and has been teaching since 2000.
Yoga, for the uninitiated, can be practiced by people of any faith tradition, or no tradition at all, even though it has its roots in Hinduism. Ploeger says it’s not difficult to learn.
“The beautiful thing about yoga is that there are many different styles and types to try, that range from simple and gentle, to more complex and challenging,” she explained. “Therefore, when you begin, you should start with something relatively basic and go from there. Yoga is truly adaptable to every body.”
Ploeger says attending a yoga class once a week can provide positive benefits to the mind and body.
“Two to three times a week is even better, of course, and a little yoga every, single day is ideal,” she said. “Every yoga session does not need to be an hour to and and hour and a half. There are many, many studies that tout the benefits of practicing even as little as 10-20 minutes a day.”
The practice has many benefits. Physically, yoga increases muscle flexibility and range of motion of the joints, and improves overall strength and balance.
“Yoga also calms and clears the mind, and can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety,” Ploeger said. “Finally, once the practitioner taps into an increased state of clarity and tranquility, he or she may find a deeper sense of connection with others and with the world itself.”
As previously mentioned, yoga is not combined to a studio. Ploeger first tried yoga on the paddleboard in 2012, and was immediately hooked.
“Paddleboarding is nice because it is an outdoor activity, which allows you to enjoy nature,” she said. “From a physical perspective, it strengthens the upper body and core, plus improves balance.”
Yoga and paddleboarding work together well, she said.
“The added element of practicing yoga on the water changes how the abdominal and back muscles are activated, so it strengthens the core differently than other fitness modalities,” said Ploeger.
But, before finding tranquility and all those other great things, one has to get started. Ploeger encourages people to simply take the first step.
“The best way to start a practice is to either find a beginning yoga video to practice a few times, or jump into a basic yoga class and try it out,” she said. “People have this idea that they have to be ‘good’ at yoga before they go to a class, but really, it’s beneficial to allow yourself to simply be a beginner, and start where you are – clumsy, awkward and all.”