When you hear the word “athlete”, the first image that comes to mind is probably something along the lines of a buff person playing a high-intensity sport. What people seem to lose sight of is the fact that working out doesn’t have to be a purely physical experience. Exercising has many benefits for mind and spirit, and one activity that favours these facets of our health is yoga.

There are many yoga programs offered at UTM, and the trainers encourage everyone to participate and get as much as possible from the class. Elizabeth Spence is a trainer with over 15 years of experience teaching yoga. Her focus is on restorative and hatha yoga, which encourages awareness by various means, including breathing patterns, all while holding many different poses (asanas).

Spence believes that there is a spiritual side to yoga as well. “The term hatha derives from Sanskrit ha meaning ‘sun’ and tha meaning ‘moon’, symbolizing life force and consciousness,” she says. “As we move through the physical practice and become aware of our breath, we connect to the divine, or our higher consciousness.”

Spence believes yoga is a great way to relieve stress and find balance.

“Most of us tend to hold patterns of tension arising from everyday demands, worries, stress, cares, emotions, and lack of exercise, causing bad posture and misalignment in the body,” states Spence. “Yoga improves flexibility, circulation, and breathing, bringing a balance to the mental, physical, and energetic fields. Yoga is about balance: bringing the mind, body, and spirit together.”

The history of yoga has not always been a very inclusive one—surprisingly, given modern trends, women were originally not allowed to participate. Spence observes that contemporary yoga is open to people of all shapes and sizes. “I am so glad to see men and women in our classes; it benefits everyone, of all body types,” she explains.

Even after 15 years of teaching, Spence continues to study with other teachers, because there’s always something new to learn.

The other yoga classes offered at UTM include flow, restorative, and power yoga. Registration is available at the RAWC control desk or online.