Yoga promotes a healthy lifestyle
Outside of Gopi Sandal's yoga studio in rural Baldwin, three Brown Swiss cattle graze quietly, birds sing into a quiet breeze, a cat playfully runs across the yard.
The tranquil setting is an entry way to what Gopi teaches inside her yoga studio, which is a short stroll from her home.
Sandal, 45 and the mother of three, has been practicing yoga for more than 25 years, and teaching it for 10. Her introduction to yoga, the most ancient stress management system, was through a book when she was 16. Her first teachings were to a group of teen-age girls in Lawrence a way to encourage them not to be so self-conscious.
"I first found out about yoga when I was 16," said Sandal, who grew up in southeast Kansas. "I found a book and kept trying things out. It felt so good I kept doing it. Whenever I had the opportunity to take a class or lean more, I did."
As a yoga student, Sandal spent 10 years studying and practicing Bhakti yoga the yoga of devotion near London, where she traveled to study Indian philosophy and where she met her husband, who is from India.
"Bhakti yoga is more of a lifestyle that helps you to purify the heart and the mind," Sandal said. "It is based on devotion to God."
Sandal also has studied the technique of lyengar and hatha yoga. She said hatha refers more to the physical exercises and stretches. Sandal teaches yoga that combines stretching with deep breathing.
"Most people are concerned about using hatha yoga to become more healthy and more happy," Sandal said. "It helps on a lot of different levels.
"If you practice regularly, it can increase your body's flexibility. It helps to strengthen and tone all the organs of the body and balances all of the systems, such as the hormone system."
Several newcomers to yoga perk up when they hear that yoga "reverses the aging process," Sandal said.
While yoga is gaining popularity across the country, Sandal is keeping her class sizes small from 5 to 8 students. She said if her class sizes grow too big, she will add another class. She offers beginner, intermediate and private lessons. A new session begins at the end of the month.
"I think a lot of people are starting to get interested for the health benefit, to relieve stress and to feel more peaceful," Sandal said. "Stretching, along with deep breathing, works in a unique way to feel refreshed and relaxed at the same time. It helps your mind to become more peaceful and your emotions balanced."
Sandal practices yoga nearly every day, attends yoga workshops and takes a class for herself once weekly. She does it because of how it makes her feel. And that is why she teaches.
"I want people to feel as good as I do," Sandal said.
One doesn't need to be flexible to do yoga, Sandal said. When one stretches to their limit, they are receiving the maximum benefit of yoga.
"A lot of people think you have to be flexible already to do yoga," Sandal said. "Anybody can practice yoga. A person in a wheel chair can do yoga. The way I like to teach is to encourage each person to feel comfortable in their own body, and not like they are competing with anybody else."
Sandal also is a certified massage therapist, offering a women's only practice at her studio. She specializes in deep Swedish massage, and she said yoga and massage are a natural fit.
"It works well together," Sandal said of yoga and massage. "Yoga is like an internal massage."
For more information about yoga classes and massage at the Bhaktivana Yoga Center, call 594-7091 or (785) 979-1639.