Students side by side on floor mats moved through yoga poses, extending, concentrating and absorbing sensation. Holding each pose for a short time before moving to the next, body temperatures rose and the sounds of focused breathing blew through the room like desert winds.
"Feel the liquid golden light," said instructor Amrito Ingle as she guided students through a power yoga session, an aerobic form of the ancient art.
Learning to stay focused amidst chaos, finding inner peace, cleansing your soul and your body by flushing out toxins are all a part of yoga.
And although there are different adaptations of this age old practice, the most essential component in all forms of yoga is breathing.
"If your not breathing fully, it's not yoga; its just a bunch of weird poses," Ingle said.
While some people might envision a human pretzel when they hear the word yoga, Ingle takes a more philosophical approach.
"A misconception is yoga is about tying yourself in knots," she said. "To me it is about untying knots, relieving stress and tension."
She encourages students to focus on their own activity. "It is not a competition or a performance," she said to her class.
"There is always a way to adapt a pose if you don't have the strength or flexibility," she said. But for those who are not challenged enough, she added. There is always a way to go deeper into each pose.
Ingle also teaches Astanga Yoga and Back Care Yoga.
Doug Swenson, a 28 year veteran of teaching yoga and of teaching yoga instructors, travels the nation teaching seminars and workshops. He is based in Lake Tahoe but now only teaches locally for the last two weeks of June in what is called the Lake Tahoe Teacher Training Retreat.
His emphasis is on Hatha yoga. The "Ha" is the sun or vital life force and
"tha" is the moon, which reflects the softness and tranquility of life, he said.
"It is a combination of the hard and the soft of life, the Ying and the Yang. With yoga, you can achieve a body of perfect health and strength, a mind with clarity and calm and a heart with peace and harmony," he said.
He emphasizes the balance that yoga gives because for each pose there is a counter pose, a balance that is rarely achieved in most physical activities that require an unbalanced use of the body.
"It gives us a little more edge in life and in general, I think it is kind of a magical thing."
Finding the edge is something Ingle encourages her students to do. The edge is the point where you are pushing yourself, but not to the point of pain or discomfort. It is a balance.
Serina Sullwolv of Serina's Yoga, said that breathing from the abdomen is essential for a full breath, which is a full life. Breathing from the rib cage is only a half breath or a half life.
"To breath brings you to the moment," she said. "It brings you to the present to your core."
She said meditation is achieved through yoga after the poses are learned and become intuitive.
She said it works the endocrine system, circulatory system, deep muscles and it massages the organs.
She stresses the importance of the spine and moving it in all of its possible directions.
"Your only as young as your spine is flexible," she said.
But with all the adaptations of yoga, perhaps the one taught by Janine Petrick-Sullivan, is the most forward thinking. She began her career as a registered nurse, but has melded that and her yoga into something unique: yoga for prenatal woman and woman with babies and toddlers. She has a 2 -year-old boy, Joseph that she brings to the Mommy and Me Yoga for toddlers.
"Having a baby has the potential of being a very isolated experience," she said. "The class brings a community of parents and babies together."
The prenatal classes, which require a doctor's note, are geared to help woman with their pregnancy and ultimately with childbirth. The class focuses on hip opening postures and relaxing the pelvic floor, techniques that can help alleviate pain during labor.
"It helps keep the organs in syncronicity and balance," she said.
Her Baby and Me Yoga class is for parents with children who are too young to walk. "The babies really love it," she said. "They get really quiet and serene."
The class is an hour long and divided into two parts. While the first half of the class is dedicated to yoga, the second half is a talk session when students can share stories of parenthood.
The Mommy and Me Yoga class is for children, who are old enough to walk.
Robbin Rettig is a student in the Mommy and Me Yoga class. She brings two of her three children to the class.
While the kids do yoga, they also have toys to play with at the class because of their short attention spans.
"The trick of yoga is in the midst of chaos, which is motherhood, is to stay calm and focused," Rettig said.
For more information:
Amrito Ingle: 775-588-8693
Serina Sullwolv: 577-5659
Janine Petrick-Sullivan: 775-586-8233
Doug Swenson: 573-8400