When Christy Smith tried yoga for the first time in 2001, she discovered the missing link in her life."That first class brought me to tears-I loved it," she said, "I felt at home."
Smith recalls how chaotic her life was at that time. She and her husband recently left their native North Carolina and moved to New Jersey for his new job.
Establishing a home, unfamiliar surroundings and the demands of caring for young children delivered a load of stress on Smith's shoulders.
Yoga-a combination of meditation and physical practices originating in India-restored stability to her disordered life.
Following her introductory session, Smith regularly took classes for about six months at the Yoga Center of Medford. Then, she enrolled in classes to become a registered yoga instructor.
During this time, she became pregnant with her third and started teaching prenatal yoga. This form of yoga utilizes positions that are safe for mom and baby, while increasing flexibility and reducing swelling and anxiety.
Yoga, as Smith emphasizes, is for people of all ages, and can be adapted for all stages. This meditative exercise has a plethora of benefits.
"It helps with weight control, balance and posture," she said. "It increases your strength, improves your digestion and circulation, calms the nerves, improves breathing and gives you an overall self-awareness of your body."
Additionally, it can improve the quality of life for people with chronic conditions, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, circulatory problems and digestive disorders.
Today, Smith and her family live in the Barto area and she teaches yoga at the Inner Light Holistic Center, Route 100 and Grosser Road, Gilbertsville, to help others achieve balance in their lives.
When the Smiths moved to the area almost two years ago, she literally walked into a yoga teaching position.
"I was driving on Route 100 and saw a sign at the Go Figure exercise business for Indigo Child spiritual gathering," she said. "I stopped in. When I told the co-owner I was a yoga instructor, she asked when I could start teaching."
Smith taught classes at Go Figure until it closed in June 2007. Her students continued taking classes at her home until Inner Light opened its doors in October 2007.
Her yoga classes typically begin with meditation in a softly lit room, with peaceful music and incense.
"I want people to settle their thoughts and focus," she said. "Then, I move into slow warm-up exercises and breathing with gentle movements."
For those who want a cardiovascular workout, Smith offers strenuous postures. However, she individualizes her instruction to each student's abilities and desires.
Class ends with deep relaxation in a shavasano or corpse pose to balance the movement with stillness.
While yoga improves flexibility and strength, it is more than a form of physical exercise.
"Yoga is not a religion but an eight-limb path created to develop self awareness in the practitioner," Smith said.
For example, the first branch, yamas, is about restraints a person should utilize, such as non-violence, truthfulness, moderation, non-stealing and non-covetousness.
The second branch, niyamas, focuses on observance-purity, contentment, austerity, ancient study and living in an awareness state.
The third branch, asanas, is the physical postures, which Smith utilizes in her classes.
The fourth branch, pranayama, focuses on breathing techniques.
The fifth branch, pratyahara, is the withdrawal of the senses to create a state of inner focus.
The sixth branch, dharana, is the concentration on one single thought or focus.
The seventh branch, dhyana, is meditation.
The eighth branch, samadhi, is unity or enlightenment-the result of the journey through the path.
"I try to keep a warm, relaxing atmosphere throughout my classes," she said.
Currently, Smith is participating in Boyertown's Arts and Activities Alliance's art and artrelated classes. Starting Feb. 2 through March, AAA is hosting an array of classes on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays.
AAA, a committee of Building a Better Boyertown, continues to promote the arts by offering introductory sessions for people of all ages. Classes, held by local artists and instructors, include art and craft instruction, as well as relaxation exercises, massages, book discussions and meditation.
Smith, together with Charles Reed, Ph.D., is offering yoga and tai chi at Boyertown Area Multi-Service, 200 Spring Street, Boyertown, on Saturdays beginning at noon.
Visitors can drop in to try yoga or tai chi, for a fee, or pre-register to ensure a spot. For yoga, call Christy Smith at 610-737-9434. For tai chi, call Charles Reed at 267-994-7272.
For a complete list of classes, dates and times, see the Community Calendar or visit www.boyertownpa.org or call Jane Stahl at 610-367-8066.