In the New Year, Think

YMCA yoga instructor talks yoga for beginners

Haley Wright, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Sky Yoga, Eau Claire
Sky Yoga, Eau Claire

Wendi Engum – a yoga instructor at the YMCA in Eau Claire who has been practicing yoga since 2000 – went to her first yoga class out of “pure curiosity” and found she instantly loved the new and challenging poses and the overall sense of well-being she experienced when she was done. So she took the leap and attended her first teacher training in 2014. She says yoga has many benefits for the mind and body, and her classes emphasize channeling both. Engum believes yoga is for everyone and encourages anyone interested in giving it a try. As we enter the new year, she offered some advice to people who have resolved to get into, or back into, yoga.

Volume One: How does someone get started doing yoga in Eau Claire? What would you recommend?

Wendi Engum: I am a dive in kind of person. Give it a try. Try all types of classes and teachers. Eau Claire now has a lot of options, which is great. Every class has something just a little different to offer. A beginner may want to look for a Beginner Class where the teacher will help with a variety of poses that are used most frequently. There are alignment ques that are given to help keep practitioners safe. Other key words to look for as a beginner are, "slow flow," or "gentle," or "restorative." There are also plenty of YouTube videos or books to familiarize oneself.

“I am a dive in kind of person. Give it a try. Try all types of classes and teachers. Eau Claire now has a lot of options, which is great. Every class has something just a little different to offer.”

How often should a beginner be looking to go?

Yoga is something that can be practiced every day. One just needs to be mindful and listen to their body, pushing, but not overdoing.

What about someone with some physical limitations? How is that different?

Yoga is for individuals with physical limitations as well. There are specialty classes, such as chair yoga, and yoga for seniors. All of the poses can be modified for different abilities. Yoga is not about competing, or even doing the same as the person next to you, it is about finding your own practice.

How long does it take to learn enough yoga to be comfortable doing it?

Yoga should be fairly comfortable right away. The more you go, the more familiar you will become with the different poses, and their names.

How soon do people notice benefits?

Yoga has multiple benefits. It will leave you feeling good, like a post-workout good, or yoga Zen good. A class can leave you with an overall sense of being relaxed, and with a more clear mind. Benefits can be very individualized.  An unmotivated person may feel more energized, a more hyper person may feel more calm, anyone can find a deeper understanding of themselves.  Gains in strength and flexibility may take a little longer, but it happens.  Gains big or small will happen with practice.

What other physical activity assists in being able to successfully do yoga?

The only physical activity one needs to do yoga is to be able to breathe. Yoga does benefit all other physical activities. Yoga can help a person to run faster, lift more, simply stand up taller, and live better.