To help us take a pause during this stress-filled time of year—and in honor of Veterans Day—who better to turn to than Charm City Yoga’s CJ Keller, a former U.S. Marine Corps Captain who served in Iraq and teaches yoga to civilians and non-civilians alike? “I wish I had started a practice before I went to war,” says Keller, who now offers a gratis Saturday class through his nonprofit Semper Fidelis Health and Wellness at the Towson studio. “Yoga allowed me to reconnect with myself.”
How does yoga help manage stress? The real stress benefits of the practice come through not just the physical movement but by practicing conscious breathing—unique to the body because it’s one of the only functions we can actually control. Our breath can be used as a tool to alter our emotional state. By breathing consciously, we can actually lower our stress level and relax—and that repetition can stay with us off of the mat as well.
What difference have you seen in the veterans you work with who now practice yoga? It’s tough to get any man to try yoga, let alone the machismo, tough-guy Marine or soldier—it seems like the thing farthest from what we’d want to do. I was once that guy, too. The veterans who come to my class say they feel more like themselves. They are more comfortable in their own bodies and have a deeper sense of health and wellness.
What are some exercises that can be done at home? For just a simple breathing technique to learn relaxation, sit up tall in a chair or lay on your back and practice taking deep breaths. If you want to do a posture, I suggest doing Sun Salutations—a combination of folding forward, standing in a mountain posture, and upward and downward dog are ideal for a 10-minute routine.
Any tips on avoiding holiday stress? We get worked up thinking that we are going to be with our family and that anticipation alone can cause you to be stressed. Being present in whatever happens without attaching to any outcome can free you of stress.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
Although a yoga mat is the most common tool when practicing, a few other things can aid in your yogi lifestyle.
Keep hydrated with a reusable thermos during sessions as well as throughout the day.
Symbolizing strength and postures even outside of the studio. Yoga tees ($20) at Charm City Yoga, several locations includ-ing 901 Fell St.,
For beginners or anyone who may need some help with range of motion while practicing postures, try using
a block or two.
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