Combine yoga with outdoors for calming health booster

Editor’s note: Warren-based travel writer Jennifer Martinek this week shares her discovery of a way to combine healthful destressing with natural settings — destination yoga.

BAZETTA — Mosquito Creek Reservoir spreads over both Bazetta and Mecca townships in the center of Trumbull County.

The lake is well-known for having family picnics while you smell hot dogs and hamburgers searing on the grill, kids playing on the beach as a family of ducks glide smoothly over the rippling tides, and speed boats cut through the water as they propel themselves up and down the lake as sailboats, with their white, flowing sails, glide serenely towards their destinations.

People go to Mosquito Lake for other reasons as well. It’s the perfect place to relax and get more in touch with nature. Go bird watching, fly kites or just grab a mat and find a peaceful, quiet area to plop down on the thick, green grass.

Stress seems to be the main emotion that most of us have, and many of us don’t think that we have time during the day to do something to relieve that stress.

My daughter showed me a great way that she found to exercise while enjoying the tranquility of the waves as they rush up on the beach, and have fun with it at the same time. She wanted to practice her yoga and enjoy being outdoors instead of in a small room crammed with people while listening to pre-recorded sounds of nature.

Why do that when you can enjoy the real thing, right?

On the side of the lake opposite the Mosquito Lake State Park, you can find areas where you can have privacy and be able to let go and really get in touch with your inner self.

Erika and I searched for a quieter, less populated area around the lake. I vaguely remembered an area by a small cemetery I used to go to when I was in high school. It was located on one of the side roads that not many people went down.

Once we found it, it was like time had stood still and nothing had changed. We pulled into the small, gravel parking lot.

Walking down the grass-covered trail, we found an area that had large pieces of broken cement scattered down by the water. Erika decided she wanted to practice her balancing techniques. So as she started stretching out, I found a comfy little spot sitting on a small patch of grass.

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”

— John Lubbock

For those who are not familiar with yoga, it is not just for the stereotypical person we all envision it to be. When I first heard the term, I pictured someone propped on a small, flat cushion, hair put up into a messy bun and legs tightly crossed.

The truth is, yoga is for everyone from ages 4 to 94:

• The nurse that works a 10-hour shift four to five days a week;

• The waitress whose constantly on her feet;

• The stay-at-home-mom who is chasing her 2-year-old around the house all day;

• The school teacher that goes over the same chapter again and again to her different classes throughout the day.

Yoga originated in India more than 6,000 years ago. It incorporates a variety of sitting and standing exercises, along with controlled inhalation and exhalation techniques. These exercises are known as asanas.

Yoga focuses on all areas including physical, mental and spiritual growth.

“Yoga is a form of meditation without really meditating,” Erika said. “You can’t think about what is stressing you out. You have to be able to clear your mind, and focus on being in the moment or nothing that you are trying to accomplish will matter.”

There are more than 100 different forms of yoga. The most commonly used form in our area is known as vinyasa, which combines a series of poses that flow smoothly from one to another to improve strength and flexibility, and puts them to soft, melodious music.

Other forms include hatha, which combines basic movements with controlled breathing; bikram, also known as hot yoga; and iyengar, which uses props such as blocks, straps or chairs.

My daughter started using the vinyasa form last year. Between school, track and cheerleading, she was looking for a way to put balance back into her life.

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

— Lao Tzu

As I sat there in silence and watched her perform some of the techniques and poses she had learned at a studio in our area, I found myself begin to feel the peaceful and calming energy that radiated from her movements. The stress that I felt earlier just seemed to float away into the lake as she transitioned gracefully from one pose to the next.

She said that she “also listens to reiki meditation music on YouTube. Reiki is a spiritual form of meditation, and there is a variety that you can listen to.”

I asked her what advice she had for anyone just starting out with yoga.

“Go to a class and try different types of yoga to decide which one you are more comfortable using. If you are not comfortable in front of people, there are plenty of step-by-step instructional videos on YouTube,” Erika said.

What I learned was this: It doesn’t matter what walk of life you come from or if you are male or female. yoga can help you improve your overall way of life, and help you become more self-aware and put your body and mind in alignment.

Yoga can also help in a variety of health-related issues. It can help to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels by lowering your stress levels. It can help increase mental awareness and boost your immune system. With regular movement in strength and flexibility exercises it will lower back pain, arthritis, and headaches (especially migraines). The less pain you have the lower dosages of medications you will need to take.

Sometimes when you feel like getting away to unwind, the best place can be right in your backyard.