Yoga teacher Adrienne Tyler, of Yoga Dawn in La Grande, encourages participants to “open their hearts” as they perform a series of poses during yoga class. (Trish Yerges/For The Observer)
Achieve self-realization through body-mind discipline
Reconnecting body and mind through traditional yoga is the occupation and passion of integrated yoga therapist and instructor Adrienne Tyler of Yoga Dawn in La Grande.
“September is National Yoga Month,” she said. “I want yoga to be celebrated in our community because it has so much to offer. Yoga is about balance of everything, our body, mind, emotions and spirit.”
Tyler has been teaching yoga for 22 years, first in Enterprise and then in John Day. In 1998, she came to La Grande and opened her own studio, now located at 105 Depot St. Three of her former students have also become teachers and have taken their yoga practices to the Joseph and John Day communities.
Though a comparatively young practice in the West, yoga is actually a 4,000-year-old discipline that traces back to India. Its classroom instructions are traditionally communicated in the ancient Sanskrit language, and Tyler is quick to introduce the language to her students.
“Yo means ‘sun’ and ga means ‘moon’ so it means bringing everything into balance,” said Tyler. “That’s the literal interpretation of those words, but the main definition I like is that yoga is an awakening to who we are — body, mind, emotions and spirit. It’s about always bringing awareness to breath.”
Tyler said the ancient tradition of yoga has always been about self-realization and there are many pathways to that. One is through movement, breath and meditation. Yoga students can practice this by incorporating mind-body awareness through thoughtful movement and breath.
Yoga is comprised of about 108 traditional, physical poses (asanas). Tyler talks her students through these movements, calling each pose by name: “tree,” “warrior II,” “triangle,” “intense side angle” and “salutations to the sun.”
“The sun salutations are a series of poses that acknowledge an awakening of our bodies,” said Tyler, “like the sun awakens the day.”
The student is awakened, she said, to how their movement influences and works with their breathing techniques (pranayamas). Before class begins, the students sit in silence to center themselves and at the end of the class, they perform Savasana (literally translated corpse) when the student is able to lay still on his back, relax and connect with his inner spirit.
“The spirit is a person’s breath or life force,” Tyler said. “It’s in all of us. No one has stayed alive without breath. Bringing body, mind and spirit (breath) together means reaching our inherent natural state of being like coming home to one’s organic self.”
Following traditional yoga instruction, Tyler’s students come to her classes comfortably dressed and barefoot.
“A lot of the intention of yoga is about being thoughtful about how we walk upon the earth, in this world,” Tyler said. “Being barefoot does that. It brings us to that natural state of knowing here I am. I’m standing on the earth, and I’m present and I’m noticing what my impact is.”
She does not describe yoga as aerobic exercise or dance, and music is not played during her classes. Instead, the quiet class atmosphere allows students to focus on their inner thoughts and emotions without distraction. Distractions, she said, diminish one’s ability to meditate, an important part of the yoga discipline.
“Meditating is about centering oneself and getting into the present before starting any movement,” said Tyler. “A trained mind decides what it wants to focus on, and allows a person to stay in the present moment.”
Yoga is about finding balance no matter what infirmity the student may have. Poses are modified to fit all ages and physical limitations, and a variety of props are used to help students reach and maintain a desired pose.
“We can create new poses or find new pathways,” said Tyler. “Everyone can find their balance. If I didn’t have a leg, I could still find my balance. It would just be in a different way.”
Yoga has many physical benefits, including improving respiration, toning up muscles, becoming more flexible despite arthritis, increasing energy and vitality, balancing one’s metabolism, relieving pain and promoting heart health.
It also has mental health benefits such as relieving stress and depression, creating a tranquil state of mind and focusing energy on the goal at hand. It also encourages positive thinking and healthy self-esteem.
“Be open to the possibilities, come with curiosity and openness,” Tyler said. “I recommend anyone trying yoga to attend at least eight weeks before making any decision on it. You have to settle in, then you can spend a lifetime on this journey. You are coming to yoga to integrate body, mind and spirit.”