new_health (2006-46)

One-on-One

A private yoga lesson with local instructor Mary Ann Wilson

by Wendy C. Smith

I like yoga. It’s fun and, believe it or not, with all the stretching and

My private teacher was Mary Ann Wilson, a yoga instructor and massage therapist. Mary Ann teaches both classes and individual lessons. She told me to wear the usual yoga clothes and be prepared to stretch. Her classroom was warm, and the space heaters were on because, Mary Ann explained, our muscles stretch better when they’re warmed up. We started the lesson with a breathing meditation, at which point I found out that I don’t breathe correctly for yoga. We spent a good five or 10 minutes on “just” breathing. I say “just” in jest, because I now know that breath is one of the most important pieces of the yoga puzzle. Good yoga practice requires proper breath, and diaphragmatic breathing is the key. It is deep breath, which fills up the diaphragm on the inhale, and the exhale is often used to deepen the stretches. That was the first of many things that I learned.

Although I’d always tried to follow the breathing instructions in class, I didn’t really understand the importance of connecting breath and movement until it was demonstrated to me.

For example, my lower back has a bigger curve than average, so it was really important for me to realize when I was overextending (over-curving) my backbone and what part of the pose is the most important part on which to focus. 

In previous classes, I had concentrated on what felt easiest and best because I figured that what came naturally had to be right. Although sometimes that is true, in most cases, I was just doing it wrong.

Another cool thing was that Mary Ann physically helped me deepen the stretches. I would do a series of the pose and she would correct me with words and by manipulating my body. On the last breath or two, Mary Ann would actually push or pull on my body to help me reach the limits of my flexibility. I was amazed at how much farther I could stretch when I was doing it right and with a little help. It made the workout a lot harder and much more satisfying.

Until now, my least favorite yoga position has always been the Savasana (corpse position) that is done at the end of the session. The idea of lying flat on my back and being still after a good workout has always seemed like a complete waste of time to me. However, after Mary Ann explained the purpose of the position, which is to allow the toxins released by the yoga to drain into the liver and lymph system, I had a lot more tolerance for the position because I knew why I was doing it. It’s that type of information that made the lesson all the more valuable to me. 

Mary Ann Wilson can be reached at 865-584-3864.