Tuesday, March 30, 1999

Yoga extends its reach

New Kenwood school puts 75 teachers under one roof

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Last year, Diane Schmidt Utaski ran into a friend and fellow teacher at a health food store.

        “I'm thinking of opening a yoga school,” she said to Indu Bala Bhardwaj.

        “I was thinking of opening one, too,” Indu said back, and no one had to identify the next thought that ran through their minds.

        “Let's start a school together,” they said, and they did, and it will open its doors to the public April 12 at Kenwood Square North at Kenwood and Cornell roads in Blue Ash.

        The Cincinnati Yoga Center & Bookstore, anchoring a strip of stores that includes a Chinese restaurant, insurance agency, delicatessen and massage therapy office, is a sign that yoga is no longer an “out there” concept for former hippies.

        The 2,400-square-foot center will offer different styles of yoga instruction for people of all ages, levels and abilities, including yoga for people with multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia (muscle pain) and those undergoing cardiac rehabilitation. Eventually, it will offer cooking classes and yoga instruction for children and pregnant women.

        Ms. Schmidt Utaski says she and other members of the Cincinnati Yoga Teachers Association (CYTA) began realizing the need for a yoga-specific center when representatives of local fitness clubs and community groups began asking CYTA for someone to teach yoga “without all that philosophy and meditation stuff.”

5,000 years old
        Yoga is a 5,000-year-old Indian-based tradition of combining body, mind and spirit through movement, stretching, breathing, meditation and mental awareness. There are different styles of yoga, but the goal is to strengthen and stretch muscles, enhance breathing, massage internal organs, relax nerves and allow the body to heal itself.

        It's helpful for a variety of health conditions, from asthma to depression, headaches to menstrual problems, back problems to athletic injuries.

        “Without a school, we realized that health clubs might turn it into just another health craze,” Ms. Bhardwaj says. “We're going to create a place where people can learn yoga correctly.”

        It also gives yoga teachers one location to call their own. Currently, yoga classes are held at a variety of sites — schools, community centers, churches, senior centers, dance schools, wellness centers and the like. At the school, CYTA's 75 yoga teachers have a central place for classes, seminars, training, books, tapes, CDs and class supplies.

        “It's going to be nice to have a complete facility to go to with lots of different levels of classes to choose from,” says Phyllis Baker, 43, a Loveland accounting clerk who began taking yoga classes more than a year ago.

Mainstream push
        Yoga has moved into the mainstream over the last few decades, fueled not only by acceptance of its benefits by chiropractors, doctors and health professionals, but also by media attention to celebrities who are long-time yoga supporters or practitioners. Among them are singer Madonna, actor Woody Harrelson, talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and actress Ali McGraw.

        “I've had people say their eye doctors suggested they do yoga,” says Ms. Schmidt Utaski.

        Likewise, yoga teachers locally and nationwide are adopting certification and training programs, and all instructors at the Cincinnati Yoga School will be certified members of the CYTA.

Start with beginners
        Introductory and beginning classes will be offered through April and May. Advanced and specialized classes will be introduced through June and into the fall.

        Class fees range from $55 for five-week summer sessions ($45 members); $80 for eight-week sessions ($64 members) and $108 for 12 classes over eight weeks ($84 members). Drop-in classes are $12 each ($10 members). Annual membership is $75.

        The center will hold an open house 1-5 p.m. May 16 with an appearance by Cincinnati yoga teacher Lilias Folan. Information 247-9642.


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