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Yoga is all about being in the moment.

This moment. Not the next moment, like plotting a defense of your brilliant proposal at the next day's staff meeting while grasping your ankles in bow pose. Or the former moment, when you're enjoying child's pose yet wondering what you were thinking when you offered your no-account sister-in-law the money to cover the cost of a pricey speeding ticket she got for going 90 in a 70-mph zone.

I'm proof that you can be awful at being in the moment and still manage to practice yoga.

Of the many styles, I prefer vinyasa (similar to power yoga), a breath-synchronized series of flowing poses that often challenges the body in gravity-defying ways.

My earliest connection to the style goes back to 1999, when Bryan Kest, one of Los Angeles' hottest yoga trainers at the time, came to Little Rock to teach a workshop in power yoga at Barefoot Studio.

As I recall, he padded catlike around a room filled with 60 participants, adjusting a leg here, rubbing a tensed-up neck there. "This is my interpretation" of yoga, he told us. "It's the mental quality within the practice; otherwise it's superficial. It's not just about your body."

Kest emphasized that yoga isn't about doing a pose perfectly, but about exploring personal boundaries and limitations. "This is your practice," he reminded us, after admonishing class members not to look around to see what others are doing and to keep quiet in order to focus on ourselves. "The body speaks to us in the language of sensation. Respect your body if it says no. Start listening, start honoring your body."

That's where the "being in the moment" conceit comes in. Although vinyasa moves along smartly, there are times when breathing properly is essential in maintaining a pose before moving on to the next one. As my favorite teacher, Barefoot Studio founder Catherine Rodgers, often said, "Let the breath help you find comfort in these uncomfortable situations."

Like pigeon pose. Camel pose. Shoulder stands. But the most uncomfortable, for me, is anything that requires balancing on one leg. Losing focus on what you're doing can result in falling over.

I was reminded of this when my interest in yoga, dormant for the last few years, was resurrected with the offer of a free power yoga class by a popular studio in my neighborhood. About 20 of us showed up on a recent Saturday morning, a tight fit in the facility's softly lit room where sitar-infused music was quietly playing.

Our instructor led us through an hour's worth of poses; it's curious how muscle memory will kick in, allowing me to keep up with regular class-goers in working through the sun salutation sequence--mountain pose, forward fold, half forward fold, plank, down dog, low plank, up dog, and many others, all the way to the concluding corpse pose (where we're supposed to experience systematic relaxation, not fall asleep).

Being in the moment, in terms of yoga, means concentrating your attention on being totally present, zeroing in on your body (listening and honoring, as Bryan Kest admonished) and your breath. Being successful at this means you feel balanced, relaxed, peaceful, composed. It's an elusive sensation, a form of meditation that can easily slip away with the intrusion of the first available distraction.

It's tempting in these trying times to lose focus not only during yoga poses, but when it comes to participating in the world around us. Focus in this realm, however, will not bring on sensations of feeling balanced, relaxed, peaceful or composed.

Bulletins explode across our phones and iPads, TV screens and smart speakers with breaking reports of killer hurricanes, dreadful car crashes, environmental doomsday reports, earthquakes and tsunamis, poisonings, rape and abuse of women, school shootings, unruly political conflicts, corruption, water shortages, immigration horrors, and wildfires.

Let's not even get started on local issues causing headaches for us here in Arkansas--election outcomes, crime, drug use, education woes, poverty, health problems, legislative lawlessness. No wonder many of us are stressed.

Being a dedicated news junkie, I spend around two hours every morning listening to reports of the detritus of what's become of us in the last 24 hours while getting some exercise. Then I go to work, where the rest of the day is spent combing through commentary and op-eds and guest columns on the same topics.

Turning away from the news won't solve the problems all around us. Don't blame the media. It's our job to keep you informed, even if you don't like what you hear. Keeping up can lead to anxiety, outrage, worries, distress, mistrust, fear, and despair.

But being aware of what's coming at you and those around you makes it possible to entertain ideas on how to cope when coping is necessary--to be proactive rather than reactive or overwhelmed. Feeling safe allows us to be proactive. And being informed can help us feel safe.

That's why I don't back off from staying in the moment. Maybe I don't want to be there. But I don't want to fall over.

Karen Martin is senior editor of Perspective.

Editorial on 11/11/2018

Print Headline: It's the moment that matters

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    November 11, 2018 at 6:44 a.m.

    I have practiced yoga for more than 40 years. It is a wonderful way to maintain youthfulness and the limber flexibility needed to stay young in body and mind. It is also a great stress reliever, leading to a certain sense of oneness with all that is. These days I prefer doing yoga form stretching in thermal water which allows stretching while suspended against gravity. Yoga can be practiced by folks of all ages, chair yoga even works for older individuals in helping maintain spinal flexibility and function. As to life changes, Hans Selye, the M.D. who coined the term "stress," ended his career with the observation: "When it comes to the ultimate adverse effect of stress, it is not so much what happens, but how we take it."