For those who believe yoga is for kinks, hippies and those who can mutter the words “downward dog” without breaking a sweat … think again. You might be thinking what we’re saying is quite a stretch, but just be flexible with us here.

Some people say yoga is an all-encompassing way of life, and others say it’s an act of meditation connecting us to a higher state of realization. The underlying sentiment in yoga is to see the better in yourself first while you strive to be better each time you practice.

Breathing knowingly is the essence of yoga, as it assists us in connecting with the subtle energy within ourselves. It is through the breath that we are able to travel to different levels of consciousness … according to the yogis that is. Before you dismiss this as some crazy hippy stuff, there is actually some legitimacy to it.

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“I’m not physically flexible, but mentally, I can touch my molars to my eyeballs. What’s Up Dog? It’s a yoga pose. The only bad thing about yoga is all of the attractive people. But, with greatness comes greatness.”

Focusing on breathing creates a relaxed state of mind, more energy and can even give you better sleep — or as I like to see it, keep you alive. Someone who practices yoga regularly measures their life span by the number of breaths, not the number of years.

The actual physical practice of yoga, as far as your strength, balance and flexibility, is the ideal counterpart to any sport. Crucial to the body’s overall structural soundness, yoga takes joints through their full range of motion and enhances core body stability. Although the physical benefits of yoga are huge, they’re nothing in comparison to the ever-changing sensation you gain with practicing yoga.

Nicole DeLoreto, yoga instructor at local Jacksonville studio, Yoga Mix, believes you don’t need to be athletic to practice yoga. That there is a “right” kind of body for yoga is a common misconception people are faced with. When you picture someone who does yoga, your mind may jump to someone with an ass like a peach emoji, but you’d be wrong.

While some other exercise philosophies stimulate you to do more and suggest that you are not good enough by demanding you to try harder, yoga’s philosophy suggests that you should be gratified as you are while you challenge yourself entirely.

“The reason I love this practice so much is because it is a journey. Each time we step on our mat, we experience a new sensation. There are modifications and variations for each of us,” Nicole explained. “Sure, there are some very fit awesome yogis out there, but we all come in different shapes and sizes — including myself.”

When practicing yoga, there is always a way to find pleasure, keep it light and take on new challenging poses, while also learning the roots of the practice. Yoga takes one’s body on a never-ending adventure. Often, the journey leads to new travels to recharge your mind, body and soul.

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“Yoga’s philosophy suggests that you should be gratified as you are while you challenge yourself entirely.”

Indira Kalmbach, Founder of Pavones Yoga Center, grew up in a tiny village in Costa Rica where there was no electricity and most people didn’t have running water. Who she is and how she loves is all tied up with undeveloped and wild places.

“When you travel to a place as remote as Pavones, you can’t help but know the power of nature and feel your small, but vital part in the world. This kind of belonging is also what yoga teaches. So this wild place is the perfect crucible for the awakenings that come from deep yoga practice,” Indira explained. “I love watching groups of people come together year after year and, in just a few days, the defenses and masks of personality drop away and people’s souls just shine. Then you get to take the experience home with you to Jacksonville. It’s awesome!”

Regardless of how far or near one’s travels take them, yoga gurus note the importance of being a part of a group of people that support the chosen lifestyle. Yoga studios are rooted with the intention of making attendees feel at home, and North Florida is a leading yoga community filled with opportunities for all skill levels … even those who only own yoga pants to wear on a lazy day.

“If every person on the planet experienced the sense of membership that yoga awakens and realized the interdependence of all beings, think of all the unnecessary suffering that would be eliminated,” Indira stated. “We have to realize we are all one tribe, and our responsibility as members of this tribe is to care for the living system of the planet that supports us.”

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“North Florida is a leading yoga community filled with opportunities for all skill levels … even those who only own yoga pants to wear on a lazy day.”

Where to practice yoga in Jacksonville:

  1. Studio – A unique studio space can offer a mixed blend of styles in a comfortable setting. Located in Neptune Beach, Yoga Mix offers new students five classes for $25.
  2. UNF – Condition your body and mind, while escaping from the books. UNF offers indoor and outdoor classes. You may even find yogis practicing acro yoga on the green.
  3. Beaches – Many yoga instructors offer drop in classes on the beach. Taking yoga outdoors is like going back to its roots.  The sand allows muscles to be worked more strenuously.