Does yoga float? In the warm water pools, you bet

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You may remember my "Simply Yoga" articles from The Walla Walla Valley Weekly this past year.

I am still practicing and teaching yoga these days but I've been absent from the paper because of my new position at the YMCA as the director of aquatics. I've had a lot to learn and do in the past eight months and I have discovered a very important thing -- yes, yoga does float.

Our pool at the YMCA hosts many different kinds of aquatic programs and classes. Most of these classes are geared toward learning how to swim and physical fitness.

Our lanes are full of splashing, laughing, learning and talking. The water gurgles with raucous energy and life.

However, there is a stillness and peacefulness to the water element that cannot be duplicated. It is nurturing as it cradles and buoys the entire body. In this state, it is the perfect venue for yoga.

Aqua yoga is a fairly new phenomenon to the yoga/fitness scene. There are very few opportunities to become certified in this style as compared to the myriad of choices for land-based yoga styles.

Yet, to me, it seems like such a natural combination. While researching how to teach this style of yoga, it illuminated the gentle way the water supports a yogi in each pose, as yoga supports each person in life.

The accommodating water gently holds the body in even the most challenging poses. In addition, the water relieves the pressure from the joints allowing those with injuries or hindrances to enjoy poses they cannot perform on land. The relief of pressure and the freedom of movement are very liberating to aqua yoga participants -- it puts the "ahhhhh" in "yog-ahhhhh."

Nevertheless, it's easy to be fooled by the quiet ease of water. For under the glassy surface lies much resistance. While the water cleaves to the body supporting a yoga pose, it resists movement. The denser property of water creates an ideal tool for resistance training. As we move from pose to pose the water pushes against the movement. That makes the muscles of the body work harder. This enables the body to build lean muscle tissue.

The dual nature of water forms a perfect exercise regime. It supports joints, enables the body to stretch and forces the muscles to push against its density. It is very difficult to enjoy a similar yoga practice on land.

I am very fortunate to have supportive colleagues and adventurous YMCA members who have urged me to bring this form of yoga to Walla Walla.

We are dipping our toes into the pool of aqua yoga this fall. Classes have already begun every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12:15-1 p.m. in the warm water pools.

Rebecca Thorpe is director of the aquatics program at the Walla Walla YMCA.

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