Yoga, a trending topic in Fort Collins

Yoga is about connecting with yourself, rejuvenating and focusing on the ‘now.’ It is more popular than ever, with health benefits that go beyond the body.

Many yoga opportunities exist in Fort Collins, from practicing in the park, to heated rooms or even on paddle boards at Horsetooth.

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“It helps me reduce stress and is calming,” said Karlee Schwartzkopf, a sophomore journalism major at CSU.

The avid runner finds extra time to practice yoga, as it helps her stretch and focus on breathing techniques.

Many Colorado State University students find yoga to be a chance to get away and find a better state of mind, according to Keenan Zeller, a sophomore art major.

“Not only can I challenge myself, but it’s one thing I can do for myself and not for anyone else … It’s my own space and my own practice, it’s not competitive and it makes every day better,” Zeller said.

Student Keenan Zeller practices yoga at the Rec Center. Photo credit: Hannah Daley
Student Keenan Zeller practices yoga at the Rec Center. (Photo credit: Hannah Daley)

According to CorePower employee Gweyn Thash, yoga not only assists in muscle toning and strengthening, but it rinses out toxins, assists in understanding of breathing patterns and helps individuals understand the power of focusing on the moment.

“Yoga has multifaceted affects,” Thash said. “It has the ability to make people happier, healthier and more able to cope with daily issues.”

CorePower primarily offers hot yoga, which is yoga in a hot room at a very high humidity. There are many various kinds of yoga, such as yoga in normal room temperatures, yoga with different performance sequences, restorative yoga and even yoga combined with weights.

According to research Professor Dr. Brian Tracy, a form of yoga called Bikram yoga – heated yoga for 90 minutes which follows 26 postures and two breathing exercises practiced in a heated room at 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity – has the ability to burn as many calories as walking briskly for 5.25 miles.

Dr. Tracy’s research notes that whole body strength, balance and muscle control were all improved in his test subjects who had never practiced Bikram yoga before. While cardio was not enhanced by the practice, incredible flexibility increases in the spine, hamstring and shoulder took place. The strength in these areas created significant flexibility benefits.

“The most recent research we did measured people in three main ways,” Tracy said. “We had a mask, which recorded the expired gases, like oxygen and carbon dioxide, and allowed us to record the metabolic rate. We also measured heart rate with a monitor, as well as a the core temperature of participants.”

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In order to measure the core temperature in Tracy’s most recent study, individuals swallowed a pill-like device that would go into their small intestine and record the core temperature while the participants were undergoing vigorous exercise in a 105-degree room.

“Bikram yoga is very attractive to study from the scientific standpoint because it is so standardized,” Tracy said.

According to Tracy, hot yoga originated from Bikram yoga. All the sequences and breathing methods are standardized and are the easiest to record.

While yoga cannot be substituted for weight training, it does enhance strength, balance, and oftentimes offers a minor reduction in fat.

Junior psychology student Meggy McVey fell in love with yoga right away. A year ago she started practicing yoga in order to deal with stress, to find time for herself and to work on her individual health – both mental and physical.

Yoga became so integral in her life that McVey underwent intensive teacher training in order to become a teacher herself.

“I have become a totally different person now that I am doing yoga … The best thing about yoga is anyone can do it,” McVey said.

McVey started with no yoga background, but the practice has transformed her life, as she has become much more health-conscious and is much happier after she leaves the yoga mat.

“It allows me to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things,” McVey said.

Research is currently being conducted on what yoga does to a person’s mental state. Tracy’s work has shown that yoga is beneficial from the body standpoint, but research will soon tell what the added mental benefits are and why they are occurring.

Collegian Senior Reporter Josephine Bush can be reached at news@collegian.com