Welcome to our Profiles of a Yoga column, where we feature students in our community. Our intention with the column is to share stories of real people that enjoy yoga as part of their strategy for overall health and well-being. This month, we feature long-time member Allan Bernstein, who has come in to the studio a whopping 170 times this year! He is an inspiration for us all. One of Allan’s favorite styles of yoga is Iyengar Yoga — we are enrolling now for our winter Iyengar Yoga Series with Maria Basualdo. We hope you enjoy getting a sneak peak into Allan’s experience!
TYC: How were you introduced to Yoga?
AB: About 8 years ago I was doing some minor repair work at our house. My wife, Rhoda, observed that I was struggling to simply squat down and had to get to my hands and knees to perform the repair. She had been practicing yoga for several years and she thought it would do me a lot of good. I was resistant. For my birthday that year she gave me a series of training sessions with Laurie Berggren focused on stretching. At the conclusion of those sessions, Laurie suggested that I try Kim’s evening class. I watched the class in passing for several months. I was reluctant to participate as I never saw any men in the class. One evening I summoned the initiative, was welcomed in and participated.
TYC: What made you curious enough about Yoga to try it out? What was your motivation to practice Yoga?
AB: I’ve had an interest in eastern philosophies and religions since the 1960’s but looking at the physical activities and the challenges they posed for me was particularly interesting. I have been an avid fitness participant and advocate for thirty years. I found that the class was extraordinarily physically demanding and frustrating. The curious thing is that I now know that I myself made it so physically demanding. I find Yoga to be extremely personal. It invites introspection of both the physical and intellectual knowledge of ones self and ones perception of the world. For example, I now know enough to understand why it was so difficult.
I often think about the lessons I’ve learned and the classes I’ve taken. I am often frustrated by the inability to execute yoga asanas to my expectations. But, I also see now the progress I’ve made, the physical improvements, observational skills that I’ve developed, the introspection and peace its gives me and I feel great. I can’t think of better motivation to practice.
TYC: What type of class have you been taking?
AB: I’ve taken every style of class that has been offered with virtually all the teachers over the last few years. I find that my preference is for Iyengar style Hatha Yoga, where the use of props make poses attainable for nearly everybody. I also like Yin classes and I really like both restorative and Yoga Nidra classes. There are other styles that I don’t like as well, which serves to demonstrate how personal an experience it is.
TYC: What benefits have you noticed from your yoga practice?
AB: It is an intriguing activity, being both physically and mentally engaging. It simply feels great. I do find the self-examination and realization of connection leads to an awareness of ones physical body and one’s surroundings, thus engendering a change in perspective and an inner peace. The most amazing aspect is that as one pursues a yoga practice, it becomes harder, more challenging, and simpler at the same time. It is never boring. You never hit a wall.
TYC: What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about starting a yoga practice?
AB: Take a variety of classes with a variety of teachers. You will find both classes and teachers that you connect with and which works better for you. Then be disciplined and stay with it for a while. It will quickly be apparent what is best for you. It is often not what you think at first.
TYC: Yes! That is quite perceptive of you. You are right! Now, tell us more about yourself. How do you spend your time when you’re not at the yoga studio?
AB: I recently retired from my career in the Physics Div. of Argonne National Lab. I have a broad range of interests and am curious about almost everything. I am very much focused on the physical aspects of life. I am very active. In addition to yoga, I work out at The Tennis and Fitness Centre four or five days a week. Yoga does not replace strength and aerobic training. I bike a lot, volunteer at the Field Museum, consume newspapers, travel, spend time with my animals (two cats and my dog) and I love being with my friends and my family. I can’t find time for anything else.
TYC: Is there anything else you would like the community to know?
AB: There are a couple of things I would like to relate. I’ve found all the instructors at The Yoga Centre to be quite knowledgeable and good. It is very important to have good instruction. It will keep you from getting hurt. I’ve known a number of people who have gotten hurt either through poor instruction or attempting to learn yoga from a video. Find the instructors that work for you. They all teach the same things a little bit differently, so try more than one. Take some time after you’ve taken a class to think about what you’ve learned and practice it. Another remarkable thing is that everybody you meet there is nice! I think that Yoga brings that out in people. Finally, Yoga is a totally self-indulgent activity. It is something you do for yourself. Enjoy!