By Kara-Leah Grant
Whistler prides itself on its status as an active community, a place where people ski, mountain bike, rock climb and play golf sometimes all on the same day.
But we pay the price for this lifestyle, supporting the physiotherapists and chiropractors with our bad knees, backs and shoulders. The very activities that make us feel fit, healthy and alive, those activities that work our muscles and make us strong and lean, also leave our bodies strained, torn and imbalanced. But, as more and more people in the valley are discovering each year, it is possible to pursue all our favourite activities with minimal damage to the body. The key is regular yoga practice.
Currently a favourite with the trendiest of the trendy, yoga is a 5,000 year-old tradition, fundamentally unchanged since it was first developed in India as a way to strengthen the body for long periods of meditation. It is also the very best way to correct the imbalances a one sided sport like golf creates, stretch out muscles tightened from activities like cycling, increase the capabilities of the respiratory system and cleanse the internal organs.
Yoga improves mental clarity and focus, heals old injuries, stabilizes moods and is recommended for treating everything from addiction and depression to insomnia and sciatica.
It achieves this through the practise of asanas, or postures, combined with awareness of breath and the simple act of being present in the moment.
"Yoga means union or yoke between body, mind and spirit," explains Kristin Campbell, co-owner of Bikrams Neoalpine Studio located in Function Junction. "When I first started practising yoga I found a connectedness that nothing else had ever provided before. Because of the nature of the practice, the yoking happens without even trying."
Bikrams is just one of five places to study yoga in Whistler. It offers an intense practice in a heated room with the teacher taking students through the same 26-posture series every class. Other classes on offer in Whistler include Hatha Yoga with Kashi Richardson, Classical Ashtanga Yoga with Van Powel and Roxanne Chappell, Mountain Yoga with Leslie Young and an Ashtanga yoga with Connie Oliwa, soon to open The Studio in Function Junction.
The variety on offer is testament to the increasing popularity of yoga in Whistler. All of the teachers say they have noticed a marked increase in the number of people taking their classes over the last three years. Van Powel, who has worked closely with sports teams including the Canadian National Freestyle team and the National Snowboard team, says one reason for the increasing popularity of yoga in Whistler is that it is the perfect compliment for athletes.