To cope with sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by disruptions in breathing, celebrity stylist Henri Calayag would go to bed with a ventilator. When his doctor advised him to exercise, he took up yoga, prodded on by designer Pepito Albert.
Calayag and Albert have been doing ashtanga yoga, which involves fast movements and pronounced but controlled breathing while assuming different postures.
Ashtanga aims to induce sweating, which is necessary to rid the body of toxins. The class is usually silent, except for the murmured breathing.
In the past four years of practice, Calayag has not only lost four inches from his waistline; he has also chucked his continuous positive airway pressure machine.
“I’m no longer gasping for breath when I sleep,” he said.
However, the health benefits are just the proverbial icing on the cake. Calayag enjoys being in the company of like-minded souls who are enthusiastic about the yoga lifestyle and are searching for inner truths.
Coming to EchoYoga class at Century Plaza on Perea Street, Makati, he feels comfortable in an environment where people are more open and accepting.
“I started doing yoga to lose weight. Now, I’m getting into the community. We’re into bonding here,” said Calayag.
Change of outlook
EchoYoga director Jeannie Javelosa explained that Echo is the acronym for Empowerment, Care, Health and Oneness.
“We’re bringing in the DNA of the community and mutating it. This is the wellness side of the Echo store, which espouses a sustainable lifestyle. Here it’s about developing inner power and a sense of care for themselves in the way they practice, and in oneness with the community.”
Some classes are gentler and slower, designed for a market that is out of shape or intimidated by the extreme poses.
However, yoga isn’t all about exercise, as it is more about an unfolding of the body, mind and spirit, according to the practitioners at EchoYoga.
Albert has lost over 25 lbs since he started yoga. He could have shed off weight through other means, but he liked the challenges of yoga.
“You push yourself so you can do more. To reach those goals, you have to change a lot of things, like eating less or even skipping dinner so you can be more flexible the next day.”
The daily discipline has made him develop self-awareness. Moreover, the challenge of getting into the poses and refining them is like a metaphor for continuous learning in life.
Albert has been encouraging friends to take up yoga. “They’ve seen the change in my outlook,” he said.
After leaving the retail industry, Rhoda Aldanese finally found time to work out.
“Pepito said I was so stressed out. He said to try it and that it would make me see things from a different perspective. He’s always funny and witty, and he attributes it to yoga. I feel better now because I perspire a lot. I’m not a healthy eater. I felt it in the first few weeks of practice. I’m more disciplined now. I know what to take and what not to take. Although I still crave for my lechon, I am slowly shifting to fish and vegetables. I’m now looking for vegetarian restaurants,” she said.
Restaurateur and style maven Margarita Fores also credits Albert for helping her get back into yoga. Although she does TRX suspension workout and core training, she said yoga helps her get centered.
“When you work in a stressful setting, you need to set aside some alone time and not allow yourself to be disturbed. Through yoga, it’s easier for you to be more focused. You learn to face everything with greater calmness so that you can rearrange your priorities. You become more introspective. All these years, my mind has been very external. To find stillness, I have to give myself quality time.”
Singer Soraya Tierie said health is a bonus. “When you get deeper into the practice, it isn’t about your body anymore because it’s not permanent anyway.”
The silence during the workout allows one to experience how it is to be a subtle energy that has control over the physical body.
“You develop a heightened awareness. I meditate for 20 minutes every day and even the ashtanga practice is like a meditation,” said Tierie.
If one gets into a peaceful state while doing the exercises, nothing can disturb the individual, said fashion accessories designer Señaflor Sanchez.
“When we practice early in the morning, the postures with the coordinated breathing center you. You learn to think before you speak or act; pause for a while, stay back, look at the whole picture and then move forward. Now I don’t easily lose my temper.”
Marco Lobregat, president of the Ministry of Mushrooms, said yoga has taught him to bridle the mind and not to think too much.
“I tend to be neurotic,” he said with a chuckle. “It takes strength to exert in this kind of yoga, but the discipline calms my mind. Physically I have more energy. I go to the gym and do other sports but yoga keeps me supple and in tune.”
It is not unusual for Echo Yoga to have owners of other studios attend their classes.
“Competition is unnecessary in the community,” said Monique Borja, director of Bliss Yoga. These studios believe in working in the spirit of collaboration and cooperation. She has been doing yoga because it heals the body and soul and guides her through her journey. “I’m a seeker,” she said.
Roland de la Cruz, another director of Bliss Yoga, likes the vibes in EchoYoga. “I like the camaraderie. It’s nice to get out of your space and enjoy the energy of other people,” he said.
Roland was a triathlete and marathon runner in the US. Yoga helped him treat his injuries—it increases his flexibility and builds strength.
As community service, EchoYoga offers a class series for people with HIV and AIDS called Yoga for Life. Aside from the poses and breathing to boost the immune system and improve blood flow, there are meditation commentaries that help them assuage their fears.
Marilen Elizalde, director of EchoYoga, pointed out that the participants have maintained their health status or even felt better.
“The physical aspect is just the first step to attracting people to yoga,” she noted. “For many of us, what’s important is the mental quietness. That’s what yoga does. We’re all looking for peace inside or how to control the mind. To quote, writer Erich Schiffmann, ‘Yoga is the spirit and practice of moving in stillness.’”
Call EchoYoga at 0906-5063958 or www.echoyoga. echostore.ph.