BY DESIGN, a leading yoga studio is on Ayala Avenue, the heart of the Philippines’ largest financial and business district, “and probably the stress capital of the country,” according to certified yoga teachers MJ Dino and Margaux Lim of Urban Ashram Manila.
In addition to the usual commute in and out of Makati that usually takes two hours on a good day, the average Makati denizen also experiences daily stressors like ambitious corporate targets, tight deadlines, office politics, peer rivalry.
In response to all these, the body fights back with adrenaline surges and other unconscious biological processes like heightened blood pressure and raised glucose levels.
They are collectively known as the flight-or-fight response—“very helpful in the days when we had to hunt for food and defend ourselves from prey,” says Dino, who, until recently, was an advertising executive.
Both survivors of mega- stress-filled corporate careers, Dino and former data analyst Lim were among the first students in the Kapitolyo, Pasig, and High Street branches of Urban Ashram Manila.
One of the first few things they were taught was to be highly mindful of their body while focusing on breathing.
A number of yoga poses challenges the body and may evoke a flight-or-fight response. Students are advised to take it slow, with a calm mind guided by deliberate breathing.
Urban Ashram has made it a mission to appeal to those new to yoga. Its most widely attended classes are the Flexibility Not Required (FNR) series that eases new practitioners into the standard yoga poses with the help of blocks, straps and bolsters.
With constant practice comes a gradual loosening of the muscles and connective tissues around bones and joints, and a reduction in aches and pains.
A typical yoga session is intended to take the joints through a full range of motion, “squeezing and soaking areas of cartilage not often used, and bringing fresh nutrients, oxygen and blood to the area,” says a study.
FNR classes are often paired with classes on breathing or pranayama. The breath is one’s main source of energy and life, says Lim. But most people tend to breathe rapidly and in a shallow manner conditioned by stress, pressure and anxiety. There is much that can be changed simply by taking control of the breath.
Introduction to yoga workshops that include trial classes are also given free by Urban Ashram at its Ayala Avenue and Pasig branches. Online registration is required through www.urbanashramyoga.com.