When Cynthia Mutch saw a traumatic event in her life staring her right in the face, she turned to yoga.
“It was life changing for me,” said Mutch, who now teaches yoga classes at the YMCA in Columbus.
Mutch started her accession into what would turn into her new passion slowly by looking at yoga techniques on Instagram and YouTube, then later signing up for classes at Columbus’ Bliss Yoga Studio before becoming a certified yoga instructor herself. She was amazed to learn how much work goes into mastering the various techniques.
“It’s not just stretching like I originally thought, there’s a lot of strength involved,” Mutch said.
The more she learned, the more she realized that yoga could help with anxiety, inner mental peace and provide mental health benefits as well as physical benefits.
“Because Yoga is a slow moving form of physical activity, some of the balance poses and strength that is involved forces you to turn your focus inward and come to an inward quiet place to focus on what you’re doing,” Mutch said. “That skill is a really good skill to develop to learn to focus and find that strength from inside you.”
Mutch offers three classes a week, ranging from easy flow to strength and power courses, at the downtown YMCA that is free for members and $10 for all other guests.
“It’s never too late to get started,” Mutch said. “You just meet yourself where you are and progress from there. I’d want someone to be kind to themselves and not expect they’re going to practice yoga like they’ve done it for 20 years. I want people to come and do what feels right for them. They’ll feel immediate benefits.”
One of the beneficiaries of practicing yoga consistently has been Columbus resident Kelley Bassett, who has taken courses at Bliss Yoga for the last six years.
“I love it. There’s no competition, it’s just you being yourself and accepting yourself for who you are in the process of growth,” Bassett said. “There’s community to be found in it and encouragement. There’s just a sense of growth. I’m always happy I did it, especially for my mental health because I feel stronger.”
For beginners, yoga might seem overwhelming. According to Mutch, even if you’re a bodybuilder or a marathon runner, if you’ve never moved your body in that way before, it’s going to be a hard session the first time.
But Bliss Yoga Studio owner Lindsey Nicholson said first-time jitters shouldn’t deter interested parties.
“Yoga meets you where you are,” said Nicholson, who has owned Bliss Yoga since 2017. “The biggest misconception is, ‘I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga, or I’ve never done yoga so I can’t do it.’ People don’t understand that really, yoga is for everybody. Young, old, male, female, it doesn’t matter. It really does meet you whatever place you’re in.”
Nicholson offers mat and reformer pilates courses at her studio that Golden Triangle residents can sign up for on blissyogastudio.org.
“The Pilates and yoga really resonated with me, the breathing, the calming and then I just really realized as I got older hardcore workouts weren’t for me,” Nicholson said of her yoga journey. “I really liked the mind-body connection that came with yoga and that it’s something you can build on.
“You can make any class suitable for all levels. Whether it’s the first time walking in the studio or whether you’ve been practicing for 50 years. It’s a great way to crosstrain. What they’re doing in the gym can be supplemented with yoga for strength, balance and flexibility with the breathing techniques learned from the mind-body connection.”
According to an article from John Hopkins Health, one of the nine benefits of yoga includes the resources to help cope with stress.
“The breathing helps calm you down and it can slow your heart rate down,” said Lee Ann Starr, an instructor at Bliss Yoga that said she started yoga decades ago to help ease back pain. “You think all of those things with mental health, somebody with anxiety, that breathing is going to help you get back to a place where your heart isn’t racing and you aren’t breathing fast.”
Other benefits of yoga according to John Hopkins Health include Improved strength, flexibility and balance, back pain relief, eased arthritis symptoms, benefited heart health, improved sleeping habits, improved energy levels, improved stress coping mechanisms, a supporting community and better promotion of self care.
“When you finally get that pose or can finally do that balance, it’s just really nice,” Nicholson said. “You can do it anywhere, on vacation, you don’t need any equipment. Hopefully I’m doing yoga when I’m 90 years old here at Bliss Yoga Studio.”
Hodge is the former sports editor for The Dispatch.