Elevate members are a highly motivated group. Bootcamps, P90X, back-to-back Spinning classes, free-weight workouts – people are constantly seeking ways to burn calories as well as shape, sculpt and tone.
But it’s equally important to take it down a notch and work your body (and mind) in a different way, says yoga instructor Dalyne Villeneuve. Trained in yoga philosophy, asanas, meditation and relaxation, Dalyne is certified to teach children, teens and adults as well as instruct individuals in Yoga Therapy. She leads Gentle Yoga classes at Elevate.
Q: You’ve been practicing yoga for more than 15 years and teaching for 3. What keeps you going?
A: The philosophy. I started doing pre-natal yoga when I was pregnant with my son and discovered that I felt really good after every session, so I kept going back for more. Yoga is a process of lifelong learning, which I love. It’s truly a holistic, life-balancing practice. You’re not just working your muscles – poses are only one of the eight limbs of yoga. The practice is really a philosophy behind the way we live. To be honest, yoga saved my life. After losing my father to cancer, I was in a bad place emotionally. I was deeply troubled by the fact that I couldn’t do anything to save my dad, and that distress moved me to begin training as a yoga instructor. It was an incredible self-study, and I knew that even if I never taught, I would still be happy I went through the training.
I’ve always found yoga therapeutic, but I didn’t realize just how healing it could be for me, and I decided that although I couldn’t save my father, maybe I would be able to help someone else. This practice was too important not to share.
Now, as an instructor, I hope to inspire others to look within, dig a little deeper into who they truly are, and share their ‘light’ with others. I also love empowering people to help themselves through yoga therapy sessions – simply changing our perspective in certain situations can really change the way we feel.
Q: Teaching adults in a gym setting must be a bit different than teaching children. What would you say to someone questioning the usefulness of incorporating yoga into a regular fitness regimen?
A: Yoga provides a positive stress on the body. You can use poses in a relaxed way or in an energetic way. Both approaches strengthen muscles and bones – it just depends on how you’re feeling on any given day.
Yoga is an all-encompassing approach to life. We live in a fast-paced world and many people spend a lot of time in ‘fight or flight mode,’ under stress physically as well as emotionally. Yoga helps to calm the chatter of the mind and relax the body. It’s meditation in motion, and every pose is adaptable to the individual practitioner’s needs.
Q: What is the most important thing for people to know about yoga?
A: It’s not just about fitness. The fitness aspect is great, of course, but the mind stuff is really important, too. If you learn to manage your thoughts appropriately, you’ll experience much less stress, fear and anxiety. Everyone can benefit from yoga in some way.
Q: There are so many different types of yoga—what should someone coming to your class expect?
A: I always teach to those with lesser ability and offer modifications for those in class who are more experienced and may want to take the poses further. I firmly believe that you don’t make the body fit the pose, you make the pose fit the body.
I teach classical yoga – not hot yoga, Ashtanga, etc. My classes are very gentle and accessible to everyone. I share philosophy, do a short warm-up, go through a series of poses – including one or two for balance – and then end the class with a guided relaxation and a short meditation. I also include at least one breathing exercise.
Q: How often should one be practicing yoga to realize the benefits?
A: You can never do too much yoga, because you can make your practice relaxing or energetic. I recommend taking class at least twice a week, but you can certainly practice every day if you would like. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long experience – you can do something as simple as meditate and focus on your breath for two minutes.
Whatever you do, I recommend moving the spine in five ways every day – it doesn’t take long and it’s so important!
A little gratitude practice is also incredibly valuable. I do a gratitude exercise every morning and every evening – I call them bookends. I believe gratitude helps to bring abundance.
Q: If you had to call out three of the most important benefits of a regular yoga practice, what would they be?
- Strength and flexibility of the mind, which is probably one of my favorite benefits.
- Strength and flexibility of the body.
- A spiritual connection with something greater than yourself.
When you practice yoga, you realize that you can turn your worries over to a higher power, whatever that means to you. Taking that step frees you from suffering, because you don’t have to worry about controlling everything – you can accept what is and just go with the flow.