Kent Yoga Center offers classes for all bodies

Brenna McNamara

Yoga instructor Heidi Shaffer leads breathing exercises at the beginning of a Wednesday morning class that meets in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent. Caitlin Prarat | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Colored mats are scattered across the floor, and the mood is calm.

About 10 students calmly walk to a wall and grab blankets, foam blocks and firm pillows.

For the next hour and a half, the room is filled with the sound of deep inhales, smooth exhales and Heidi Shaffer’s relaxing instructions. Occasionally a student lets out a quiet moan after stretching that certain muscle.

Shaffer, who has taught for 12 years, believes in yoga.

In 2001, Margot Milcetich, Mike Curtis, and she decided to combine their knowledge of yoga and open Kent Yoga Center.

The center has had a strong client base, but has yet to find a permanent home. For now, classes are in Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent.

Still, Shaffer and Milcetich, who she calls “the grandmother of yoga for the Kent area,” dedicate much time to teaching different levels of classes held throughout the week.

Shaffer believes yoga brings transformations, both physical and attitude-wise.

She experienced chronic headaches that died down after her first class. She said she sees the world as a less scary place and has more confidence.

“Yoga is a step toward authenticity,” she said. “There is a peaceful, clear-headed and relaxed state of mind that yoga helps you find.”

She points out that any activity can achieve this.

“A person who runs and pays attention to their body’s movements is still using a yoga mind,” she said.

The combination of mind and body allows a person to connect better with the spirit through allowing an escape from the mind, but she knows that this is not the purpose of yoga for many.

“We don’t talk about the spirit much, though, in yoga classes because it is not a spiritual practice,” she said. “People can still use it for their own means.”

Of the three basic levels of classes offered — gentle, moderate and challenging — there are many different techniques used.

More difficult classes are fast-moving and involve more backbends and standing positions.

Some days are focused more on simply softening the body.

“I teach to the people,” she said. “It is important to establish a relationship with a student so I can feel out their needs and then create the class.”

Although yoga classes at the gym can be ideal for younger people who want more cardio, Shaffer stresses the importance of finding an establishment that’s convenient and a teacher that one can connect to.

“Shop around. Then, pick and stick,” she said. “You won’t be as open to learn if you don’t have a teacher you can resonate with.”

Shaffer also recommends not being too enthusiastic about a regimen in the beginning.

Making a commitment to come three times a week at the beginning is sometimes not possible because of time and finances. Make a promise to come once a week and see where it goes from there, she said.

“Yoga is more than one class,” she said “It is a lifetime practice.”

Contact all reporter Brenna McNamara at [email protected].