Holder finds ultimate stress reliever in ancient art

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 19, 2001

As a stay-at-home mom with a teenager, a grade-school student and a toddler, Melissa Brown Holder was searching for a way to cope with stress.

She found it in yoga.

And now, more than a year after beginning to practice the exercises, breathing and meditation that are commonly referred to as yoga, Holder wants to share those benefits with the community. She’s teaching classes at two local fitness centers, working with residents at a nursing home, coaching high school football players through routines designed to improve flexibility and helping kayakers build strength and flexibility through custom-designed workouts.

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&uot;Yoga is not just hippie, guru stuff,&uot; Holder said. And, &uot;yoga is not a religion.&uot;

It is, instead, a more than 5,000-year-old tradition based on a coming together of mind, body and spirit. That coming together takes place through a combination of exercise, breathing and meditation. According to the American Yoga Association, &uot;the breathing techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body.&uot;

&uot;The very first thing we learn in yoga is the breath,&uot; Holder said. Called Ujjai Breathing, the technique provides the foundation for all the exercises that follow. &uot;Ujjai breathing is how we started to breathe from the moment of conception, but with the stress of everyday life, we huff and puff and run around not realizing the stress that’s building throughout (our) day,&uot; she said.

From there, the practice of yoga builds on a series of moves, called postures or positions, that stretch and strengthen the entire body. &uot;All of our poses do something with your vital organs while strengthening muscles,&uot; Holder said. &uot;Most improve balance or massage certain organs some improve digestion and functioning of other vital organs.&uot; Experts also say regular daily practice of yoga also can improve functioning of the body’s glandular systems, help cope against addictions as varied as cigarettes or sugar and can boost vitality with a strong, capable body.

If initial response is an indicator, the Miss-Lou community is ready to explore the virtues of yoga, Holder said. &uot;I’ve even talked with schools about doing a yoga for kids class during PE you know, the ‘I’m a caterpillar’ type of stuff.&uot;

And, ironically, the woman who started doing her once-a-day yoga workouts to relax and cope with stress isn’t finding time in her day to complete those workouts. &uot;Sometimes I’m doing four workouts a day with people, and I don’t even get to do my own.&uot;