'Breath United' in Barnegat
Participating in a yoga class can seem daunting, especially if you are new to the art form and physically and mentally out of shape. According to Kristen Askins, instructor and owner of Hanu Yoga, that is precisely the reason you need to try it.
Hanu Yoga, located in downtown Barnegat, offers many classes geared toward beginners and those with physical limits. Chair yoga is the gentlest form of yoga available. Many of its older participants especially love pairing yoga with the assistance of a chair for stability reasons.
“I have a bad back and arthritis in my hands and hips, but ever since I’ve taken this class, I feel so much better,” said Kristen Brownlee, 71, of Toms River. “I’ve only taken the class for about five months, but now I can walk forever, where before I couldn’t even get on the mat. It’s changed my life; it really has. I love it. I should have done it before,” she added.
Anna Salibello, 74, of Barnegat, who has been teaching the chair yoga class for the past six months, agreed, saying it keeps her feeling young, especially after she realized she could physically do more than many of her friends.
Hanu Yoga, which literally means “breath united,” opened a year ago, after Askins returned from a seven-year epoch in Maui, Hawaii, where she received her yoga teacher training alongside world-renowned athletes and health-conscious celebrities who visit or live on the island. She studied at Maui Yoga Shala under the guidance of Nadia Toraman, creator of Maui Yoga, which merges the command of Ashtanga Yoga with the structural alignment of lyengar Yoga.
Askins, who grew up in Bayville, initially turned to yoga as a way to balance her hectic Manhattan lifestyle. She began practicing under the direction of Dharma Mittra, one of the nation’s first independent yoga instructors, who began teaching daily classes in 1967 and continues to do so. He is most notably recognized for his Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures, a copy of which hangs on the wall inside Hanu Yoga and in many other studios around the world.
Askins has also studied with other famous yoga instructors, including Ana Forrest, who teaches an intensely physical and internally focused practice that challenges students to purge the emotional and mental blocks that limit their lives.
Although such yoga instructors make the workout appear effortless, Askins assures it takes practice. Of course, she said, that’s not a reason not to try it.
“Almost everything is difficult when you first try it, but yoga especially can seem difficult because we live in such a fast-paced society,” she said. “We do everything on the run, and we really feed into the stress of everything. A lot of times we forget to take care of ourselves and our bodies, and that’s how we deplete our immune systems. Practicing yoga really helps you find that inner peace and overall well-being again,” she added.
Ana Speyer of Toms River said she drives the 30 minutes every week to practice at the Hanu Yoga studio because she loves the educational and meditative aspects of the classes.
“It’s really relaxing, and it calms my nerves. It makes me feel smooth. It helps me find my center,” she said.
Hanu Yoga offers 10 other classes that benefit different parts of the mind-body-spirit assemblage, depending on the participants’ area of focus. Hip Opener offers a gentle approach to opening the hips in order to alleviate back pain and stress as well as to improve circulation and flexibility. Essences of Flow concentrates on linking the movement of the body with the breath to help slow down the patterns of the mind. Hot 26 and Warm Flow are practiced in a heated room to help participants work deep into their muscles, changing the body from the inside out. A Mommy and Me class is also offered, as a way for mothers and their children to connect on a more profound level. Kids’ classes as well as more free-flowing and core-strengthening classes are available, too.
The studio also offers message circles, Thai yoga massages, restorative yoga and Tibetan healing and crystal bowls, aura photography and readings, as well as nationally certified aromatherapist courses, beginning this month.
Classes are available for people of all ages and limits. For more information, visit www.hanuyoga.com, or call 732-552-6178.
— Kelley Anne Essinger