The Power of Positive Breathing

August 07 2012

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In the midst of renovating space for its new offices, a Birmingham law firm included one feature you might not expect to find: a yoga studio.

“We have classes every Thursday at noon,” says Sarah Powell, a paralegal at Whitaker, Mudd, Simms, Luke & Wells LLC. “One of our partners who comes to yoga the most decided our new building should have a dedicated room for it—with mirrors, light dimmers, everything. It’s great.”

To thank for the firm's newfound enthusiasm for yoga is Jennifer Berman, an instructor who is dedicated to bringing what she sees as yoga's unique transformative power to anyone who could benefit—which, in her opinion, is everybody. She recently expanded her class offerings to create Birmingham Corporate Yoga, a popular program that gives professionals a chance to take a break, exercise, and relieve stress during the hectic workday.

A ballet dancer from the age of six who worked her way through college as a fitness instructor, Jennifer discovered yoga in 2000 while looking for a new way to stay active. Within a few months it became a labor of love. "It was totally different," she remembers, "because even though I had always exercised, yoga cultivates overall awareness. It helps me bring balance to my life and health, relax, and live in the moment.” Before long she was studying with yoga masters such as David Swensen, who oversaw her training to become an Ashtanga yoga instructor. She began teaching classes in 2001.

Jennifer encourages clients to trade the treadmill at least once a week for yoga, stressing that contrary to popular opinion, it involves much more than stretching and deep breathing. It’s a challenging, calorie-burning, strength-training workout that helps improve balance and flexibility.

Above all, she stresses that her classes are accessible, and you don’t have to be an aspiring yogi to enjoy them. For instance, you won’t hear a lot of solemn chanting.

“Yes, chanting can be beautiful,” she says, “but for a lot of people, that’s not their thing, so we don’t do that.”

A busy mother of three, Jennifer’s easygoing personality and energy make her a walking example of the positive effects yoga can have in day-to-day life. 

"In yoga, people are mastering challenging poses on the mat through deep breathing and meditation," Jennifer continues. "After a while, that starts to seep into the rest of your life so you can overcome challenges off the mat, as well.  You have to take a step back from problems and look at them in a different light, instead of just reacting all the time. When you’re spending time with your family and friends but can’t stop thinking about your work and to-do lists, yoga makes you better able to quiet your mind and just be in the moment.”

Sarah, the paralegal, gets that. "In class, I can let go of trial preparation and other work responsibilities for an hour, and I end up feeling refreshed and more energized to finish the day," she says. "I always feel better after yoga."


Jennifer Berman's 5 yoga-inspired thoughts for healthy living, off the mat:

1. Invest in a high-powered blender, and regularly toss in raw fruits and vegetables to make healthy smoothies.

2. Don't take anything to the extreme. Instead strive for balance.

3. Take at least 5 minutes a day to meditate. Nothing fancy - just a short break in the day to take deep breaths and step back from your thoughts.

4. Take one day a week and go unplugged. Walk away from work and social networking, and just be in the present.

5. Remember that the most important decision you make every day is to be in a good mood.


JENNIFER BERMAN is a Regions customer. 



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