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Posted May. 24, 2004 22:23,   


“With your hands placed together, lift your hands inhaling and put your mind on the tip of your hands. This posture helps your distracted mind concentrate.”

About 20 women are concentrating on yoga, ranging in age from early 20s to late 60s, at the cultural center of Shinsegye Department Store’s Mia Branch in the morning of May 19. This is the last day of the semester of three months.

At the Hyundai Department Store’s Mia Branch’s cultural center at the same time, around 10 housewives are repeating postures that do not look simple at all, following their instructor with a background of serene Indian music.

For a healthy life, more and more people are seeking out yoga.

“Yoga does not only liven up your body, but it also helps you find a peaceful mind,” say yoga experts.

Would women who chose yoga for health agree to this? What kind of physical and mental changes does yoga bring? We heard the answers directly from the female students in the yoga classes.

-- It gives life and cures sickness.

Lee Sang-in (28 years old) suffered back pain from spinitis since she was young. She tried every possible treatment including physical therapy, but none of them cured her completely. Lee read in the newspaper that yoga was good for back pain, and visited the Hyundai Department Store’s yoga class for the first time in June 2003.

“After three months, my stiff back was lightened. I’m not under treatment any more,” says Lee.

Cho Hye-young (40 years old) cured her chronic shoulder pain. She had to take pills because her shoulders would ache, but she did not have to any more a year after she practiced yoga.

“If you go up a mountain, you feel how your body changed. A couple of hours of mountain-climbing does not make me breathless or my legs all sore,” says Park Won-hwa, a 36-year-old woman who has practiced yoga for a year so far. She feels that “she got better” after yoga, even though she did not have any sickness to cure.

“I feel light every time and always keep in a good condition. And I grew confident with that. I have a dull sense of sports in general, but now I do not fear learning new sports any more,” said Hong Duk-hwa, 37.

--These are reasons why yoga is better for women

Yoga does not require much preparation unlike other sports, and you do not have to make time, which is a big merit for housewives.

Hong Duk-hwa says, “Every time I have time or I think of it, I can just do it in between things. I consider it a part of my life since I do it everyday and do not have to make extra time for that.”

--There are opinions that yoga is more suitable for women

“Some part of housewives’ bodies can change because of birth-giving and household labor. Yoga uses the muscles that they have not used often and thus brings back the normal shape,” said Lee Jong-rok, an instructor at Shinsegye. Also, he said contraction and relaxation postures, which yoga is made of, help prevent arthritis and osteoporosis that happen to women more frequently.

Mental training is also another merit. Lee said, “Housewives suffering from family issues and other problems that they cannot freely talk about can achieve a peaceful mind with yoga comforting their mind.”

--Beginning and Preparation

Since yoga is all about comforting your body and mind, loose clothes are better than tight clothes. Wearing a girdle is not recommended while you are doing yoga.

It does not matter what kind of mat you use as long as it prevents slipping.

When doing yoga for the first time, do it with a light heart and never go beyond your limit.

“When beginning, once or twice a week for women in their 50s or 60s and twice or three times for those in their 20s to 40s, and thirty minutes to one hour is recommended,” said instructor Chung Jin-hee at Hyundai Department Store. Also, the muscular pain that one experiences after a week or a month of yoga is natural, so one should not be discouraged from continuing it. The tip is to increase the time little by little and overcome the pain.

“Many office workers are starting yoga on their own. But you have to connect breathing to postures, so you should get help from a professional at least once a week,” said instructor Lee from Shinsegye. Also, steady and continuing practice, even only once a week is important rather than doing it frequently in a short period of time.

“Many housewives are trying yoga for the purpose of diet, but doing yoga does not make you lose weight overnight,” said Instructor Chung. “Keep in mind that yoga is a process of gathering and clearing your body and soul.”

Na-Yeon Lee Jae-Yun Jung larosa@donga.com jaeyuna@donga.com