- Our Town
Yoga practice can enrich personal training
Mary Letson, the owner of Positively Fit, has been working as a personal trainer since 1984. She has recently found new inspiration by becoming a yoga instructor. Letson realizes that Bowen residents may have included steps to better health and fitness into their new year’s resolutions. On Saturday, January 7, she will host an open house at the fitness studio from 10 a.m. to noon; a free month-long membership will be available until that date.
“I did a two-week intensive yoga instructor certification with the South Okanagan Yoga Alliance,” Letson said. “There you get a foundation 200-hour-yoga certification. You learn classical style Hatha yoga and the eight limbs of yoga.” Letson explained that all the yoga postures most people are familiar with are the asanas which only represent one of the eight limbs.
But learning about yoga, doesn’t stop at postures. Letson said, “You learn how to live your life. You learn what to embrace and what to avoid. And you learn meditation. It is an incredibly balanced approach.” Letson recalled the long hours of practice that started at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 7 p.m. with six hours of asana practice. She said, “I drove home from that experience with more energy and more inspiration than I’ve ever felt.”
Letson started doing yoga regularly three years ago. She said, “I realized how much it filled my cup. It rejuvenated me. The yoga postures provide a brilliant balance with my regular exercise routine, mostly running. Yoga provides a calm centre from which to build strength, flexibility, youthful joints and fabulous posture. And that has also inspired my personal training practice.” Letson smiled and said, “Mostly it felt like coming home.”
Letson said, “The most valuable thing about yoga is the focus on staying present, on what you are doing right now. The same applies to strength training, cardio training, and stretching because the more you can allow your mind to shed the unnecessary info and focus on the here and now, the more you get out of what you are doing.” Working out in front of a screen is not the kind of fitness Letson wants to embrace. She said, “I want to create a more serene environment with less distractions. That will be a more peaceful way to get fit and be well.”
“The other valuable part of yoga certification course was how it taught me to access my own peacefulness instantly, anywhere, anytime by focusing on my breathing,” Letson said. Even though she had heard it and read about it, it wasn’t until she had to practice it over and over again with no distractions that she truly experienced it. Letson realizes that this is a difficult thing to work into everyday life. But after building this breathing awareness in the course, she can access calmness and peacefulness even with distractions around her.
She described it like this, “It is similar to when you smell or see something that reminds you of a place and time and the sensation takes you back to that. That’s what I get when I settle into my meditative breath. But I was only able to get there through practice.”
There is a direct physiological link between slowing the breath and calming the mind, Letson says and this is reflected in our daily vernacular. She explained, “If someone is in a difficult situation, we say, ‘Take a deep breath.’ We don’t really think about it but when we take a deep breath and slowly exhale and do it again, we all have our own oasis at our fingertips. How wonderful is that.”
Positively Fit is open 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, all year. At the fitness studio, Letson works with two other personal trainers, Joanna Quarry and Meghan O’Connell, and yoga instructors Amrita Sondhi and Christine Roocroft. “I have that wonderful consistent team,” she said. “We do group training and one on one training on all levels. My specialty is working with people who are recovering from injury. If people are open to it, I can combine personal fitness and yoga. I also offer lifestyle coaching and nutritional advice.”
For people who are striving to improve their overall health and well-being, Letson has a few tips. “Number one, be kind to yourself and commit to yourself. It is so much easier to commit to everything and everyone else,” she said. “And then choose one good habit to work on per week and one bad habit to let go of per week. Small changes performed consistently are smarter and more effective than trying to change the world in 30 days.” Letson also advises to keep a nutrition journal. “It works really well, even if you don’t show it to anyone.”