Stacey Margaret Jones: Getting (Back) Into Yoga


Yoga is the activity that waits for all of us athletes when we can’t do anything else. Yoga is demanding, engaging and enlightening at whatever level your practice rests, and it also protects and strengthens the body in the healthiest of ways: with no impact, it is built around breath and psychological health as well as physical well-being. 

Given my recent physical issues, and a desire to be more present in my everyday life, I decided not to wait for yoga to come for me, but to go (back) to it.

I’ve been a yoga dilettante at various periods of my life, trying it first at classes at the Y in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and then going to Cedar Rock Yoga for several months a couple of years ago.  

Over our holiday staycation, I decided to take Go Inside Yoga in Conway up on its 10-days-for-$10 offer to new students and convinced my husband to join me. I was nursing my knee back to running, and my husband, who is 63 and has dealt with pancreatitis this year, was seeking a way to minimize stress, which he thinks may contribute to his flare-ups.

Johanna Epps is the owner of and teacher at the studio, and my husband, Chair of the English department at UCA, was interested to find in her website bio that she is a graduate of the English program at his university. She also has extensive yoga experience, having taught more than 5,000 classes, according to her website bio.

We participated in the basics class, which the website describes as sessions that “familiarize students with basic poses and focus on proper alignment. This class moves at a slower pace and is great for beginners or for those who just prefer to take their time.” The class began with a relaxed atmosphere, as Johanna chatted with the students, lit candles, set her iTunes and dimmed the lights.

This was different for me, since my experience at Cedar Rock is in a well-lit room, with no music. Another difference is that the teachers I had at Cedar Rock, Anne, theyoga copy owner, and Sharon, would come around to each student and correct and help in a literal hands-on way, and this was not Johanna’s typical practice. Both methods have their up sides: Having a high level of assistance helps you know you are doing things exactly right because they need to be done just that way, but having the teacher come around to show you only occasionally to check you gives you a level of autonomy and self-direction that can be welcome in such a physically demanding endeavor. Sometimes you just need to take a child’s pose, you know?  

This also may be a fundamental difference between the kinds of yoga each studio practices and teaches. Cedar Rock teaches the practice of BKS Iyengar and it focuses on discrete poses that are held for set periods of time (for example, a number of breaths). Go Inside is a Vinyasa yoga studio, in which poses are taught in a series, and students move through various positions as they match inhalations and exhalations to movement.

The Monday night Basics class at Go Inside was a good-size class, 14 or 15 students (men and women), and we filled the studio, with its pretty lights, candles and soothing music. There were a number of new students, and the pace was perfect for me, slow but with enough variety and movement to hold my interest. We had sufficient direction and repetition of each series of poses. Personally, I found myself more flexible than I thought I was, as well as strong enough for warrior poses and the like, but I am wobbly. Yoga gives me a way to work on balance and steadiness and certainly shows me that I need to.

And I liked that I could see around me various levels of ability. Johanna showed us various levels of difficulty of some of the poses, and while I stuck to the easier levels, there were people in the class who demonstrated more advanced abilities. It was beautiful to see.

What was Jay’s verdict?

What did he like? He was pleased with the no-impact activity and that he could stop and rest when he needed to; in fact, Johanna encouraged it, showing us various poses to use to reset ourselves when needed.

What had he expected? “I anticipated the class to be pretty difficult, but it was pretty hard on my old, worn knees and the small of my back,” he said. He also thought some of the basic poses were hard to hold for as long as we were directed to do so. “My arms and legs were shaking.” He also thought that tree pose was unexpectedly difficult, “because I have no actual balance.”

What interests him about continuing with yoga? He’s not sure he is interested, but he would like to see himself improve and become more flexible. “But that would take a whole lot of time—and pain,” he said.

Will he continue? Jay said it’s “not likely” because he thought it was a little boring. “I know that it’s supposed to be so your mind isn’t distracted by anything,” he said, but he thinks cycling, walking and running are more interesting because he can be outside.

How could yoga help you with your goal of stress management? “It does leave you pretty calm and depleted at the end,” he said. “And, come to think of it, I actually had an eye twitch before going into the workout, which has not reappeared since I left, so I’m pretty sure it would help the stress.”

I, however, have already been back—I want to get everything I can out of that ten-days-for-$10 deal! I had no knee pain during the session, and after the class had the first night of no neck pain (from a recent crick) in 10 days.

But I’m more motivated by the holistic benefits of the class than anything. During the final pose, savasana, which means “corpse” or “final resting” pose, Johanna guided us through a brief meditation before she set our minds free to relax on their own. She told us yoga can help us find a deeper seat within ourselves from which to observe the world more quietly, without all the noise from our minds and our psyches. Our thoughts are not who we are, she reminded me, but can get in the way of true awareness if we are not careful.

That is a thought worth having. So, clear your mind, breathe, exert, rest and refocus. What a beautiful, healthy way to spend an hour.  

What: Go Inside Yoga


Located: 1815 Hairston Avenue, Conway

What to wear: “Dress comfortably, but beware of loose clothing.”

Class length: About 60 minutes

Price: 10 days for $10 for new students. Drop-in rate is $10 per class, no reservations required. Various class packages and monthly unlimited rates are available, with rate reductions for students.

What: Cedar Rock Y


Located: 210 Scenic Hill Road, Conway (useful directions for this rural studio are on the Website)

What to wear: “Wear clothing you can move in, but no baggy clothes, please. They obscure alignment.  Bare, clean feet are essential.” Teachers here like to be able to see students’ knees to ensure correct alignment.

Class length: 75 minutes

Price: $15 drop-in rate, $60 for six classes within six weeks (must be used within specified session dates) with other session and unlimited rates on the website.


Degree of Difficulty: For both, this is up to the student. Yoga should be challenging, not painful.


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