While fighting with depression five years ago, Liza Xilot took her father’s advice and gave yoga a try.
Xilot said that experience was life-altering. She immediately devoted herself to yoga and eventually became an instructor.
Xilot, a native of a small town in Veracruz, Mexico, is making yoga accessible to Hinesville residents by teaching classes at the Hinesville Area Arts Council office at 102 Commerce Drive.
According to Dr. Dean Ornish, yoga has several medical benefits. Beginning in 1977, Ornish directed a series of clinical research studies that, for the first time, proved that comprehensive lifestyle changes could not only stop the progression of coronary artery disease and other chronic illnesses but could actually reverse it. These changes included a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet and yoga.
But Xilot doesn’t need medical studies to prove the benefits of yoga.
“I was coming out of depression and decided to try it … I did and I felt the change and a big difference. I liked the way I was feeling,” Xilot said. “When you are depressed, you are feeling down, and after yoga, I was full of life and willing to do many things.”
Xilot said there are the obvious reasons for trying yoga. Yogis experience increases in flexibility and strength. The breathing exercises that accompany yoga increase endurance.
“It actually benefits you in a very personal way,” Xilot said. “If you have a specific problem it will allow you to work on it.”
According to the American Yoga Association, yoga, which dates back more than 5,000 years to India, is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing and meditation. Practitioners will move through a series of poses and stretches and engage all the muscles and connective tissues. The breathing techniques increase the oxygen in the blood and help remove toxic waste from the body. Meditation reduces stress and creates feelings of calmness and awareness. The result of the three principles is an overall improvement in health and well-being.
Xilot said people trying yoga for the first time should expect to feel stiff the next day, just as they would for any new exercise they engage in.
“But that should not discourage them. Rather, it should encourage them to keep coming back, to this class or any other yoga class, so they can get rid of the stiffness,” she said
Xilot offers several classes suited to meet all needs.
On Tuesdays, she teaches a “Mommy and Me” class from 4:30-5:30 p.m., and has yoga for everyone at 6 p.m.
“Beginners and more experienced yogis are welcome. People with some injuries are welcome to come if they have been cleared by the medical doctor first,” Xilot said of the general class. “It’s a very gentle class. It can be as gentle as you need or as challenging as you make it.”
On Wednesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m., Xilot teaches prenatal yoga for expecting women.
“It is very good for opening the hips and preparing the mom to be mentally, emotionally and physically for childbirth,” Xilot said. “All the benefits of yoga are good for pregnancies. It also helps you balance your emotions so those up and down mood swings will not be as bad. And it helps to reduce postpartum depression after pregnancies.”
From 6-7 p.m. on Wednesdays, Xilot re-connects to her cultural roots by offering a class in Spanish.
“I really miss speaking Spanish, and I wanted to meet some people who are Spanish speakers,” she said. “And also, provide people who might not speak Spanish as their main language but want practice to come and practice their Spanish.”
Xilot said a newcomer can try their first class for free. After that, the costs are $9 per class or $32 per month.