Seven Questions with Yoga Instructor Kathy Zawadzki

Yoga is for everyone, and a regular yoga practice can be of immense physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefit.Yoga is for everyone, and a regular yoga practice can be of immense physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefit.

Like so many of us these days, you may find yourself feeling a little anxious. With trying times and fear of an uncertain future due to the ongoing pandemic, stress is a common factor in many of our lives. If there was a perfect time to start feeling calm and centered, it’s safe to say that this would be it! Lucky for us, yoga can be a simple fix, according to yoga instructor Kathy Zawadzki of Hatha Yoga by Kathy Zawadzki.

How long have you been practicing yoga, and where did you learn it?

My training is from the Himalayan Institute of Buffalo and their headquarters in Honesdale, PA, where I was taught under many great teachers such as Rolf Sovik, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Sandra Anderson, Shari Friedrichsen, Jaime Schmitt, Lilias Folan and Rod Stryker. I worked as a chemical dependency counselor and once I completed the 200-hour yoga certification from Himalayan Institute in Buffalo, I began to teach on a part-time basis while still working as a counselor.

Upon retirement from my counseling job in 2004, I began teaching full time and eventually opened my own studio in West Seneca on Center Road in the Wimbledon Plaza. Following a fire there I moved to my present location at 4184 Seneca St. and have been teaching yoga now for over 20 years.

My fellow instructor Jessie Reino has been practicing yoga for 10 years. She completed her 200-hour yoga certificate from the Himalayan Institute in Buffalo and the 25-hour Yoga for All online curriculum. She plans on continuing her education with additional online courses, local workshops and classes. She has been teaching at the West Seneca studio for about a year and also teaches yoga in the West Seneca Continuing Education Program.

What is Hatha Yoga and how can it benefit your students?

Hatha Yoga, which includes learning postures and proper breathing, is the form most popular in the West and is actually a part of Raja Yoga, the path of self control. It helps to build physical strength and endurance required to spend long periods of time in meditation.

For someone who has never taken a yoga class, what information should they know on their first day?

Comfortable clothing is recommended such as a T-shirt and sweatpants, and for the relaxation you may want to bring a shirt or a light jacket to keep the body warm. Please be considerate of others who may have allergies and refrain from using perfumes or aromatherapies. It is recommended that you bring your own yoga or exercise mat. You may also wish to bring a small hand towel and a blanket (stadium size). You may also bring water (room temperature is recommended). An average class size will be five to 10 participants so that students will have plenty of room to practice.

Yoga offers a wide range of health benefits including balance and relaxation, but can you tell us about additional benefits?

Yoga practice can help with back pain, improved sleep, depression and anxiety, memory, concentration, weight loss, reducing migraines and promotes overall better health. There is so much that yoga can do for people through stretches, postures, and learning to breathe properly and relax completely. Yoga is enjoyable and can be a method of self-transformation.

Does someone have to be flexible to take a yoga class?

It is a misconception that you take yoga only if you are flexible. It is quite the opposite; if you have problems with flexibility, yoga can help you become flexible. It all begins with simple stretches that gradually increase over time and at all times staying in a sweet discomfort zone, never pushing to a level of pain.

Is there an age limit for safely practicing yoga?

Yoga is for everyone, and a regular yoga practice can be of immense physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefit to anyone who is experiencing some of the signs of aging. Many Indian yogis practice into their hundreds. If yoga can help you live a longer, healthier life, then what have you got to lose? Senior yogis are often the wisest yogis of all, even if they’re new to yoga. Practicing yoga can help you protect against bone and muscle loss, prevent the compression fractures common with osteoporosis, and encourage good posture as you age. Let yoga work its magic on your body, your mind and your spirit.

How many times a week should someone practice yoga?

To start you can practice one time a week and in eight weeks you will see a difference in how you feel. As you progress you will want to practice two to three times a week. All classes are about one hour long. Any yoga is better than no yoga!

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