For Torrence, Yoga Isn’t a Stretch

A New York Times article estimated that 4 million Americans practiced yoga in 2001. Other studies estimated put the number between 12 and 20 million in 2011. Raider Zone talked to senior Cassie Torrence, who practices yoga three to five times weekly at Lifetime Fitness.

How long have you been doing yoga?

I started practicing yoga as a kid every summer in New Jersey. I would go three times a week and I practiced regularly from age eight to 12.

But not in Ohio?

Yeah, I never did it in Ohio. Then when I lived in Jersey for a year I did it every week for a year. I did it in Ohio from 12 to 14 and didn’t begin again until high school. But for an athlete it was extremely helpful in increasing my flexibility.

You probably didn’t have much of a reason when you were 8, but why did you start?

My mom would go and I would come along. It was a fun challenge for me. I didn’t go to church and the shavasana was a way for me to kind of get in touch with myself . . . it was also like a nap time. When I started my practice once again, it was for a different reason.

What was that?

When I picked up yoga again, I knew yoga was an amazing way to keep my body functioning. I knew it would work my muscles as well as my mind and my spirit. A lot of girls go in to get fit. But I started practicing again to balance. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice. You work your ass off to do the physical pose, and you keep your mind working, pushing yourself to deepen the stretch, to concentrate only on what you are doing. And spiritually, yoga focuses on breathing. Deep breathing makes me reconnect with myself, keep myself focused only on what I’m doing in that moment. Shavasana in the end, the period of meditation, helps to ground me and it’s the closest I come to any kind of religion or praying.

What does shavasana mean?

It’s from the Sanskrit shava, meaning “corpse,” and asana, meaning “pose.” Quite literally, the “corpse pose.” One lays on their back allowing the feet to fall outwards, palms turned up. It is intended to be rejuvenating. A period of meditation when one focuses on the breath. Also, doing yoga in India [the Asian Studies class went to India in 2011] was awesome.

What was that like?

Incredible. In America, most yoga practiced is hatha yoga. But in India I practiced one of the five or six oldest forms: raja yoga. It was amazing. It wouldn’t seem like a workout, but I felt so physically good after. It was all about breathing and balancing the different parts of the body through controlled breath.

What kind of yoga do you do here?

Hatha, which is pretty old but pretty popular in America, and bikram, which is hot yoga.

[The two are essentially the same except for the 95-degree room temperature, which makes deeper stretches easier.]

How does yoga compare to conventional preseason conditioning or weightlifting?

It is extremely useful. While it cannot take the place of cardiovascular conditioning or any sport-specific training, yoga prepares the entire body: strengthens muscles, helps to realign joints, and it really helps to regulate your breathing. Even without cardio exercise, I have a serious lung capacity because of yoga.

Why do you think yoga is so trendy?

Yoga is trendy for a few reasons. The first? The yoga butt. Gotta have it. Two? The socially acceptable spandex all the time (in particular to show off your hard-earned yoga butt). And lastly, it makes you feel good without being out in the harsh fluorescent lights panting on the treadmill or straining over the weights.

A version of this article appeared in print on 28 February 2012, on page 14 of The Shakerite.

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