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Kripalu Yoga: Mind-body discipline offers health boost

Karen "Ambika" Filardo teaches newly certified yoga instructors Julie Frank, Dana Baumgartner, Amrita Mary Peterson, Arianne Baggenstoss, Eddie Dehler-Setter and Michelle Nelson during a summer 2010 outdoor session. The posture they are practicing is "Upward Boat," "Parapurna Navasana" in Sanskrit. Submitted Photo

The practice of yoga derives from ancient Indian asceticism, but for most yoga students, the goal is to improve flexibility, strength and breathing and use meditation for relaxation.

"Yoga has many benefits - It has lowered my blood pressure. It's just amazing," said Nancy Glenn.

"We just keep coming back year after year - yoga is great," said Diane Rose. "It's good for strength and flexibility and hearts and minds."

"It moves the joints," said Ralph Brose. "I want to keep on going for a lot more years."

These were comments of some of the students in Karen Filardo's gentle yoga class designed for people 50 and older, beginners and pregnant women. She also teaches an advanced yoga class that includes people from their teens to their 70s.

Filardo, whose Sanskrit name "Ambika" (Open and Generous Heart) was given to her by her mentors. She is qualified to certify other yoga teachers. She said six new certified teachers graduated recently.

Other yoga classes in the Bemidji area are offered at Dionne's OM Yoga Studio (766-9262), Moksha Yoga (444-9642), Yoga by Julie (308-4611), Red Thunderbird Athletics (368-2198) and Myrtle Palm (224-2885),

Filardo recommends that people interested in starting yoga shop around and see which class is most comfortable for them.

"I have been teaching Kripalu Yoga in Bemidji for seven years," Filardo said. "Prior to that, I taught dance, creative movement and yoga for several decades."

She said she is most interested in teaching breathing exercises, pranayama in Sanskrit.

"Teaching people to breathe properly," she said. "It alters brain chemistry and the parasympathetic nervous system. There's no 'woo-woo' or religion behind it."

Julie Frank, a newly certified yoga instructor, said she has been practicing the body-mind discipline for 16 years.

"Bikram Vinyasa - it's more of a flow," she said. "It links breath to movement. That's the type of class I teach now."

Filardo offers details of the exercise on her website at

"The foundation is being present to the here and now, developing awareness, and trusting in the wisdom of your body by: 1) Strengthening your physical structure through poses (asana), 2) Controlling your breath which awakens a vital flow of energy (pranayanma), 3) Focusing on internal sensations and stilling your mind (meditation). All bodies benefit from even the most basic practice. Benefits can be immediate and profound: develop strength, stamina, flexibility and range of motion. Increase your ability to focus, concentrate and feel more balanced. Release deeply held chronic stress while you tone and cleanse internal organs. Let go of habitual, ingrained patterns and connect to your true, authentic self. Yoga is always accessible and it works! It can be done at your desk or on your living room floor. Students return to class to not only practice postures and breathing but to be in community."