Focus, breathe, and meditate
Yoga guru keeps Yellowknifers limber

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 22/99) - For Moyra Bissell, her passion for the ancient art of yoga started at the age of 12 when she stumbled upon her mom's yoga book. She took the manual to her basement, lit a candle and started practising.

Later, in her 20s, she spent four years in New Brunswick learning the finer techniques of yoga from guru Helen Russell. Russell eventually moved away, but left Bissell to take over a class of eager new students.

Bissell, a spirited blonde who probably still gets asked for I.D, came from New Brunswick to Yellowknife 15 years ago and has been teaching yoga here ever since.

She is currently teaching two classes. One at the Yellowknife Racquet Club and the other through the City of Yellowknife's recreation department.

"I stuck with it because it makes me feel better and look better," says Bissell.

"If I were to stop -- I think I would just go downhill, and I definitely wouldn't be as happy."

Yoga is a method designed to teach people how to relax through deep breathing, staying focused, meditation and stretching exercises called asanas.

"Yoga is very personal. There's no competition, what the person is doing next to you is irrelevant. It's about asking yourself how far you can comfortably go," says Bissell.

There are literally hundreds of different poses, or asanas, that can be utilized but before trying any of them, proper breathing techniques must be learned.

"Learning to breathe deeply and getting both lungs working at full capacity brings oxygen into the blood. It helps you release and energize yourself," she says.

"People tend not to think much about their breathing but if you think about what you need most on this earth to survive, it's oxygen. Our minds race all the time, so even just focusing on the rise and fall -- the rhythm of your breath -- stills the mind."

Breathing and meditation are all done while moving through a series of exercises that are designed to stretch most of the body's muscles. The spine is a central point in yoga.

"The yoga I'm teaching is a `hatha' style, which is a western style. It has been orientated to fit modern culture.

"If you don't stretch your muscles, everything stiffens and tightens with age. Keeping things stretched strengthens the muscles and keeps them limber.

"We also have a saying in yoga. Keep your spine young and flexible and you will be too," she adds.