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Living Yoga Infuses Life Into Mind, Body, and Spirit

By Pamela Sosnowski

Most people are unaware of the cumulative effects that stress has on the body, particularly if one is dealing with stressful situations on a daily basis. For Lotus Castillo, helping people relieve stress through practicing yoga is one of the reasons she founded her own Belen-based yoga studio, Living Yoga, which declares the motto that yoga is for the "body, mind, and spirit."

"Long-term stress is very taxing on the body and mind," she said. "It takes us out of the present moment and throws us into the past or future. Yoga teaches us to be comfortable and relaxed in uncomfortable situations, helping us to deal with the challenges that life presents to us."

At Living Yoga, classes focus on an eight-limbed form of yoga called Ashtanga that incorporates breath control, poses, and meditation. Both group classes and private lessons are available; the first group class is always free while seniors, veterans, and students enjoy a discounted rate across all memberships. Castillo explains that anyone can practice yoga as long as they make a regular commitment to it.

"In my experience, working with all age groups, it helps prevent injury, falls, and keeps people young," she said. "It is challenging for the body and does require regular practice and dedication, even if it is just once a week."

Yoga delivers many health benefits beyond reducing stress. The American Osteopathic Association recognizes yoga as increasing muscle tone and flexibility, keeping metabolism balanced, and assisting with weight loss. The meditation and mindfulness components, or living in the present moment while practicing yoga, can also improve one's emotional well-being.

Castillo herself discovered the healing power of yoga and meditation at the relatively young age of 15. In 2008 she became certified after studying yoga at the Mount Madonna Center in Santa Cruz, CA, and dreamed of teaching Ashtanga yoga to others. She opened Living Yoga in 2015 with a focus on yogic philosophy and sharing the joy of spiritualism with others. She is also an ordained minister with the Spirit of the Lotus Church and School of Wisdom in Santa Clara.

Some of the classes offered at the studio include Yoga for Weight Loss, which focuses on building core strength while getting the heart rate up, and Gentle Yoga, which is recommended for first-time students and teaches the basic poses and techniques. All students must follow some basic guidelines, like showing up for class a little early to get signed in, and to refrain from wearing any kind of fragrance for the comfort of all participants. No matter which class members choose, they will enjoy the camaraderie of fellow yogis in a friendly, non-judgmental atmosphere.

"Living Yoga is a community based practice, where friends meet and encourage each other to grow in many ways," Castillo said. "Many are concerned about yoga being a 'religion.' This is not accurate. Yoga is what you make it. We also like to have fun!"

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