The mental image of yoga these days has become more a picture of young, athletic people sweating through a Bikram class than a picture of the older yogis practicing breathing techniques.

In Chattanooga, the Scenic City’s oldest yoga studio-ClearSpring Yoga-is continuing its tradition of focusing on the fundamentals while simultaneously exploring yoga’s application in chronic pain treatment, behavioral recovery and the world of mental health.

All bodies welcome
ClearSpring Yoga started out in a small studio on Georgia Avenue in November 1999. Now located on the North Shore, the studio has grown into a larger space and seen its clientele evolve in an interesting direction.

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“From the very start, our vision was always to create a welcoming space and atmosphere for people,” said Sue Reynolds, co-owner of ClearSpring Yoga. “Many people are still quite reticent to go into a yoga studio.”

The mantra that “all bodies are welcome,” which guides the programming decisions, has attracted more than merely those looking for a workout.

People with physical limitations, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis, can take advantage of the classes geared toward the basics of yoga and a slower flow through the poses, including Yoga Fundamentals, Yoga for Ease of Movement, Yoga for Flex-Ability and Kripalu Gentle Yoga.

In addition, the Safe Yoga for Round Bodies class is specifically designed for people who might find other classes intimidating during their initial stages of weight loss.

Despite the tailor-made programming and the prevalence of yoga in popular culture, Reynolds noted that the old barriers to incorporating yoga into a healthy lifestyle still exist.

“The No. 1 misconception people have is ‘I’m not flexible, so I can’t do yoga.’ That is so off the mark from what we’re about, which is whole fitness,” Reynolds said. “Yoga is a very healthy, holistic practice of nurturing oneself in the moment.”

She explained that another barrier she encounters is the idea that a person can be too high-strung for yoga, that his or her inability to sit still long enough will make attending a yoga class impossible. In fact, this would be a perfect candidate for yoga.

Far more than a fitness routine, the classes at ClearSpring Yoga are created to hold true to the roots of yoga: fostering body awareness, letting go of judgment toward oneself and others, and living in the moment.

A mindful practice
Kristine Kaoverii Weber of Subtle Yoga in Asheville, N.C., is particularly invested in widening the public’s understanding of yoga. The yoga teacher began leading classes in 1995, training other yoga teachers in 2003 and working with health care professionals approximately four years ago.

Weber will lead the Subtle Yoga for Mental Health Workshop at ClearSpring Yoga this weekend.

The two-day course is part of a larger, 15-month certification program, in which each month features another facet of yoga as therapy for a total of 500 accreditation hours for students. Members of the Chattanooga yoga community who would like to take the workshop a la carte are invited to do so for $200.

Weber plans to discuss depression and anxiety, as well as the comorbidities that can accompany both or either, and introduce accessible practices health care professionals can use with their patients and teach their patients for at-home use.

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Psychologist and yoga therapist Michael de Manincor