Jillian Holy, originally from St. Albert the Great Parish in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, is volunteer program coordinator and yoga instructor at Core/ElCentro, a non-profit organization that offers individuals of all income levels access to natural healing therapies, where she’s been teaching yoga for five years.

“It’s important for people to recognize that people of any religion can practice yoga. Yoga is not a religion; it’s a practice, it’s a path, it’s a way of life,” said Holy, who teaches gentle yoga with small, mindful movements that can be done in a chair to people who may be working with physical or emotional limitations. “If anything, it’s even closer to a philosophy than a religion, so I think it’s just important for people to realize that yoga’s about connecting with the divine and themselves, beyond themselves, which is the grand divine that’s in everything …I think connecting with that divine and ourselves is something that’s also part of Catholicism so I think it would be a nice practice for anybody of any religion.”

Holy said the benefits can be physical, emotional or spiritual, and differ for each person.

“I think what it can do on all of those layers is to really bring somebody into the present moment of exactly how they’re feeling at that exact moment,” Holy said. “So, life goes so fast and we’re often dwelling in the past, looking at the future and having our mind worry and wander, but yoga can really bring you exactly to the present moment.”

She advises taking yoga at a personal pace.

“Yoga’s about non-violence and definitely meant to be taken slowly, no strain, no violence to the body, not to push yourself,” she said, explaining that if one class doesn’t work out, don’t give up, but try one of the many different styles or classes with a different teacher. “The rest of the life is all about pushing harder, moving faster, doing more so really to let your yoga practice be something that’s not full of effort and strain or pushing yourself.”

Holy said young adults should give yoga a try.

“I think at a time, especially for any kind of teenagers or young adults, when there’s a lot of transition in our lives and we’re coming into really feeling confident and settled in our identity a little bit more, kind of leaving the teenage years behind, that a yoga practice is really wonderful to kind of tap into who we are, to what our body can do what we are capable of doing, not looking at what we’re not capable of doing, so I guess at a time in a young adult’s life when they are coming into themselves and their power, it’s great that what’s happening in their physical body, in their physical practice can kind of mirror what’s happening in that transition in their life,” she said.

Yoga still sounded like something I’d like, and it seemed to be for all genders, too. In Richard Carlson’s book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Men,” chapter 26 tells men to “Take Up Yoga.” He said it may be especially useful to men because they are considered “doers,” because the benefits are instantly felt through the way it works with breath, stretching, lengthening and relaxing.

Carlson, who said back pain has been a part of his life since his college tennis days, has benefited from yoga because it helps to keep the pain under control. Life is more manageable when he makes time to relax with this form of exercise, and his guess is “if you give it a try, you’ll be hooked as well.”

Richard’s wife, Kristine, wrote “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Women.” She encourages women to “Go Inside for the Answers,” the title of one chapter where she encourages women to find their own ways – whether it’s through prayer, meditation, enjoying nature, yoga, running or riding a horse – to focus on themselves and feel more connected to everything and everyone in their lives.

Even after reading and researching this age-old practice, I still hesitated to buckle down and do this little yoga session. As a runner, tennis player and former high school gymnast, I was a little hesitant because I’d noticed in pre- and post-run stretches that I’ve lost a lot of flexibility. Yoga’s supposed to increase that so, no worries; it’s time to hit play.

DVD is in the player and I have three options:

“Morning Quickie,” should be like my morning cappuccino and create heat and vibration in the body to give me energy throughout the day.

“Evening Bath” is an invitation to a relaxing workout meant to help those of us who have trouble sleeping, and soothe the body of tension and anxiety.

“Daily Connection” is a “treat,” a beneficial workout promoting a sense of focus, strength and balance in my life. I’ve heard that many people like either yoga or pilates – I love pilates and just gave my sister my VHS tape of the weight-loss program that I did often in my college dorm room. Maybe I’ll be the exception and love both. Right now, the idea of relaxing in a tub of warm water followed by peaceful slumber invites me in. It’s bath time!

Hemalaya Behl encourages me to create a sanctuary where I’ll be doing the DVD, a place without distractions. It’s 11 p.m. on Tuesday and everyone’s in bed. The hum of the fish tank and Behl’s voice are the only things I hear.

“Take your time, be patient, listen to your body and have fun,” while doing any type of yoga, she said.

The 25-minute wind down begins with me sitting, rocking back and forth, getting comfortable, extending my spine up, laying my hands on my knees and exhaling all of my air, taking a deep breath and chanting “ohm.” The soft music begins and she instructs me to slowly begin with the half-lotus pose, which was easy enough – just sitting in the same crossed-legs position – and then twisting so that my left hand was on my right knee as I looked over my right shoulder.

“Are you crazy?” I said out loud as Behl instructed me to hold that twist and grab my right foot from where it rested on my left thigh, from behind my back. I had to reposition myself so I could even touch my foot. I began to worry about the rest of this so-called bath I was taking.

After shaking out my legs, I warmed up my spine by holding my knees out in front of me, feet flat on the floor, rounding the spine and straightening my back. This felt better. Using my stomach muscles, I rolled down to the floor.

One thing I noticed was that Behl made aware of the many different parts of my body as I focused on rolling down my spine one vertebrae at a time, and rolling on my back hugging my knees to my chest as I rolled to the left and right “massaging the kidneys.” That didn’t stop me from thinking about the many different things I needed to do and how I wasn’t feeling tired as I followed the poses, but the way Behl explained what to do and made me aware of my breathing helped me to forget about my to-do list sometimes. With my legs straight and together, I pulled them by my toes toward my head without bending my knees, and held it for what felt like eternity.

“Will I do my morning cup of cappuccino on the living room floor with Behl’s AM yoga session or just stop at the gas station on my way to work?” I thought as I did the “fountain of youth,” or a spinal lift, which Behl said was “the queen of all postures,” by laying flat on the floor and putting our legs straight together, lifting them up and holding onto our hips to keep them in the air. Now, I feel like going for a run.

When I could finally let my legs down, I had to place my knees on the floor by my head – I used to be able to do that without much effort. Maybe I should have taken the no food for two hours before doing yoga rule seriously. I ever so slowly rolled down through my spine, using my stomach muscles, and rocked back and forth with my knees to my chest again. This felt better, but I was still daydreaming about lacing up my Saucony ProGrid Guide 3s.

The fish pose was next. I placed my hands flat on the floor beneath my buttocks, thumbs touching, straightened my legs to the ground and used my elbows to lift my chest off the ground, up so I could look behind me. I did the deeper pose that she explained and used my elbows to prop me up higher and lift my head two inches off the ground, but it made me feel a little nauseated and I was happy to release myself from this position.

I felt most relaxed for the first time after I let the current take away the fish and instead, lying flat on the floor, supported my head in my hands without using my neck muscles. I could tell the end was nearing when I was told to grab a blanket for the Savasana relaxation pose. Still lying on the floor, I covered my body up to my neck with the blanket, placed my hands on my stomach, and tried to breathe and let my muscles and tension “melt” into the ground. I wiggled my toes, relaxed my fingers, rocked my head from side to side. I pulled my knees back to my chest and woke up my spine by rocking from side to side. I stretched before returning to the half-lotus pose with my hands on my knees and listened to Behl end with the “ohm,” folding her hands as though in prayer before saying, “Namaste.” The clang of a gong-like bell ended the session meant to “release the calm that is found deep within you.”

I was calmer after my 7.8 mile run – where I sorted through my thoughts, said a few prayers and admired God’s beautiful country – than I was after Behl’s “Evening Bath,” but I’ll take Holy’s advice and try it again – someday – maybe even a class. But right now, it’s time for some warm honey milk and bed, and that’s too bad because my running shoes are feeling jealous.