|Jenn Parks( QMI Agency) |
Jennifer Parks clearly remembers the first time she tried yoga.
It was 12 years ago, but the feelings come flooding back with the kind of clarity that only the ancient practice provides.
“I did it in my apartment and remember that it was different than I thought yoga would be,” recalls the 38-year-old Beaumont resident.
“Breathing deeply calmed my nerves, it released tension in my body and anxiety in my mind.”
Parks followed along to a videotape featuring U.S. yoga master Rodney Yee.
Her then relatively new reporting gig at a small northern B.C. newspaper had left the native of London, Ont., “strung out on deadlines for months,” and she had been seeking relief for all that pent-up stress.
“I felt amazing afterward,” she explains. “It was physically challenging, lifted my mental stress and left me feeling deeply relaxed, somehow freer, lighter and more at peace.”
Parks was hooked.
She started practising regularly in her apartment to manage her stress levels and “stay grounded.”
But it took a year before she finally mustered up enough courage to take a class.
That first foray into a community of like-minded yoga practitioners took her to a “dark basement studio” in Prince George.
“It felt strange doing yoga around other people,” she admits. “It was such an intensely personal experience. But the sacred space was safe and supportive, and I felt drawn to come back.”
Over time, Parks developed what she describes as “the capacity to stay present and really listen to what was going on in my body, mind and heart.”
And that, she says, is what yoga is all about — “plugging in to the moment, and all that it contains, pleasurable, uncomfortable or otherwise. Keeping things real.”
Parks’ journalism career brought her to Edmonton in 2003.
She covered city hall and entertainment for the Edmonton Examiner before moving over to the Edmonton Sun in the spring of 2004 to be a lifestyle reporter and eventually Sun Media’s national sex columnist.
All the while, she continued to practise yoga, taking note of the city’s burgeoning yoga landscape.
“When I came to Edmonton in 2003, there was like three or four studios — only a few places to practise in,” she says.
As more studios popped up, Parks yearned for a career change.
“It got to the point where yoga was having such a positive effect on me that it was something that I wanted to share with others,” she explains.
Parks’ brazen journalist-to-yoga instructor transition began in 2006, when she completed her teacher training and started teaching classes.
She left the Sun in 2007 to focus on her new career trajectory.
These days, Parks, who says there are now more than 70 yoga studios in the Edmonton area, teaches regularly at Lotus Soul Gym and Yoga Within in Edmonton, and Bodhi Fit in Beaumont.
She also teaches corporate lunch-hour classes, as well as an after-school class at Victoria School of the Arts for a group of teachers.
And twice a year, she hosts a yoga retreat near Stony Plain.
Parks, who still does some freelance writing and published a book in 2010 titled Canada’s Arctic Sovereignty, recently added cardio training to her personal workout regimen. She does cardio — usually running — three times a week for 30 minutes each day.
“Yoga doesn’t give you the cardiovascular workout you need to be healthy,” she notes, adding she also dabbles in resistance training and has never felt healthier.
Yoga’s main physical benefits include strength, flexibility and balance.
But Parks reiterates that yoga goes much deeper than the physical realm.
“The changes in your body are a side effect of yoga, but it’s an inner transformation that’s happening,” she explains.
“Yoga puts you in the moment. You can’t worry when you’re in the moment. All you can do is act and pay attention to what’s going on around you, and inside of you. Getting present in the moment helps us make clear and conscious choices. This is significant and powerful because how we live now creates our future.”
Visit her website at jenniferparks.ca
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