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Yoga on the rise in Iowa City

BY NOELLE ALKHAWAJA | MARCH 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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Yoga participation is on the rise.

In fact, in 2012, 9.5 percent of adults and 3.1 percent of children participated in yoga in the United States — nearly 23 million people were practicing yoga at the time — according to a recent study published by the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease and Prevention.

One local businesswoman and yoga advocate said she believes its popularity is increasing in Iowa City.

“Do I think more people are being exposed to yoga? Absolutely,” said yoga instructor Maureen Mondanaro, the owner of Hot House, 224 S. Clinton St. “We get letters here weekly from students just talking about whatever their story is and letting us know how profound of an effect the practice has on them.”

University of Iowa students and staff said they receive physical- and mental-health benefits from the activity.

“We’re at a pivotal time in human existence, where things are changing,” said UI sophomore Will Lovendahl, a yoga participant. “It’s about redefining what happiness is and getting rid of your stress.”

Lovendahl was introduced to yoga in an entrepreneurship and innovation class taught by Lecturer Joe Sulentic.

“I think it would be incredible for more students to do it,” Sulentic said. “There are so many positives, I don’t really see what the drawbacks would be.”

Sometimes, students can fall into a work schedule and push themselves too hard, said Derek Brenner or “Yoga Derek,” a UI graduate and a yoga instructor at the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center and at Zenergie Hot Yoga, 1705 S. First Ave.

“I think one thing on campus is that many people aren’t aware of what their body needs,” he said. “When we do yoga, we get back into our body and slow down on mental processing. It gets us away from the ‘we don’t need to sleep, we just need to work harder’ mentality.”

There has been a notable increase in the number of yoga participants in the Iowa City community, yoga instructors said.

“There are so many new faces,” Brenner said. “People feel really good, and they keep coming back.”

There are numerous places in Iowa City in which students, faculty, staff, and other community members can do yoga, such as the UI Rec Center, including a class at the Tippie College of Business, Zenergie, and Hot House.

Hot House alone sees “over 200 people a day,” Mondanaro said.

A wide variety of people practice yoga, even on the UI campus. Not only do students participate to lessen stress, but athletes as well, for mental and physical reasons.

“I’ve got wrestlers, football players, and someone on the women’s golf team,” Sulentic said about his pupils. “It’s incredible.”

He related yoga to “thinking outside the box” in college students’ studies.

“You’re not going to think creatively if you’re just watching TV or reading the Wall Street Journal,” he said. “You have to do something differently.”

Overall, the Iowa City community and especially UI students gave a positive response to yoga.

“I think it’s only going to become more popular and more important,” Lovendahl said. “I plan on continuing. They have a class at Pappajohn [Business Building] every Wednesday. I’m going to go next week and probably the week after.”


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