Where Soul Meets Body

Yoga Can Increase Well-Being Through Meditation, Exercise, Spirituality


With roots dating as far back as 5,000 B.C. in India when the spiritual and ascetic discipline was first practiced, countless people have used yoga for health, relaxation and spiritual reasons.

The trend continues today as folks continue to turn to the Hindu tradition for its benefits on the body and mind. Around the world and in Central Florida, people are searching for ways to start the New Year off with sound body, mind and soul.

Jody Reece, manager and instructor at downtown Winter Haven’s Inside Out Yoga, says the ancient meditative practice has been and will continue to be a steady and popular way for students from beginners to advance to achieve their best physical and mental states.

In the Inside Out Yoga studio across from the downtown square, Reece takes time to discuss the benefits of yoga. She says she has been practicing yoga for about 20 years and has found it to be mentally and physically stimulating. She adds that she feels anyone and everyone is capable of achieving an overall better lifestyle through yoga.

Reece, who lives in Winter Haven, says yoga practices have been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate. When yoga is practiced, it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system — the rest and digestive system of the three divisions of the autonomic nervous system — resulting in calmness, less stress and better sleep. 

“It’s all connected, starting with the outermost layer of the body and moving inward,” she says. “When I first started it was more for physical benefits and now more people are coming for meditation and relaxing and stress reduction. It gives you more mobility, stability and flexibility.” 

Just prior to a recent afternoon class, Sam Cahill of Winter Haven, who’s an advocate for spinal cord injury patients, places his yoga mat on the floor and begins to focus. The 44-year-old chiropractor began yoga about 25 years ago to gain flexibility by moving all his body joints through full ranges of motion. 

“When I’m feeling tight, then I know it’s time to do some (yoga) sessions,” says Cahill, who played collegiate volleyball. “And (yoga) is non-competitive, the only thing you’re competing with is yourself and there’s so many benefits. I’m just a big believer in keeping your body moving and strong and it definitely allows you to relieve the stress from your day.”

According to John Hopkins Medicine, another benefit of yoga is for those going through an illness, recovering from surgery or living with a chronic condition. Yoga can become part of treatment and even possibly speed up healing. According to the Baltimore-based nonprofit academic medical center, among benefits of yoga are helping with back pain relief, easing arthritis symptoms, boosting heart health, getting better sleep, developing more energy, managing stress and promoting self-care.

More closely monitoring day-to-day health and activity are some of the reasons Inside Out Yoga student Olivia Arrillaga of Winter Haven joined the center. She says after a recent physical, her doctor recommended yoga as part of her “health journey.” She began yoga about a year ago.

“I lost strength in my right arm after an accident. After about a year, I can move it much more and it’s much more flexible,” says Arrillaga, 40, who owns a process-serving business. “It’s a great practice physically and mentally.” 

Reece has been teaching yoga in Polk County for about 16 years and along with owner Kerry Wilson, opened Inside Out Yoga at its current downtown Winter Haven town square location in 2017. She currently holds between 15 to 20 classes per week in her studio with about 400 students from children to those in their 70s attending each month. 

During the class Cahill and Arrillaga are attending, Reece has the students use yoga blocks to focus on “centering, grounding and alignment.” 

“Relax your shoulders. Notice if your head is coming forward or back. Let your eyes be soft and your face be softer. Our face expresses what our mind is thinking,” she tells the class.

The hourlong meditative class is one of three classes offered that day classes being held that day. 

“My goal is to make (classes) inclusive to anyone who comes to the room. My hope is they leave feeling more relaxed, calm and confident.” 

Accessibility Toolbar