Having taught yoga at Gold's Gym in Fairfax for four years, I found that most of the students did not come to class for "exercise" ["Beyond the Mat: Yoga Stretches Out," front page, Aug. 29]. One student had breast cancer; part of her personal post-chemotherapy recovery was to embrace yoga. Another had multiple sclerosis; she found that yoga improved her balance. Most came to that class, and the other classes I teach, not for exercise, but for healing. They wanted to rid themselves of the effects of stress and to learn how to better cope with life using yoga.

I'm glad people are exercising, and if the word "yoga" is attached to whatever exercise finds its way into the mainstream, that's fine. I do, however, take exception to Beth Shaw's scornful statements about traditional yoga and "yoga people" and her comment that "not too many people want to sit around on a floor and meditate and do one pose and then rest for five minutes and then do another pose."

That does not describe a typical yoga class. A few classes incorporate meditation, but I've never seen a class that has five minutes between poses.

Don't take my word for it. Most yoga studios have a drop-in policy, and for about 10 bucks, you can find out for yourself.

DOUGLAS R. THOMPSON

Hyattsville

The writer is a former president of the Mid Atlantic Yoga Association.

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The Aug. 29 story about yoga largely reflected yoga as taught in gyms, which have adapted it to be more in line with their other fitness classes.

But traditional hatha yoga also has been enjoying an upsurge in popularity as people discover that pushing themselves to the limit in all aspects of their lives doesn't work.

While hatha yoga can range in intensity, as a yoga instructor I know that most teachers undergo a rigorous certification process to teach students how to exercise their bodies in a way that balances both strength and flexibility while calming the mind and emotions. The practice is both energizing and relaxing. Best of all, it can be practiced by people of all ages and fitness levels.

SANDY CHUTE

Alexandria