How one private yoga session taught me things I hadn't learned in 12 years of group classes

New York Daily News Blog—February 15, 2012

by Lauren Johnson

I had just started to accept that chronic lower back and right hip pain was my version of normal.

Then I had a private yoga session with Diana Zotos, a certified yoga teacher and physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery, and I realized maybe my "normal" could change.

I've been a runner for 20 years, and I think of yoga as a stretching and muscle-lengthening antidote to the many miles I run that pump my heart and boost my spirit - but also tighten and crunch my hamstrings.

But even after all these years, I sometimes still question whether I'm doing even the most basic yoga poses properly.

How many times have I been in a class, listening carefully to instructions like "square your hips," "tuck in your pelvis," "sink into your shoulder blades," and wondered if I was anywhere close to doing it right?

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The boom in class attendance means there are more teachers with less training and not as keen an eye to spot specific weaknesses in individual students.

I tend to agree with this idea, so I found the session with Zotos invaluable and would urge all runner-yogis to schedule a private lesson at least once.

"Having a private yoga session is sort of like having a massage. You just get into your body in a different way," she says.

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Zotos, 32, is a runner herself - she's completed three marathons and runs 4-5 miles 3 or 4 times per week - so she's able to prescribe specific poses to address a runner's needs focusing on tight areas like the hamstrings and hip flexors, and she understands how the two activities can work together.

She is particularly interested in the physical problems linked to office culture - i.e, the ever-increasing number of hours we office workers spend sitting in a chair with shoulders hunched over a computer each day.

"The truth of the matter is sitting is lethal, it's trauma for the body," she says. "We've become people who want to live and be active for longer. We sit sit sit and then we want to move, but there has to be something that restores natural alignment. I think it's really silly for people to think they can sit all day and then just go running."

That's where yoga comes in.

"One of the only exercises that teaches you to be mindful in what you are doing is yoga," she said. It teaches being present in your body, fusing stability in your core and learning to stack it all together in the most effiecient way."

Read the full story at nydailynews.com.

Watch a video with Diana Zotos demonstrating a yoga pose.

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