A class in which you balance on an unstable wooden board while doing yoga poses…sounds interesting. On my way to my first Indo Yoga class I began to rethink what I was doing, as I’m a little clumsy. The bruise on my arm from a mishap on the stairs just healed, and here I was going to a class focused on balance. But Mary Lou Cerami, a yoga instructor at Shanti Yoga Center, proved me wrong and gave me a reason to enjoy this new fitness trend.
Only recently has the Indo board become a tool for yoga; it was formerly used to train surfers. In the class, we used original Indo boards, which are smaller at 30×18 inches, as opposed to more modern Indo boards that are six feet long and resemble a surfboard. The purpose? To work on balance and build muscle. An inflatable cushion rests under the board, allowing you to increase or decrease the difficulty of balancing based on how much air you want to put into the cushion or let out. If I flattened the cushion, the class might have been easier.
The board became less intimidating as Mary Lou walked the class through the motions. We slowly lifted one leg in the air in an effort to get a feel for the board. In an instant, simple movements became difficult on the rocking platform. Not to mention, the board worked muscles I don’t typically use or even knew I had. My muscles started trembling. “If you did a squat like that, a chair pose, in a yoga class on the floor, you wouldn’t get that same kind of feedback,” insisted the fitness instructor. “It really shows your strengths and the areas you need to work on.”
Indo Yoga also adds a new challenge to your fitness plan. “Sometimes we get stuck in a rut [with our workout routines],” she explained. “Indo Yoga is something new and challenging, and it shows you where you can grow.”
In class, we used the Indo board to strengthen arms, abs and other muscles. For one exercise we put a hand on the board and did a side plank by extending our legs on the ground. I had to fight to stabilize my body, while building abdominal muscles. This may sound stressful, but it was surprisingly calming. With a focus on breathing and slowly going through the poses, it’s not about speed. Indo Yoga is about performing the poses correctly, then adding difficulty once you master the exercise.
After talking to Mary Lou, it was clear her passion is to bring Indo Yoga to people of all ages. “Anybody can and should do it. My students love it, and I can just see people’s reactions when we do it.” She also gives women another incentive to try Indo Yoga: we’re better at it than men. “Women are actually inherently better at balance than men. Men have a much harder time on a paddleboard or Indo board because their center of gravity is higher.”
After being skeptical about trying Indo Yoga, I was pleasantly surprised. The class was not only enjoyable, but challenging. I can even do the exercises at home and escape from the stress of everyday life as long as I have the board. As Mary Lou said, “We live our lives in what we’re used to and hide behind all of these doors that we create for ourselves. But Indo Yoga just opens up so much, so why not take it anywhere?”
By Christine Williams | Brian Westrick Photograph