The yoga poses that Mona Therese Winston displays on her new 2012 calendar — interspersed with the poetry of Sylvia Chatroux — are keys to a toned and vibrant body, as well as a place to find inner peace and happiness.
The two Ashland women met in one of Winston's five yoga classes in Ashland and Medford and conceived the idea of a 13-month calendar, called Asana Poetica, with instructions for each pose written by Chatroux in lofty and encouraging verse. The calendar's photographs are by Winston's husband, Robert Patrik Winston, taken in Ashland, Mount Shasta and Washington's Olympic National Forest.
With Winston's striking warrior asana, one leg at 90 degrees, the other flared out behind and arms stretched far into space, the verse instructs practitioners: "Here's a place where you can breathe / the Peaceful warrior / Where you endure and you achieve ... Focus with your gaze / Past the forward hand / Journey into inner strength / As you take your stand."
Chatroux is a physician who has written several whimsical verse books, including "Medica Poetica," on her medical practice. The calendar's lines, she says, "entertain while emphasizing the metaphysical aspects and how each asana benefits you."
The poses for 2012 emphasize the basic asanas that most people can do or grow into during a first year of practice, says Winston, a 49-year-old native of Denmark. In future years, the calendar will feature all the teachers in yoga-rich Ashland — and move on to the more challenging asanas.
The trio, with graphic designer Dawn Vivian, are planning posters for yoga studios and an electronic version of the poses and verse instructions for yoga devotees to take with them on smartphones or laptops.
The purpose of yoga is, of course, to stretch and tone muscles. But it goes deeper, using breath, which is life force — something we barely use — to increase overall well-being, open energy channels in the body (called nadi) and purify stagnant energy, says Winston, who has practiced yoga for 32 years and taught for 18 years.
Holding a pose takes energy, practice and mental discipline, but ironically it brings deep relaxation.
"You get in tune with yourself and feel the essence of your own being — and that's where transformation happens," says Winston. "You can start changing and enriching your life."
While yoga has become familiar over the past 40 years — there are more practitioners in the West than its home country of India — most people don't appreciate the role of breath and meditation in the process, as well as yoga's role in dealing with personal emotions and hardships, says Winston.
"When I begin feeling my spirit and concentrate on my divine self — my God consciousness — I feel the unity of all that is. I feel no separation," notes Winston.
Chatroux, a student of Winston for several years, says she wanted to improve her posture, and "I was going to just power through it, but I completely fell in love with it from the first class. The breathing made me feel centered, connected, relaxed but energetic and strong. I was hooked."
Chatroux often prescribes yoga to patients, especially if they are getting kyphosis, a rounding of the back and neck with age, or if they are emotionally stressed.
"When you learn to use your breath, you can control and move through these emotions and calm yourself before you act," says Winston.
"People going through divorce benefit by lots of yoga," says Chatroux. "It doesn't take the grief away, but it helps you move through it and not get stuck."
Yoga can go way beyond its place in your exercise regimen. It's not a religion but easily meshes with most religions. Among its many varieties are prana yoga, about breath and devotion; bhakti yoga, about prayer; and yana yoga, about knowledge.
Winston, a former classical ballet dancer, became a naturalized American six years ago when she married and also is a massage therapist, reflexologist and reiki healer. She was personal trainer and yoga instructor to the Australian woman who became Crown Princess of Denmark when she married Prince Frederik, the future king.
Among the inner benefits of yoga, says Winston, is a deep sense of "nonattachment" that allows her to let go of nostalgia for Denmark and her former status as a fashion plate in youth.
"It's not about how far you can go in being flexible," she notes. "It's about going to your limit, comfortably and breathing in and breathing out. Don't push it. Exhale and relax into it."
The calendar costs $12 and is available at Ashland's Soundpeace and Spirit of Shakti, Chatroux's Ashland office, 400 W. Hersey St., and www.theresewinston.com.