Yoga, meditation allow for reflection

Yoga classes hosted for locals in observance of suicide prevention month



Aletha Lassiter, Yogatopia Instructor, discusses the mental benefits of different yoga positions and types on Tuesday evening at Yogatopia.

RACHEL KOCH, Evergreen reporter

On a cold, rainy day such as Tuesday many may struggle to bring themselves to go outside in the gloomy weather. However, the Palouse Advocacy League and local yoga studio Yogatopia teamed up to host Yoga in the Park, a 30-minute yoga class on Tuesday in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day.

Despite the name, Yoga in the Park took place in the Yogatopia studio in downtown Pullman. Organizers had planned to host the event at Reaney Park but relocated due to less-than-ideal weather conditions.

Chair Member Shelley Calissendorff of the Palouse Advocacy League, a local nonprofit focused on suicide prevention and treatment for mental illnesses, has spent the past month planning for Yoga in the Park.

“It was pretty easy,” she said. “I had to contact the city to make sure there wasn’t something else going on that day, and I had to contact a yoga instructor, and I was able to.”

Calissendorff said she recommended those dealing with stress try yoga. There are several benefits, especially for those suffering from suicidal thoughts.

“Usually when it gets that bad, when somebody feels like they want to take their life, there’s a cluster of things going on,” Calissendorff said. “It’s more than just one thing, but one of the things that’s likely going on is a high stress level, so yoga and meditation help with that.”

According to Calissendorff, other benefits of yoga include increased flexibility and lower blood pressure.

While planning Yoga in the Park, finding an instructor to teach the class was incredibly easy, Calissendorff said.

“The first person I talked to that was a yoga instructor was willing to do the event with us,” she said.

The instructor was Yogatopia owner Aletha Lassiter.

Lassiter, who started taking yoga classes in college, has owned Yogatopia for 10 years but has taught for 11.

Lassiter said Calissendorff contacted her through Facebook, she then added that she could easily relate to the topic and the overall theme of the class.

“I’ve struggled with depression and mental health issues my whole life,” Lassiter said. “I can be very empathetic for other people having similar struggles, so that’s partly why I agreed to do it, no questions asked.”

Yoga and meditation could help improve mental health. “Your mind is not your friend when you have depression, so you want to stay active and be distracted,” Calissendorff said.

Calissendorff recommended meditation to help those with stress and anxiety to help center themselves. However, Lassiter suggested that those struggling with depression should avoid meditation and being alone with their thoughts as much as possible and try to be more active instead.

“Your mind is not your friend when you have depression, so you want to stay active and be distracted,” she said.

Lassiter learned from teaching yoga to people with depression, as well as her own personal experience, that people with depression should try not to sit still while doing yoga.

She added that movement during yoga practice can release endorphins, such as serotonin and dopamine, which can counteract the chemical imbalance in the brain that causes symptoms of depression.

Aside from slow, continuous movement, Lassiter used mantras in her yoga practice. Mantras are positive phrases repeated mentally to change a person’s thoughts, mood and behavior, she said.

Lassiter also gave advice to those thinking about becoming yoga instructors.

“I would encourage them to take several different types of yoga classes,” she said. “There’s so many different styles out there, and you want to find the one that really resonates with you personally that you can be passionate about.”

Yogatopia is located at 246 E Main St. More information about how to get involved is available at Yogatopia and the Palouse Advocacy League’s website.