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Getting a discount on inner peace
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Yoga impacts the five layers of the self, beginning with the physical body or outermost layer. The second layer is the energy or "pranic" layer which can sometimes get blocked. "A block in the flow of prana is the underlying cause of all our diseases," he says, so working in the postures allows you to open areas where that energy is blocked or stagnant, resulting in a deeper sense of vitality. At the third layer, yoga enables you to release emotions; at the fourth or mental level, it helps you create a single-pointed focus of mind, he says. And then finally on a spiritual level, it culminates into self-transformation.

A chance for change
"You ultimately learn to see yourself and your habit patterns from a more unbiased perspective, and with that revelation you can begin to make changes for the better in your life," he says.

I'm a believer in yoga as a way to improve health and vitality. And it also enhances the quality of meditation. After a session, I feel rejuvenated and relaxed, tangibly happier and serene. Of course, the effects wear off with time, so regular practice is necessary to maintain the yoga afterglow.

How much should this cost? "It's hard to put a price tag on something that creates peace of mind," says Feinberg. "To somebody who's in a really tough place, it could be priceless."

I can't disagree. But let's look at prices anyway. The cost for group instruction in a yoga studio in my neck of the woods varies from $15 to $17 for a 60 to 90-minute session. You can buy package deals, such as a 20-class pass for $220, or a monthly pass for $140 (best deal for daily devotees).

Once you learn the poses, you can practice at home or buy a DVD for about $20 that can lead a practice. I like the "Power Yoga" DVD with Rodney Yee, but others are also worth checking out.

Pursuing yoga strictly for the physical benefits is worthwhile, but the practice offers deeper gifts that are revealed over time. I'm still in the early stages of the journey.

"The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals."

-- Quotations taken from "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran

Longtime financial journalist Barbara Mlotek Whelehan earned a certificate of specialization in financial planning. If you have a comment or suggestion about this column, write to Boomer Bucks.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: April 19, 2006
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