"Look at your hands," Elka said, as she grabbed my hand and held it up, fingers spread. "Take a good look at your hand. What do you see? Most people who do this look at only their fingers and completely forget about the space between them."
Yoga is an ancient practice that creates a sense of unity between the mind, body and spirit. It brings balance that we can take to other parts of our daily lives. Recognizing the distinct connection of the mind, body and spirit is the first step in yoga. It's the philosophy.
Elka Hauck is the owner of Namaste Yoga Center in San Diego. But she wasn't born a yoga guru. "I used to be a 'gym girl.' I would push my body when working out and had no recognition that the mind and body were even connected. I never cared what I put into my body, nor did I properly take care of myself," she said. "I didn't eat right, was always stressed out and had loads of anxiety."
Seven years ago she took her first power yoga class. "I started with power yoga because it grabbed my attention. I wasn't interested in the spiritual elements of yoga," said Elka. "I wanted a tough workout and a good stretch."
Power yoga gave her just that -- and much more. She began attending class regularly and soon realized that the benefits of yoga went well beyond its physical advantages.
"It made me a better person and brought me perception in life," she said. "When I started practicing yoga, I started thinking before acting. I started living in the present moment, instead of worrying about the past and the future."
"Yoga brings the awareness that the present is the most important thing to appreciate and recognize," said Elka. "Too often we look outside ourselves for peace and happiness. But it is present within us -- we just need to learn to live in the present."
As her time in the studio increased, she decided to train to be a teacher. After rigorous practice, she got her license and students followed her around town. "I started teaching yoga outside on the bay," Elka said. "When summer was over and the temperatures began to drop, my students begged me to find a place to teach indoors. Three months later, Namaste Yoga Center opened."
As yoga became a huge part of Elka's life, she began studying other forms of holistic healing to complement her practice. She will graduate this year from the International Professional School of Body Work, where she will receive her license to practice massage and various forms of energy healing, including reiki, a non-invasive form of Japanese energy healing.
Elka enjoys how these practices complement one another. "Massage and energy work bring me more connected to a person. I facilitate healing through touching the body and releasing energy. It's really connected to yoga."