They say that married life can be stressful, but so can being single. The lack of affordable housing, the increase in telecommuting lifestyles, pressures on the job, and rude people everywhere you go can put a tremendous amount of stress on a single person. So what happens when there is no one to go home and "vent" to at 6 o’clock in the evening?
Smart singles are finding answers to living in a homogenized, information and technology-driven, hyper-militarized culture can lie with ancient practices like meditation and yoga. What’s more, people who suffer illness as a result of job stress can often find the solutions to their aches and pains — real or imagined — through yoga.
Leslie Hadley, one of the instructors at the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health (PCYH), leads the once-a-month Yoga for Singles program at the center, located in the Montgomery Professional Center off Route 518 in Skillman. Hadley is a low-key, low-stress yoga instructor, coming as she did from a high-pressure job at an international relocation company. Hadley adopts a pleasant, hypnotic "yoga instructor voice" while leading a handful of us in a Friday night Hatha Yoga class. Students can bring their own yoga mats or use one provided by the well-equipped center where Yoga for Singles meets the second Friday of each month.
"We do an introduction in the beginning of the class, and I ask my students to talk about their experience with yoga and what they do for a living," says Hadley, a Plainsboro resident, before a Friday evening Yoga for Singles class in July. "It’s just a place to come and take a yoga class and then people can just talk and enjoy themselves afterwards," she adds.
Hadley says the levels of experience in the group vary. "We have some very beginner people to more advanced people, but I teach pretty much all basic Hatha yoga poses. The advanced people can do a little bit more, and the beginner people can do what their bodies will allow them to do. I pace it so there’s not anything extraordinarily difficult."
Hadley, who has been practicing Hatha yoga 10 years and teaching for the last five, was laid off from her high-powered international relocation job in February. A single woman, she says she’s been having a ball the last few months, as she’s gone into business for herself, teaching yoga classes and practicing Reiki and massage in house visits. "My life is totally fun now, and I love this, I’m thrilled with everything," she says.
PCYH is a seven-day-a-week facility tucked away in the back of the Montgomery Professional Center, next to the woods. The idea for the once-a-month sessions for singles was her own and that of Deborah Metzger, who owns and operates PCYH. Metzger, raised in Queens but based in Roosevelt for the past 25 years, is another ex-New Yorker. She began practicing yoga after she developed health problems pneumonia while pregnant.
"Like a lot of people from my generation, I dabbled in yoga in the 1970s," says Metzger in a phone interview, "but I developed pneumonia and then asthma when I was pregnant in 1984. The basic story is I was told by the head of pulmonary care at Princeton Medical Center that when you get asthma this late in life, you don’t outgrow it." Metzger’s son was born healthy and she refused to give up on her own health. She began pursuing alternative solutions for her asthma.
Metzger, who has her masters in social work from the University of Pennsylvania, founded WomanSpace, a shelter for battered women, in Trenton 26 years ago. She worked for the New Jersey Division of Mental Health Services in Trenton prior to opening PCYH in its first location, at Montgomery Commons Office Park, in September, 1996.
PCYH celebrates its eighth year of existence with free yoga classes for all first-timers, from Tuesday, September 2, to Sunday, September 7. In addition to Yoga for Singles, there is a huge variety of programs. These include aromatherapy, massage instruction, yoga for kids, yoga for mothers and their newborn babies, hot yoga in a temperature-controlled room, Kundalini yoga, yoga for golf, and even Feng-Shui, the ancient Oriental practice of how spatial arrangement can affect mood. PCYH has 30 part-time instructors teaching 46 different classes are offered. At PCYH, Hadley also teaches restorative yoga, yoga for kids, Dharmic yoga, and Hatha Flow yoga.
Metzger, who spends most of her time at PCYH dealing with administrative functions, still keeps her hands involved in teaching, and she, Hadley and all the other certified instructors at PCYH attend yoga retreats and seminars frequently, to broaden their knowledge and range of experience.
"I need to teach what I need to hear, and the stresses in my life seep into my brain, too," says Metzger. "Nobody is an expert at yoga, and I love to share what has been beneficial for me with people. Lately, I’ve been concentrating on teaching new students, so that’s become a specialty of mine."
After her bout with asthma and the successful delivery of her son, Metzger pursued a variety of complementary healing modalities, including yoga, she says.
"Each of us has a place where the body breaks down," she notes, adding she’s back on medication now for her asthma. Although she found relief from it for a number of years, she says there’s nothing wrong with a little Western medicine to supplement her yoga practice.
"There are other things we can do to bolster our immune system and stay active and stay healthy. Some people have other injuries from over-working and stressing out, and that’s why we have our center, so we can help people find their own ways of healing," she says.
"At the center we have many different experiences, it’s not just yoga," she says. She adds belly dance, meditation, and Feldenkrais to the PCYH list of classes. This summer, PCYH even introduced a chair yoga class for people with limited mobility and the wheelchair-bound. The center also hosts drum circles, chanting circles, and evening entertainment by folk and folk-rock singers like Robin Renee, a longtime fixture on the New Brunswick music scene.
Ravi Singh, a nationally known Kundalini yoga teacher, will travel to PCYH in October, Metzger says, adding many nationally known instructors are booked — to deliver lectures and classes or some combination of both — this fall. The PCYH will host 44 special workshops and lectures from September to December.
"It’s a well-kept secret that there’s a lot of cool people who come to yoga for singles," she says. "You can have a good yoga experience while meeting new people, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people. It’s not the bar scene, you don’t have to buy anybody a drink, and you don’t have to put up with smoke."
Yoga for Singles always involves tea and snacks after class and a period to mingle and socialize. Recent classes have attracted up to a dozen singles, sometimes more.
"We’ve been getting almost even amounts of male and female, and that’s always nice," says Hadley. "It’s a nice group, though I’d like to see our classes get bigger. Every month is different, and we just encourage people to come out and experience it."
Open House , Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, 50 Vreeland Drive, Suite 506, Skillman, 609-924-7294. First-time visitors to PCYH may attend classes without charge from Tuesday, September 2, through Sunday, September 7. Register by phone or online at www.princetonyoga.com
Yoga for Singles classes meet Friday, September 12, 8 p.m.; Friday, October 10, 8 p.m.; Friday, November 14, 8 p.m.; Friday, December 12, 8 p.m. $20 per session.