Oct 4, 2005
From Anxiety to Ashtanga
Published in Noelle Ashley’s weekly column in The Norwood Bulletin

New York’s emphasis on material things didn’t suit Inez Stein. Growing up, she found the city pace oppressive.

Stein signed up for the fast track, finishing high school by age 16. At 19, she graduated college and got married.

Cramming her school years into such a short time stressed Stein out. “I was usually a nervous wreck,” she said. That was before she discovered yoga.

When Stein first heard of yoga, the only instructors were privately hired gurus. “It was the ‘70s,” she said. “I didn’t even have aerobics classes near me.”

Stein found a calmer life in New England, where her husband attended law school. As a CPA in Norwood, Massachusetts, she feels less pressure – except during tax season.

She was an unlikely fit for a career in accounting. “I was a psychology major, but I wanted to eat,” she said. On the CPA exam, Stein received the highest mark in the state, and one of the top in the nation.

Stein, 51, never stopped challenging herself. Now a certified yoga instructor, she feels she has come full circle. As director of In The Moment Wellness Center, she has “reconnected” with the psychology of both the mind and body.

When Stein was in her 30s, a friend insisted they drive two hours each way to try yoga. “The class was worth it,” Stein said.

After leaving a high-strung accounting firm in Cambridge, Stein opened her own CPA practice, but being her own boss was not worry-free. It took Stein a full hour to relax during tax season. “Preparing taxes can be stressful in itself,” she said. Yoga served as her release.

The most interesting place Stein taught yoga is the historic mansion at Pequitside Farm where, during the Revolutionary War, people held meetings in front of the fireplace. It was a yoga room with a view: huge, glass doors and panoramic windows overlooked the wooded grounds. One day her students watched a family of skunks walk right up to the glass. Quite a different atmosphere than a gym.

One student, Babette Mortell, broke her leg and doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to walk again. “But I had good balance from years of yoga,” Mortell said. “I may have a metal plate in my leg, but I still do yoga.”

Mortell has taken classes with Stein for ten years. “I like how Inez does something different in each class and she doesn’t buy into fads, like heating the yoga room to 100 degrees.”

According to Stein, not all fitness centers understand that yoga is more than cardiovascular. To get the full effect, one must practice meditation and breathing.

Stein begins each class with a philosophical reading. She likes to wander into bookstores, like the one in Harvard Square. She often finds material in the spiritual and meditation section.

Yoga has helped Stein break habits of how she views the world. She values the power of positive thinking and nonattachment, which involves being happy even when life doesn’t turn out the way we want it to be.

Stein quoted The Sayings of the Buddha: “We are what we think. Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakable.”

With six other instructors, Stein offers classes in Pilates and Hawaiian Hula. For her husband Andy, there are lessons in Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese exercise combining martial arts and flexibility.

“I’ve tried to convince my friends and family to do yoga, but they weren’t interested,” Stein said. “I realized that everyone has their own path. People learn and evolve in their own ways.”

One of Stein’s interests is helping those with multiple sclerosis. She runs a class for people with MS, who find that yoga relaxes them and in some cases, brings more feeling to their feet and legs.

Affirmations are another practice Stein supports. She says these short sentences should be chosen carefully and repeated often. For example: “I feel healthier and happier,” “My legs are stronger and support me” or “My body is using the medicine successfully.”

Stein’s father died fifteen years ago, and although her mother does not practice yoga, she shares similar beliefs. Stein values the principle that healing and wellness come from within. She wants to empower people to seek answers for themselves in life by raising their awareness.

Stein’s studio is decorated with chimes, the ying and the yang, leis and flowers on the wall. A unique touch is “Gymnastics Barbie,” who can demonstrate yoga poses like the forward stretch and straight back.

Of course, Stein’s students don’t aspire to be Barbie. “She’s too stiff,” Stein laughed, moving the doll’s legs. “And she fails Breathing and Meditation.”

Yet the inanimate object epitomizes peace, and the absence of anxiety, a value Stein and her students aspire to on a daily basis.

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