How National Yoga Month Broadens Our Awareness of this Restorative Practice
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services chose the month of September as time to observe and promote the wide-reaching impacts of yoga on a physical, mental and spiritual scope. Almost a decade later, National Yoga Month has expanded its breadth and bandwidth to educate, inspire, arouse and mobilize thousands upon thousands of people to embrace yoga as a holistic adjunct to experiencing a balanced, sustainable and vibrant quality of life.
To gain more insight on why this nationwide campaign matters––both in our community and beyond––I spoke with two local practitioners, Liana Bryant of Rosemary Court Yoga and Paula Morris of Empowered2Wellness Yoga Therapy, both of whom were eager to share their philosophies on how this ancient healing modality is just as relevant in modern times as it was thousands of years ago. Below are the highlights of our conversation...
Natural Awakenings: What is the importance of setting aside a month to raise awareness for the practice of yoga and the culture surrounding it?
Liana Bryant: Having a month dedicated to yoga encourages people to give it a try––often for the first time––and I support that endeavor! The more people hear of yoga and its immense benefits, the more prone they are to experience it and develop a lifelong practice.
Paula Morris: The public’s understanding of yoga is still evolving. Many individuals still don’t think of yoga as a health resource––a genuine “complementary alternative medicine” according to the National Institute of Health. There are misconceptions about what yoga is, and valid concerns that yoga postures might not be accessible for some people. Those with chronic and severe challenges need yoga presented in an approach that safely and therapeutically accesses its life-raising benefits.
As a yoga therapist, I can reach people whose needs aren’t best served in a traditional class format and adapt yoga for them. Yoga therapy doesn’t have to be practiced on the floor, making it more accessible for most ages, bodies and conditions. I can accelerate yoga’s benefits to one’s health and quality of life by personalizing and targeting programs to specific needs and imbalances. Ongoing sessions empower better outcomes because specific problems are attacked at multiple levels, and the therapy is integrated into a person’s lifestyle and existing healthcare.
Yoga therapy assesses which mind, body and lifestyle practices serve the current constitution of a person without doing any harm, then executes a customized plan to guide the individual toward independently managing and improving their health and well-being. Major research and medical organizations worldwide have now studied and documented many such programs, and found them surprisingly effective, with even better long-term results than some currently accepted medical interventions.
NA: How long have you been practicing yoga, and what are the benefits you have personally experienced through this discipline?
Bryant: I've been practicing yoga since 2002, with a primary practice in Ashtanga Yoga. During this consistent morning practice, I have found more presence in my life. I find comfort in starting each day with this practice, as it makes both my mind and body feel just as they should.
Morris: More than a decade ago, I was inspired to teach yoga to help others discover the benefits that helped me. I am both an experienced RYT-500 yoga teacher and a C-IAYT yoga therapist. In 2013, I graduated from the first phase of Integrative Yoga Therapy’s three-year program, now the official yoga therapy teacher training at the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts. In 2015, I completed specialist certification for cardiac, cancer and chronic disease management from Nischala Joy Devi, the yoga therapist whose ground-breaking cardiac program with Dr. Dean Ornish reversed heart disease in clinical studies.
After three years of therapy training and case internship, I submitted my application to the approval board of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, and was accepted for meeting the new professional standards to qualify as a certified-IAYT Yoga Therapist. One of the greatest pleasures I have working with clients is the privilege to watch their lives improve before my eyes because of the power of yoga therapy.
NA: Can you describe the mind-body connection which takes place through yoga and how this can lead to a more balanced state of wellness?
Bryant: Through practicing yoga, I have found that intentional breathwork helps connect my mind and body, allowing me to become more present. This focus on both my breath and movements keep my mind from wandering elsewhere, allowing me to enjoy a more centered state.
Morris: Surviving breast cancer is a life lesson in the value of mind-body practice. Doctors might save our bodies, but recovering quality of life requires a different skill-set we all must develop ourselves. During this difficult rebuilding process, I healed faster than others on the same path at the same time, and I believe this was due to the mind-body strength training I had invested in for over a decade.
When I couldn’t improve the body state, I worked to improve the mind and energy states. My mind state allowed me to recover calmness, courage, and positivity, and to recognize the tiniest steps of progress as evidence that I could keep improving until I actually did. If I hadn’t cultivated these life skills from ongoing training and practice––even with a strong body, if not the strengthened mind, spirit, and healthy lifestyle––the results could have been different.
Both personally and with my clients, developing and targeting mind, body and lifestyle together has amassed health reserves essential to resiliency, mitigation of symptoms, reduced aging and post-traumatic growth. I call it increasing your “well-th account,” and research now confirms it. The more we pull together as a whole, the more powerful we are.
NA: Is your studio planning to host special events, workshops, classes and other client incentives during National Yoga Month?
Bryant: Prospective students are encouraged to call or email Rosemary Court Yoga to schedule a complimentary consultation. During this time, we can help students find a class that would be an ideal fit for them.
Morris: During National Yoga Month, I invite everyone to a complimentary taste of yoga therapy’s benefits––especially health providers, caregivers and people who are not able to participate in studio classes. All throughout September, reserve your appointment to receive a personal wellness survey and 15-minute restorative session at no charge.
We are also discounting monthly packages of targeted programs from September through December. These include therapy for chronic anxiety and insomnia, breathing imbalances, metabolism and weight control, arthritis and mobility, posture and balance, back pain and core, fibromyalgia, lymphedema, heart disease, cancer and other chronic issues.
During lunchtime hours, we schedule private 15-minute “Chill-Outs” to take care of YOU while taking care of everything else on your agenda. Reduce stress, clear the mind and recover energy, while reclining in silence, with music meditation or by guided meditation. It’s the fastest “pick-me-up” I know to get you feeling great!
Our free small-group yoga therapy classes at In the Pink Boutique on Fruitville Road also continues on Wednesdays to empower women through all stages of cancer treatment and life recovery. Subscribe to our contact list for upcoming events and programs via our website.
NA: What advice would you offer to someone who has not tried yoga and might feel intimidated about getting started in a regular practice?
Bryant: I highly suggest that new students speak with someone about finding a class for their unique lifestyle, as there are several different styles of yoga. Starting in the right class makes it more likely that a consistent practice will develop.
Morris: There’s an expression, “life is comfortable in our comfort zones, but nothing grows there except the fear of losing security and the same problems we’ve always had.” If you haven’t tried yoga because you’re intimidated or made it a priority because you assumed it wasn’t important, just give yoga therapy a shot. Choose to go beyond where you are currently struggling, and remain open to what could be possible. If we’re not working on ourselves daily, we’re just spinning on the hamster wheel of life. Yoga therapy will empower you to realize better possibilities for your own well-being.
Rosemary Court Yoga is located at 810 Central Ave., Sarasota. To schedule a complimentary consultation this month, call 941-952-5280 or email [email protected]. For more information, visit RosemaryCourt.com.
Empowered2Wellness Yoga Therapy is located at 1219 S East Ave., Suite 104, Sarasota. To schedule a complimentary wellness survey and restorative session, call 941-316-6893. For more information, visit Empowered2Wellness.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer based in Southwest Florida. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features practical tips for embracing an active, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.