|Posted by Emily Gareis on April 11, 2011 at 11:49 PM|
IndeOnline.com / Kevin Whitlock
Registered yoga teacher Emily Gareis leads a class of chair yoga at the Northwest Stark Senior Center.
By Erin Putsa IndeOnline.com staff writer
Posted Apr 10, 2011 @ 07:00 AM
In the middle of life’s most overwhelming moments, there is always Om.
All across Stark County, recreation centers, YMCAs and hospitals offer yoga classes with the aim of creating stronger, healthier communities.
It’s no wonder why.
According to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology last week, those who regularly practice yoga could be reducing their risk of stroke.
Study author Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, an associate professor with the University of Kansas Hospital explained that study participants who had atrial fibrillation — irregular, often rapid heartbeat — and participated in yoga for 45 minutes three days a week saw the number of episodes of atrial fibrillation drop by half.
Canal Fulton resident Emily Gareis, for one, believes it. Gareis, a registered yoga teacher and owner of Earth Yoga, will be among the first to say that the regular practice of yoga has changed her life for the better.
“In the meditation of yoga, you let go of all your little baggage. When you do that, even for just 30 seconds, it is refreshing,” Gareis said. “It has helped me, not only mentally, but it helped me physically.”
Learning to let go of her concerns and fears pulled Gareis through some of her toughest times.
In 2006, Gareis was caring for her husband who was right in the middle of a battle with cancer.
“He had major surgery and was recuperating,” Gareis said, “and I was in a car accident — hit head on by someone. Suddenly, I wasn’t just dealing with the mental stress of what my husband was dealing with, I couldn’t move my legs.”
The movements of yoga helped to her strengthen her muscles and regain her balance — enough to give her the confidence and belief that she could make a full recovery.
“Yoga has given me back a sense of balance. I still use a cane, but I have confidence,” Gareis said. “I can go outside and be OK if the weather is not too hot. It’s given me a sense of peace in that regard.”
Those moments of quiet where she could let go of her concerns and worries gave her the mental strength she needed to come through every obstacle.
The benefits of yoga are widespread. So much so that people of all ages and abilities are finding themselves benefiting from the regular practice of yoga.
“You think of yoga and you often think of some guy with a very long beard in some funky pose,” Gareis said. “If you don’t think of that, you may think of the starlets walking down the street with their little dogs. Rarely do you think that the person doing yoga is your neighbor, the boy next door or the football player. But those are the people doing yoga.”
Allen J. Rovner M.D., an Aultman-affiliated radiologist with Radiology Associates of Canton, is one of those you may least expect to be practicing yoga. After surviving a stroke five years ago, Rovner turned to yoga as a complementary exercise to help maintain flexibility and fitness.
“I’ve exercised for many years and after having a stroke, I realized I needed to be agile and limber and needed to have a very good sense of balance,” Rovner said. “That’s when I thought about yoga.”
Rovner works regularly with Bob Goerke, a registered yoga teacher who teaches classes through Aultman PrimeTime. After several sessions with Goerke, Rovner noticed marked differences in flexibility and movement.
He also discovered it was the perfect stress reliever.
“One of the things about yoga,” Rovner said, “is that you can take a short break from work and do some yoga stretches and that’s enough.”
Gareis gets that.
“Part of the yoga experience is that you quiet your mind,” Gareis said. “You may get into a situation when you are overwhelmed and all of the sudden you realize you can take a deep breath and let go.”
Robert M. Felden, D.O. medical director of the Aultman Center for Pain Management, doesn’t practice yoga, but he has seen how it has benefited patients.
“It does increase flexibility and strength and improves posture,” Felden said. “It will also reduce heart rates, which reduces blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease.”
Although Felden doesn’t recommend it as a replacement for traditional medical treatments, he does believe that yoga can be an excellent complementary therapy. Often, patients are encouraged to try yoga to help reduce blood pressure, relieve stiffness or improve flexibility.
“A lot of those patients are already on a lot of medications that may have a lot of side effects,” Felden said. “This is a way to promote good health and reduce stress without the use of additional medication and that is a big plus for some patients.”
Age and ability doesn’t determine who can participate in or benefit from yoga.
Gareis, who teaches classes in the area, leads a regular chair yoga class at the Northwest Senior Center. It’s designed specifically for folks who may be limited in their range of motion, so the movements are soft and mild. There’s no crazy, twisted positions here.
And those who come back week after week see the benefits of the gentle yoga.
“It’s not something that happens overnight,” Gareis said, “but the little things go a long way. They notice when they go to stretch for something in cupboard that it’s a little easier.”
Goerke teaches regular yoga classes through Aultman’s PrimeTime program that geared specifically to senior citizens, but he also teaches classes at fitness facilities around the area and at the Massillon Recreation Center.
There’s certainly a reason why credible institutions such as hospitals and fitness facilities offer yoga as an exercise or therapy option.
“You figure,” Felden said, “that yoga has been practiced for 5,000 years. The medicines and therapies that don’t work, won’t stand that test of time.”
Want to know more?
• For more information about Emily Gareis, the classes she teaches or Earthyoga visit www.earthyoga.webs.com/.