YOGA CLASSES ARE each so different that it’s possible to attend many before finding the perfect fit: a schedule that works, a location that’s convenient, and, most important, a teacher you trust. In lieu of that discovery, or when traveling, or simply for days between classes, I’ve always wanted a set of poses that could both be done relatively quickly and worked on my weaknesses: tight hamstrings and spine mildly stiffened by arthritis.
Hence: “yoga therapy”–offered at yoga studios and at more than 90 percent of “integrative medical centers,” known for providing a mix of Western and alternative healthcare, around the country.
When I arrived at Flow Yoga on P Street, a little early on an exceptionally hot July day– not a bad place to spend 15 minutes among Lululemon, Starbucks and the design stores on 14th street–each of three or four staff people greeted me, asked if I had been taken care of and avoided mentioning the sweat dripping from my face, hair, T-shirt, pants. Someone brought me a cup of lemony water.
My “yoga therapist,” Brittanie DeChino, assessed my body and gave me a series of 11 poses, including one “corpse” and three “child’s poses, which I liked at first: easy and so relaxing. In between were lunges and bridges, and a few other more strenuous poses. This regimen was confirmed when I got several of the same poses/exercises from a physical therapist dealing with my arthritic back. At the series end came the tennis ball, a new one to me: lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, roll the ball under each buttock, “30 seconds minimum on each side”–ouch!
Yoga therapy is generally used for modifying traditional yoga poses to suit your own body and for treating injuries. “There is a growing body of evidence that yoga may be beneficial for low-back pain,” according to NIH News and Events. On the GaiamLife website, New York rehab physician Loren Fishman prescribes downward-facing dog for osteoporosis, twisted triangle pose for piriformis syndrome (pain, tingling or numbness in the buttocks), and side plank pose for scoliosis–although these benefits may come mostly from yoga’s relaxing effects. Fishman says. “Just being calm is a tremendous asset when you are in pain.”
Believing that I should have more than one yoga-therapy experience to write about as well as being ready for something different and a little more demanding, I tried a different Flow Yoga therapist. From Gopi Kinnicutt, who had also been recommended by friends, the poses were very challenging–including triangle, revolving/twisted triangle and warrior, all modified to push and twist my spine. In contrast to the first therapy regimen, most of Gopi’s poses required standing up, which made me feel more like I was accomplishing something. And her entire series goes more quickly because it omits the long periods of relaxation that weren’t feeling very useful. Gopi also ends with a ball–though she prefers something harder like a baseball or soccer ball–to be rolled up and down one side of the spine and then the other–ouch! ouch!
Other good features of my Flow Yoga experience: being able to make all the arrangements by email–no phone calls with on-holds and voice messages; and, at the end, only scant reference to scheduling another session.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in an ongoing series that will sample local healthy-body experiences, including flotation tanks, far-infrared ray saunas and hot yoga. Suggestions are welcome.