What is a yoga therapist?: Yoga therapy helps people heal on many levels. Many yoga therapists specialize in treating physical injuries such as torn tendons and sore shoulders. A yoga therapist will teach clients various physical postures, mindfulness practices and specific breathing exercises to alleviate pain and heal tissues. Yoga therapy also addresses underlying emotional issues that often lead people to become injured or develop chronic pain. A yoga therapist has a wide range of practices–meditation, guided visualizations, breathing exercises and physical postures–to help people heal emotional pain and trauma.
What did you do to become a yoga therapist?: I spent 5 intensive weeks at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts in the summer of 2011 studying in the Integrative Yoga Therapy Professional Training. I experienced a lot of self and group healing while I was there. The directors of the program believe that we can’t do yoga therapy unless we’ve experienced yoga therapy. And, you know, right from the beginning of my yoga practice–in 1995–I felt the healing effects of yoga. I was going through a divorce at the time and yoga helped me feel calm and gave me a sense of purpose and possibility. It also cured me of chronic situational and seasonal asthma. I also study shamanism and bring some of these techniques into my sessions.
What is shamanism?: It’s a healing modality that comes to us from earth centered cultures. A shaman is someone who experiences wholeness between him/herself and the natural world. Shamans understand that what we think creates our world. Their work helps people undo thought patterns that crate blocks and illness. Shamans work both cognitively to change these thought patterns and energetically to release the patterns from the nervous system.
How long have you been practicing yoga and shamanism?: Since 1995. I began teaching yoga as soon as I started practicing. Teaching is the best way to learn anything. I also taught freshman composition at a small technical college in southeastern Ohio for 9 years before moving to the metro-Detroit area to study yoga. That was in 2001.
What experience do you have with eating disorders?: My understanding of eating disorders comes from direct experience and personal observation rather than formal training in the field. In my 20s I had several bulimic episodes. At the time I was overly concerned with my weight and used purging to compensate for what felt like an appetite that was out of control. I didn’t realize what I was doing until much later in my life. I also saw my mother, who had undiagnosed anorexia, undergo electroshock therapy to restore her appetite.
Nancy, you’re at Inner Door twice a week in the afternoon program. What do you do in your sessions?: As lead creative facilitator, I draw from a wide variety of healing modalities to help clients experience themselves in healthier, happier ways. That’s kind of a nebulous answer. What it comes down to is that I connect with each person in the group and choose activities that will help give them confidence in themselves. I bring fun and surprise into each session—through movement, drumming, visualization, affirmations, audio recordings, mediations, trust exercises, and group discussion. My goal is to get clients to relax and to help them both value and enjoy themselves and their lives.
On a personal note: Nancy has 4 grown children and 8 grandchildren. She enjoys backpacking and travel.