A therapy first developed more than 100 years ago in India is helping contemporary Salem people lead less painful, more dynamic lives.

Salem’s Leah Fish says the therapeutic yoga sessions led by Dr. Zohra Campbell at Indigo Wellness Center have sped her healing from a compression fracture; Rebecca Woodcock, who faces the challenges of an artificial knee, scoliosis and a “lumbar region completely compromised from nerve damage in the lower back” has experienced increased flexibility and reduced pain and reports the practice has helped her “regain that sense of movement and that sense of confidence in your body that is as important as anything else.”  Christine Hannegan says she can’t imagine life without her therapeutic yoga at Indigo.

Significantly more training is required to conduct yoga therapy sessions than to teach traditional yoga classes.  Practitioners such as Campbell – the only one in Salem – must study the subject for 300 hours (200 hours are already required for traditional yoga teachers) and learn how the therapy improves the physical and psychological status of individuals with Parkinson’s disease, how it can ease the transition of teenage girls from incarceration to society and how it improves the flexibility of elderly individuals, according to the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Supporters cite Scientific evidence for the effectiveness of yoga therapy, especially as a treatment of depression, anxiety and schizophrenia so soundly that practitioners like Campbell now work in areas as diverse as early childhood education programs or helping children with autism, assisting veterans afflicted with cancer, breathing difficulties or PTSD or supporting patients who suffer from insomnia or autoimmune illnesses, among other ailments.

“I love this direction that my work is taking,” Campbell says.  “I entered a 300- hour yoga therapy training more than two years ago with the intention of bringing my chiropractic and yoga worlds together.  I was blown away at learning how current brain science and neurobiology are explaining how and why the practices of yoga: movement, pranayama, and mindfulness are so beneficial to mental health and general well-being.”

Indigo client Leah Fish is afflicted with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on both hands and recently suffered a compression fracture brought on by osteoporosis.  A yoga student since 2000, Fish began taking therapeutic yoga at Indigo Wellness about a year ago to address loss of flexibility, increased pain and healing times.  She was delighted with the results.

“The orthopedist said I healed faster and better because I did yoga,” she says.  “That was the best news.  They say, ‘mind, body and soul,’ and it’s true, I’ll tell you!”

After the introduction of yoga therapy in the late 1800s, the practice received new, wide recognition in North America in the 1980s when Dr. Dean Ornish published a study of the effects of lifestyle intervention on heart disease.  Ornish’s study showed that heart disease could be reversed through lifestyle changes including therapeutic yoga, meditation and diet.  In the 1990s, Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease was approved for health insurance coverage, making yoga therapy an official part of medical procedures.

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