Benefits of Yoga Therapy

How can a yoga therapy session help you?

Show Notes: Episode 13



[Music intro]

The 8th Level Podcast is about being self-employed, entrepreneurship, and bootstrapping it. It’s also about unwinding and relaxing to de-stress when we are not working in our business, and then connecting to our soul. My name is Lourdes, and I am the host of this podcast. Thanks for tuning in!

Lourdes: Sharon, thank you so much for joining me on my podcast today, and welcome! How are you doing?

Sharon: I’m doing great, thank you for allowing me to come on your podcast! I’m really excited to talk about what I do and what I do.

Lourdes: So, as a yoga therapist, can you explain to our listeners what a yoga therapist is?

Sharon: The yoga therapist has been around for thousands of years. It’s a very ancient practice of working with yoga in a therapeutic way using all of the yoga tools. Because yoga’s just not the Asanas, it’s the breathing and chanting and using food, it’s almost like cognitive behavioral therapy. It encompasses everything you could work with a person. And so, you’ve got your yoga teachers who do work with people therapeutically, but a yoga therapist is someone who’s gone through a thousand hours of training, and then the work to be more holistic in their focus with people, and they tend to work one-on-one. There are groups, but it tends to be one-on-one. Right now, it’s a very evolving thing because there’s a group that is in charge of getting it more professional, more certified, and so it’s very hard to describe in a way because it really hasn’t been solidified as what a yoga therapist is. But they’re out there, working in hospitals, working with doctors in the medical field as allied health, so it’s a very interesting program right now, and I’m so thrilled to call myself a Yoga Therapist. I just recently was certified, in December of 2021, so it’s brand-new to me, but I’ve been doing it for a long time in many ways.

Lourdes: Congratulations on your certification!

Sharon: Thank you! It’s really neat to say that!

Lourdes: It sounds like a lot of work and a lot of hours went into that. So, I read part of your bio, and it said you did yoga for many many years, a couple of decades at least. Tell me, how did you get into yoga?

Sharon: It’s really a very long story, but bullet points is… After my father passed away, in his phase of transitioning, I spent many days with him and months with him. Trying to, with my massage, massaging him and using physical relaxation, and I was doing this just naturally. And then when he passed away, I wanted to dedicate my life to knowing how to take care of somebody in a healing mode. Even though he died, that was a healing in itself. So I started the massage school. And one of the things in massage school was self-care, and they recommended yoga. So I started taking yoga as a body care thing for a massage therapist. And then I started seeing that these poses were amazing for healing modalities, and so I would give my massage clients poses, and I would notice if they actually did the poses, when they came back to me the next week or the next month, that I could start right where I left off. They didn’t have to go back and do the same thing over and over again, and I found that they started coming less and less cause they needed less. Their bodies were healing faster, and they really didn’t the massage was something that was now more of a maintenance than it was a necessity. And that just got me really turned on to yoga, and I started learning more and more and I became a teacher. That wasn’t my plan, but I did and then I just started realizing there was more to just yoga than the āsanas, and that’s why I ended up being a yoga therapist, because I wanted to really I wanted to do as much as I could do it’s like yoga therapy is like the Master’s Degree of yoga it’s just there’s always more to learn. But that’s how I got here.

Lourdes: I did not know you pivoted your business, that you started in massage school and now you have this yoga business. Were there any challenges to starting a yoga business?

Sharon: Oh my gosh. Well you know there’s a challenge to doing any business. But, my business, Life Balancing Therapies, cause that’s the company LLC, happened so organically because I was making money, but I was doing something that could possibly have someone can say you did this to me you did that to me, which most people don’t do with massage or yoga, but there’s always that chance. So my husband asked me to include LLC so that they would have to go to the company, which didn’t have much money, and they couldn’t get to us personally. So that is kinda, here I was with this is called Life Balancing Therapies, and now what do I do with it? And for many years I did absolutely nothing with it. And then, about – Well actually covid happened. And it was hard to get it’s hard to reach out to people. So working with a wonderful amazing woman named Joyce Layman who taught me how to social network and market and fix my Facebook and all of a sudden I had a business. As I said, it just happened. And, the business part of me, my business brain side, is really hard, because my more creative, more therapeutic side, they’re clashing every so often. But that’s how my business came about, and that’s what I’m working. Like, I sit at the computer for hours and y’know, yoga therapist, heal thyself. And I have to get up and move around and stretch and breathe and do something, y’know like get away and change my mindset, read a book, or make dinner. It’s so that to get my brain from being in that mode. So it’s a balance, it really is a balance of sitting down and doing your work, and the balance of having a life outside your computer and your business.

Lourdes: Yeah, so you mentioned pandemic?

Sharon: Yeah?

Lourdes: With the pandemic, I don’t know if you have a studio or not, do you offer virtual classes?

Sharon: Well, I was teaching – I was renting space actually at another studio in town because I had my classes. And March 4th of 2019, I e-mailed all my students and said alright, we’re going on Zoom, and I said unless you don’t wanna do this anymore. The women I work with, I work with women and men, some men, I specialize in working with people with osteoporosis and bone density issues and posture issues. So these are women who need to keep going, they need that. And so, we got on Zoom and for the last two and a half years I have been working exclusively with Zoom. I just put a studio in my basement, and so some of the women for a while until the pandemic kinda flared up a little bit, were coming with a mask, one at a time. So it’s like a hybrid. And I’ve got women who don’t live in the same city, so I’m gonna always be on Zoom in hybrid. But, it was just do or die, and so I jumped in and did.

Lourdes: You mentioned other people don’t live in the local are you’re at, and they’re joining you via Zoom or virtually. Do you have prospects that reach out to you through Zoom or contact page, and how do you gain their trust to convert them into a client?

Sharon: Oh my gosh, that’s such a good question. Well, again, through my marketing teacher, she had prompted me to make a Facebook page, a private Facebook page. So I have a private Facebook page called Yoga for Building Strong Bones. And so I put my knowledge out there, and I also look for other people’s knowledge to share with them. And I have some videos of doing the poses, showing how to do the poses. So y’know, trying to reach out to people out there, showing ‘em that I am knowledgeable, that I’ve also been certified by Dr. Fishman who had done the study for 20 years on these poses that really showed they build bone. And so, I’m still working on e-mail and getting out to people with e-mail and reaching out and saying how can I help you or this is how I can help you. It’s tough, it’s tough out there right now. And it’s just about social networking is y’know, reaching out to people and getting to know them and seeing what they need and letting them know you care. Because I do care. My husband hates when I say this, but I would do this for free if I could, but he won’t let me. [Laughter]

Lourdes: I know. It’s like your passion, right?

Sharon: It IS my passion. It’s so neat to see when some of my students have wins, have victories. Whether it’s their self-confidence to go out and enjoy themselves because they’re afraid of falling and fracturing. I had one woman who started coming to me in the spring, I can’t remember of when, and she said to me “every winter I’m so afraid because when I sneeze I always crack a rib or fracture a vertabrae.” And so, after she started this spring, and she came back to me – I can’t remember, like January or February of that year –  and said “I’m so excited! I sneezed yesterday and I didn’t crack anything! And it was like, yay! Y’know? But the thing is, it’s so neat is that I’m teaching these poses, but they’re doing the work. And it’s through their effort and their intentions and they’re getting up and doing the practice, then they’re getting the reward. I always say you get out of it what you put into it. And they’re so amazing, I love seeing them grow and get stronger with their, not only their bodies but their self-confidence in themselves. It’s just neat.

Lourdes: So for somebody who’s not flexible, how do you work with that person? Some of us, sometimes I get pretty stiff from sitting too long, and the next thing I know it’s three to four hours later before I even get up from my computer and not knowing it’s been that long since I got up. And if I slouched that day, I have a backache or I feel stiff. What do you do with stiffness, and how can you work with people that say they’re not flexible at all?

Sharon: Well, the thing is, is that flexibility is not so wonderful. There’s people who’re actually hyper mobile out there, and they’re very flexible. And yoga’s really good for them because it helps them find some stability. But, for the person who’s not flexible, or has flexibility issues, or whatever, that is what’s so neat about yoga, is that yoga meets you where you are. And, let’s say you can’t bend down and touch your toes, that’s ok. Let’s just go back, I always start with my students with breath. Because the deepest muscles we have in our body connect to the nervous system, connect to the spine, and I call it the core, the skeletal system. And breathing short, and we have them breathing deep, of course we can’t bend! There’s no flexibility in the deeper part of us. So starting with the breath and relaxing those muscles, it starts from inward and moves out, and that’s what’s so neat about yoga. Because let’s say you’re doing a forward bend, and you have a chair. And you could even see on my Facebook pages how I induce a forward bend that’s like halfway down. And I bend the knees and so that because the hamstrings and the low back are connected. So if you straighten your legs and you do a forward bend, you’re not gonna be able to do it because there’s too much tightness. But if you release the knees, then the low back is able to relax and really, it’s about the spine. We want to keep the spine supple and healthy. And so a lot of these poses are about doing that. And there’s chairs, and there’s walls, and there’s bricks and all kinds of props that can help you modify the pose so that you can begin become flexible. Because y’know, when a child didn’t get up and run across the room, when we’re babies we crawl. Maybe even like the battle crawl. And then we get up on our hands and knees. And then we walk around with the, what they call it, when they’re walking around the chairs and stuff like that. And then they start walking across the room, it’s a process. And that’s what yoga is, is the process to get us from non-healthy to healthy.

Lourdes: I didn’t know you would start with breath work. That’s good to know.

Sharon: I’ve had people come to me with all kinds of problems. And I get them to breathe correctly, and I call them back in about a month later or a week later or whatever, and I go how are you doing? “I’m great I don’t need you anymore. My problem’s solved!” And I go, ok! Because, y’know, breath is the first thing we do when we come into this world. And it’s the last thing we do. We inhale when we get in the world, and we exhale when we leave. And in-between, it’s all about breath.

Lourdes: That is so true! I never thought of it that way, that’s kind of cool the way you explained that.

Sharon: It’s just all about breath. And if we’re excited we breathe fast, if we’re sad we breathe slow. And in-between, breath is a very energetic – you can tell how you’re feeling today if you listen to your breath.

Lourdes: Truly believe that, truly believe that. So to follow up on that question with flexibility, somebody who has had perhaps joint surgery, and let’s say they went to physical therapy, but y’know, you have I don’t know 6-12 weeks of physical therapy, but you’re still not the same. So, how would you qualify somebody to be going into this program with you?

Sharon: That’s a really good question, it’s a great question! Because, many of the therapeutic physical therapy things are yoga things, really. Many of them. There’s a theory out there, that long ago physical therapy was once yoga, and yoga was once physical therapy, they’re kind of intertwined. So y’know, if someone has been cleared for exercise or movement from their physician, and they’ve, they’re out of their physical therapy allowment for their insurance, and I work with people, y’know, price-wise, I’m not as expensive as a physical therapist. And if they bring their physical therapy program, y’know with the physical therapist already had worked with them, I can work with that and modify it or continue it or work it in within the yogic thing, Asanas. But also, it depends on, everything depends on how they feel, talking to their physician if they’re, y’know, I’d be glad to talk to physicians because that’s the thing. One of the things I wanna do is educate physicians that not all yoga is equal. You wouldn’t send somebody who has certain ailments to certain yoga, because some yoga is good for some things, and some yoga is not good for some things, and you don’t wanna have injury. So, talking about how flexible they are, what kind of physical abilities they have, you can put somebody in a yoga class and they can get harmed, and it really upsets me when someone says “oh I can’t do that anymore cause I hurt by myself in yoga.” And eyes go wide and go oh no! Cause that shouldn’t happen, yoga’s therapeutic, you shouldn’t get hurt in yoga.

Lourdes: That’s happened to me a couple of times. A friend of mine too, she’s hurt her wrist and she actually went to a doctor, found out something happening was really bad on her wrist, and they put her in a wrist brace, so she could not do yoga at all. I’ve hurt myself too, so I couldn’t do yoga at all, and I kinda gave up on yoga thinking oh my gosh, this a lot more work. It looks so easy, but it’s a lot more work. Now, I do know you specialize in osteoporosis and all the bone density, but what about somebody who has pain in the foot? What I notice that there’s a lot of yoga poses that’re standing up, and what if you have a, what do they call those, planter fasciitis?

Sharon: And neuropathy and all that kind of stuff like that?

Lourdes: Yes, yes.

Sharon: There’s a yoga community called Accessible Yoga. It was started by a man who has some physical disabilities. I mean, people who’re in wheelchairs do yoga. The thing is is that, I have to take a breath, really this is the PR marketing of the world. Just like y’know, has taken body image and just totally made a mess of that. They’ve taken yoga and made it very sexy and very this is yoga, like gut yoga and wine yoga and beer yoga and this yoga and that yoga. And that’s fine, because that’s very marketable. What seems to be not marketable is that there’s a yoga for every body, but not every body can do every yoga. And it’s so true. And also, there are thousands and thousands of yoga schools, not right now, future schools, for two hundred hour. And yeah they get a very – y’know, you want a doctor who’s been through all the training, you want therapists who’ve been through training. And so when you go to a yoga class, the yoga teacher should be saying “if you can’t do this, do this. If you can’t do that, do this.” They should know how to modify for everybody. They should not be doing their yoga practice up in the front of the room. They should be walking around and helping and noticing what help people are in their poses. And it’s called modification and alignment, and they should be very careful about it, that you don’t want someone to come and adjust you. But maybe say you know, “now move your hip, move your pelvis a little bit to the right.” Or, “rotate your rib cage a little bit more.” Giving you the anatomical instructions along with the breathing instructions to get into their own body and understand what their own body needs. And most people are very body asleep, not body aware. And yoga is about – it’s called – I have a teacher, her name is Christine Weber – and she calls it “innercise.” Yoga is innercise, not exercise. And it’s totally about being in your own body, understanding your own body, and how your body feels and works so that you can be your own inner physician, your own healer. And it’s just a beautiful beautiful beautiful gift that has been melted down to the exercise of the movement. Which is, it’s more than that. Sorry I just unloaded, I just totally, y’know.

Lourdes: Nope, let’s go for it, yeah yeah! So, you mentioned that the teacher should be walking around the class, and looking at poses. However, if somebody joins your class virtually, how would you do that?

Sharon: Oh, I only allow up to 5 people in my class at a time. I have a big screen, and so I call it the Brady Bunch view, where y’know, and so I only have 6 squares at one time, so I can see everybody. And I make sure that each student is on the camera where I can see them. And I’ve gotten to the point – it’s really funny – I’ve gotten to the point that I sit sometimes and I walk them through the pose. So they can’t y’know – they’re not looking at me do the pose, they are in their own bodies feeling the poses. And I can – I’ve gotten to the point – and I really, it’s amazing – I’ve gotten to the point that I can see if someone needs to rotate their rib cage, I can see if someone needs to move their foot. I can see if someone has an externally or internally move their thigh. And that’s – I have a little skeleton, I call Shelly, and she sometimes helps me help them see the way their skeletal body should be in the position. And so, I’m very technical. Sometimes to ad nauseam, but then my students really understand – I’ve gotten to the point that I have to keep challenging them, because they’re challenging me to challenge them because they’re getting so understanding of their bodies. And so when they get into the poses, then we start talking about how does this feel. More about the feel of the introspective feeling of how they feel inside, as opposed to what the big gross muscles feel like, we’re talking about the more subtle muscles of the body. And I get really technical, and I said, there’s only 5 of them, so it’s really a one-on-one, it’s a very small group therapy session.

Lourdes: It’s really interesting how you, I think I heard you say you’re sitting down while they’re doing the work. Now, I’ve taken yoga classes. I have to watch what the teacher’s doing so I follow them, so this sounds really different.

Sharon: Well, I’m [gonna] go back a little bit. And this is what makes it hard to get more students ok, this point, is because I’m not a pusher or seller. I’m just not – I say I’m not a yoga pusher but I am a yoga pusher. [Laughter] My husband says “You think yoga can solve anything,” I go “Almost!” So, I have a workshop, I do a workshop, I have people come to a 6 part workshop where I – And again it’s a small, small group of people – That I work with everybody and I teach them the poses. We go very slowly, and we learn how to be in the pose, and I give them videos of the that day of the workshop. I give them handouts so they can look at the poses. And I ask them in between the next workshop that they work on those specific poses, and they get very comfortable with them in their own body. Cause they’re not looking at me, they’re maybe watching the video, but then – and this is over time, ok? This is over time. In a newer group, I will do the poses, but I really try to tell them stop looking at me. Ok, here this is what I look in the pose, but I want you to close your eyes, and I want you to feel in the pose. I want you to feel yourself in the pose, don’t look at me. Feel your body in the pose, see if you can feel that. But you don’t know what I’m feeling. I want you to feel what you’re feeling, because it’s more about feel than it is about look. There’s a saying in Viniyoga, which that is one of my lineages, is that it’s form – function over form. What is the function of the āsana? What is the function of the breath? What is whatever, and think about are you getting that function. And if the form has to be modified in service of the function, then that’s ok. So you may not look like the yoga journal triangle, but you’re gonna get what you need out of the pose for your body, for your mind, for your health, for your healing.

Lourdes: Yeah. You’re blowing my mind right now! The way you just answered that yoga question. I would’ve never thought of yoga the way you just explained it, that is so interesting!

Sharon: Well, thank you.

Lourdes: So, lemme ask you, I’m gonna move on to my next question. What are you working on now Sharon?

Sharon: Well, I am working on trying to get more students, that’s one thing I wanna do. Just because, I wanna teach more. But, there’s another teacher, yoga teacher, who we, I connected with her by networking, and we started talking. She is also a student of Dr. Fishman’s, and she’s also a student of Viniyoga, so we had a lot in common. And the one thing that we were just aghast with, is that, how many yoga teachers there are out there who’re telling women who shouldn’t be doing certain movements, and teaching women and populations with bone density issues and fracture possibly injury issues, and not aware of it. Because it’s not part of their training, it’s just not in their training. And so we’re putting together a workshop for 200 hour teachers that’re just coming out of training, or even going into the schools and saying lemme offer this as one of your things you offer, classes you offer. And we’re putting that together to teach yoga teachers. And then what I wanna do, especially in this city as covid comes out of, we come out of covid, and we start going back into life as known before, is – I don’t wanna say certified, we’re not calling certified, we don’t certify, but knowledgeable of how to work with people with osteoporosis and bone density issues, and going to the doctors who are recommending going to yoga, and educating them that you don’t just send anybody to anybody. That these are women who have been trained and know how to work with yoga, yoga with people with osteoporosis. So that educating the doctors who to send their patients to, their clients to. So I’m really into education, I’m really into educating, getting that education out there.

Lourdes: Wow, I can’t wait to find out! How long do you think it will take you guys to get this together and to launch that?

Sharon: We’re trying to get it into prime time, and she’s pushing me cause I’m like ahhh! But we’re, March? March or April, I think it’s April, we’re going to do a beta workshop with some teachers that we know and get their feedback on it. And then once we feel like we’ve gotten it all together, then I’m gonna start taking it to yoga studios that have yoga teacher trainings.

Lourdes: That sounds so exciting!

Sharon: It is exciting, because I’m really nervous because – And this is the truth, I’m gonna be really honest here. I graduated high school, I have 150 hours of undergraduate hours. I could never, for whatever reason, could never get past going on and finishing a degree. As I say when I got, when I achieved my certification for yoga therapy, I really felt like I had, I know had more authority, I guess? To say that I’m knowledgeable. And my friends would say “you’re knowledgeable, you don’t need that.” And I’d say but y’know, part of my ego unfortunately needs it. But I feel more confident now saying that I’ve done this work, and I’ve also done a lot of study over the past 4 years since I’ve been certified by Dr. Fishman about bones and how to keep bones healthy. And I’ve gotten a lot of supporting websites and people that I don’t know I can go to them. And so, it is exciting and nerve-wracking, and I’m y’know. But I’m ready, y’know? I am ready. [Laughter]

Lourdes: Totally understand Sharon, and again congratulations on all your accomplishments!

Sharon: Thank you, thank you.

Lourdes: Thank you for sharing with us your knowledgeable information with this yoga therapy. This is all news to me, and I’ve taken yoga classes! So this is something totally different to me!

Sharon: Oh, it is, it is. And that’s the thing is, we as yoga therapists need to get out there and educate people what we do. Because I think they think we’re glorified yoga teachers. And yes, we are in a way, I’ll be honest. But we’re more than that. We’re more than that.

Lourdes: Glorified, that’s so good. Alright, so we’re getting to the part of the interview where I ask you a funny or weird question, are you ready?

Sharon: Oh no! [Laughter]

Lourdes: It’s not hard, I don’t think! Ok, so would you rather live in a cave, or live in a treehouse for 5 years, and why?

Sharon: Oh my gosh, that’s an interesting question! Depends how high – this is true – Depends how high the tree house is!

Lourdes: However high you want it.

Sharon: If it were just… Well, and there’s other questions like y’know, is it safe from rain, and is it gonna be warm in the winter? I’m a creature of comfort. Whereas the cave is always going to be one temperature, because that’s what caves are. So I am thinking – And plus, I’ve gotten to – I have to say, since I’ve been in covid, I have realized I am an introvert. I really like to stay home and just research and read and snuggle. So I’m gonna go with the cave. I think I could get [31:42]* internet. That’s the caveat. As long as I was able to get internet, I could be in that cave for a very long cave.

Lourdes: Yeah, like a woman cave! So I can see it all decked out with the yoga studio –

Sharon: Yeah, what is it called? A she-shack?
Lourdes: A she-shack, yeah.

Sharon: My cave would be my sea-shack. [Laughter]

Lourdes: [Laughter] That’s funny. So, do you wanna let us know how we can contact you and let our listeners know how to connect with you?

Sharon: I would love to connect with anybody who’d like just to talk about what we talked about. I just love talking about it. And the two ways – There is my website called which is all one word, lowercase. And then the other way to get ahold of me is on my Facebook, which is Yoga For Building Strong Bones. And then the last way is e-mail, which you’ll get in my website and you’ll get through my Facebook, but is So, any way you’d like to get ahold of me, I would just love to talk about – if you can tell, I love to talk about yoga, so I would enjoy that!

Lourdes: Great, thank you so much! And for the listeners, all this information will be in the show notes, so you won’t miss a thing. You don’t have to write it down, it’ll be in the show notes. So, thank you Sharon for sharing your knowledge about yoga therapy. You definitely woke my eyes and my mind up about how different yoga can be, and I really appreciate knowing this know. Thanks for educating me!

Sharon: Well Lourdes, this has been fun. Y’know I was a little nervous about this, but it’s been totally fun and I’ve enjoyed it. And thank you thank you thank you so much for allowing me to be on this podcast! I so totally appreciate it, thank you so much.

Lourdes: Sounds good. You’ll have to come back next time when you guys have all the doctors all educated here.

Sharon: Oh, yeah that’d be fun, I’d love to do that!

Lourdes: Alright. And in our next episode, we’re going to talk about the differences between a webinar and Zoom meetings!

[Music outro]

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