When I graduated from college, my goal was to get into physical therapy school. As I was preparing my applications and completing work hours, I decided to take a 200-hour yoga teacher training course. During college, yoga had been a safe haven for me – it was there I would have 90 minutes of quiet calm, the complete opposite of what living with 5 women was like. It was in yoga class I also learned how to strengthen my body, which helped as I recovered from a back injury. So when my mom told me about a conference in California hosted by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), I knew I was in.

Symposium on Yoga Therapy Effect of SmilingThe IAYT is a collection of yoga teachers who are interested in the science of yoga and bridging the gap between yoga and healthcare. Some come from clinical backgrounds and are PTs, MDs, psychologists and psychiatrists, others work in healthcare settings, and some, like me, are yoga teachers who want concrete answers to why yoga makes us feel the way we do.

One of their annual meetings is called the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research (SYTAR), and was at this conference in 2011 that my career trajectory changed. I went to a morning practice session of a class called “Yoga Tune Up®” with Jill Miller and had no idea what I was getting myself into. In that first moment of having therapy balls pressing into my upper traps, I knew that whatever this was, I needed more of it. Lots more.

So when the opportunity came up for me to teach at SYTAR this year, I accepted! It was a full circle moment for me – my first trip to this conference was as a super green yoga teacher, unsure of what I wanted to do with my teaching and for this trip, not only was I now teaching at the conference, but am in a very different place with my career.

The class I taught was Total Body Treatment for Care-Givers, a 60 minute roll out with YTU Therapy Balls for the entire body. My goal was to give the attendees a tool to help them deal with stress, tension and injury so that they can live their passion however they want. It always breaks my heart when people are limited from doing something that they love due to a physical issue that can be changed. We too often accept pain, injury or limited mobility as a final curse that we will never be able to banish, but that simply isn’t so. The yoga therapists and yogis who attend SYTAR are giving so much to their clients and students each day – it was important to me to give them a tool that they could use to help themselves.

I’ll continue to share the nuggets I learned over the next few weeks, both here on the blog and on Facebook, but I will leave you with this: at a Yoga Therapy for Neck, Shoulders & Upper Back session with Rachel Krentzman, PT, E-RYT, she mentioned that activating the smiling muscles around the mouth helps to stimulate the release of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. These neuropeptides can help to lower the heart rate and blood pressure as well as lessen the effect stress. Isn’t that cool?! You can make chemical change in your body simply by smiling!


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