Excuses for not doing yoga: I have to be super flexible. I have to be able to clear my mind of every little thing. I have to twist my body into a pretzel. It’s going to hurt. I just can’t do it.
No. No. And no. Not so.
These are some of the common myths that yoga therapist Beth Hughes works to dispel with every class she teaches at the Healing Arts Center of Rome. She founded the center in 2012. It moved to its present location at 318 Broad Street in August 2013.
“Yoga can be difficult,” Beth Hughes said. “But it can be restive and restorative and everything in between.”
“I mainly work with seniors,” she said. “I understand a lot of the problems they have because I’m beginning to have them myself. … You’re not expected to perform like an athlete.”
Hughes is not just a yoga teacher, which would only require her to have 200 hours of training. She has spent thousands of hours training and teaching, and as a result of years of work and study, Hughes has her certification as a yoga therapist with the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She also holds a master’s degree in yoga therapy from the Maryland University of Integrated Health.
IAYT has more than 5,300 individual members hailing from at least 50 countries and 165 member schools. Its mission is to achieve recognition for yoga as a healing art and science.
Yoga therapy is not where Hughes expected to land as an adult.
She had been a computer programmer. That is how she and husband Terry met. After moving to Rome in 1999, Hughes started taking classes at Berry and became schoolteacher.
Hughes attended her first yoga class when her girls — both now well into adulthood — wanted to go to a yoga class while they were in high school. The mom and two girls started going to a yoga class at Rome Health Spa, which was located at Central Plaza off Glen Milner Boulevard.
Hughes’ daughters eventually stopped going, but the classes sparked something for her.
“I had this innate sense that I had to teach,” she said. “I think teaching was just in my blood and it still is.”
So she started training to be a yoga teacher and eventually taught her own yoga classes at Rome Health Spa, Rome Athletic Club, the Harbin Clinic Vitality Center, in shelters and private schools. She teaches classes at Mercy Care, Brookdale Senior Living and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
In addition, Hughes is available for private, one-on-one sessions if a person prefers this setting.
“When I was little, little, little, I wanted to be a mermaid,” she said, laughing. “I can do a mermaid pose. … And I can even remember in the 1990s watching ‘Dharma & Greg’ and their yoga and thinking that’s a little kooky. Now I’m living a ‘Dharma & Greg’ lifestyle.”
And it’s not so kooky after all.
“There is a misconception that yoga people are ‘out there,’” Hughes said. “I hope to break that stereotype...People think that it’s religious. That’s not true. It’s spiritual. It can be as spiritual or as non-spiritual as you want it to be. I’m a practicing Episcopalian and I feel like it deepens my Christianity. Yoga can deepen any spiritual practice that you have.”
The popularity of yoga has grown considerably in recent years. Though yoga may trace its origins to ancient India, nowadays this popular approach to balancing the mind and body is practiced all over the world.
It combines movement, meditation and breathing to help the body and the mind. It has shown measured success in reducing PTSD and chronic pain.
“People are so stressed. It’s important to understand the physical effects of stress, including how it causes inflammation in the body,” Hughes said. “The single act of taking a deep breath can break that.”
It doesn’t have to be painful. If something hurts, ask for an alternative movement to the one that is painful.
Sharing the benefits of the art has become Hughes’ passion. One of the most prominent benefits is that it can reverse the negative effects of stress.
The foundation of the Healing Arts Center of Rome was laid in 2011. Hughes started attending a group in Rome where other individuals who practiced related arts met together to share their expertise. There was yoga, touch therapy, sound therapy, to name some of the arts.
“We needed to have a center where we could get together, but we had no means to make it happen,” she said.
Hughes realized that she herself had the means, and — stepping out on faith — the Healing Arts Center of Rome was born in 2012.
She sits back and thinks about her journey thus far.
“It feels like this is the skin I was meant to wear,” Hughes said. “It just feels right.”