AI Yoga

Deb Romano says yoga has helped strengthen her back and alleviate her spinal discomfort. She practices a form of hot yoga called Bikram at The Yoga Folk.

When Deb Romano, a second-grade teacher in Apollo-Ridge School District, drives to visit her cousins in Florida, the route is marked by pain from sitting so long. The moment she gets out of the car during the two or three stops along the way, her lower back, hips and knees are achy and stiff from the hours of sitting. But the past few trips she’s made have been different. She’s not fatigued. The pain is gone and she feels more energized.

What’s made such a difference? Answer: Yoga.

A Preventative Effort

Romano has a personal and family history of poor spine health. Around her birthday in 2016, her physician recommended she start a regular exercise program of core strengthening to help her avoid a hereditary, degenerative arthritic spine.

“I joined a gym and within three months I ruined an 8-year old recovered shoulder injury and irritated a few herniated discs,” says an exasperated Romano. “My chiropractor, Dr. Christina Debich, recommended yoga.”

Yoga was not an entirely new concept to Romano. About 20 years ago, she followed an at-home yoga routine using VHS tapes in her living room. But this time around, Romano took a different route. She decided to try a form of hot yoga, known as Bikram, at The Yoga Folk, a dedicated yoga studio owned by Erin Annarella-Kreidler. Romano took her first class in August 2016.

A Class for Healing

“Anybody can. Everybody should. Yoga for all.” This is The Yoga Folk motto and it certainly resonated with Romano. There are three class styles: Restore, Heal and Power. Heal, the class Romano takes, is designed for all levels of practitioners and emphasizes developing balance, building light strength, aligning posture and strengthening the spine. It was a perfect match.

One indicator of the high quality of Romano’s yoga experience is the level of attention she receives from the instructors.

They adapt poses for Romano so she doesn’t compromise, but rather supports and strengthens the muscles that contribute to keeping her spine healthy and relieve stress on her discs. It’s also been an important component to her healing.

Depending on the weather and time of year there can be as few as three people in the class and sometimes up to 15. But Romano loves going, and not even a snowstorm can stop her from attending the 8 a.m. Saturday class.

On and Off the Mat

“My instructors, (owner) Erin, Katherine and Aly, have coached me through classes to balance and improve my posture and alignment,” Romano says. “It’s amazing how tiny adjustments during class improve balance and strength to solidify a pose.”

But Romano has discovered that mastering a pose in class has very real repercussions in her daily activities. For example, her yoga practice has revealed that she favors one hip over another. As a result, she uses her heightened awareness to pay attention to her body’s posture throughout the day, readjusting herself to improve posture and create muscle memory.

“My chiropractor told me I have developed muscles where she did not think it was possible,” Romano says. “That was testimony that my yoga classes are definitely working for me.”

The benefits of yoga are more than physical. “The strengthening and balance while I’m there require a lot of focus,” she says. “I feel better afterwards. It gives me a period of time to be in a zone.”

And when Romano misses her practice, her body can tell. At one point, she was out of town for 10 days. By the end of that trip, her spine felt weaker.

Sweet Success

Romano celebrated her one-year yoga anniversary by splurging on a pair of yoga pants made by Teeki. Clearly, she is dedicated to the practice.

“I really feel the instructors are there for my wellness,” Romano says. “That’s one of the reasons I stay. We only spend an hour together but it’s like our little supportive community.”

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