Yoga therapist Diana Hoscheit helps clients find balance and well-being through broad-spectrum yoga practices./Joe del Tufo
Two years ago, while in Midtown Manhattan for meetings, Greenville businessman and founder of the Global CO2 Initiative Bernard David began having chest pains as he briskly walked 12 blocks to the train station to return home. David figured it was the shishito peppers he’d eaten for lunch and “tried to power through it,” he recalls.
Aboard his Amtrak Acela, two fellow passengers, both medical doctors, told David he didn’t look well. “That’s the last thing I remember,” he says. David, then 60, collapsed to the floor, suffering what cardiologists at New York University’s Langone Medical Center would call a “widow-maker” heart attack. David felt soreness in his chest, a result of another bystander administering CPR before emergency responders arrived. “Only 6 percent of people survive something like this,” he says.
First, he had a stent put in, followed by a litany of medications and cardiac rehabilitation—and an epiphany: “It’s quite simple. Life is truly precious and it’s important that we take care of ourselves,” David told himself at the time. “Just as my heart is now remodeling itself, I, too, will remodel my life in the most positive way possible.”
To heal, the ever-busy David knew he had to slow down. He turned to local yoga therapist Diana Hoscheit, founder of Harmony Yoga Therapy in Wilmington, for help.
“Learning how to relax was vital,” says David, and Hoscheit taught him how to breath, literally and metaphorically. “Anyone can relax by breathing deeply and being present,” he says. “But most people don’t do that.”
David also adopted a vegan diet and started sleeping eight hours each night. His experience with yoga therapy has been so beneficial that even his wife and 94-year-old father have subscribed.
So, what is yoga therapy? “Essentially, it’s a personalized approach to help an individual find balance and well-being—physical, emotional, spiritual—through broad-spectrum practices of yoga,” Hoscheit explains. Yoga therapy differs from traditional practice in that it addresses multiple dimensions of a person’s “being” and is tailored to individual needs.
“In the West, a person shapes and molds themselves to fit the ‘physical’ practice of yoga, but in yoga therapy, the practice is molded and shaped to fit the individual,” she says. To become certified, practitioners are required to complete 800 additional hours of training that builds upon their 200-hour yoga teaching certification. They’re trained to work with individuals and special populations, like recovery groups or cardiac rehab patients.
“Here we tend to think of yoga as physical exercise, but it’s more than that,” Hoscheit continues. “It’s breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, meditation and a way of working with the mind to unravel the beliefs we have about ourselves and about the world that might be limiting us.”
At its core yoga therapy is about self-knowledge, says Hoscheit./ Photo
At its core, she says, yoga therapy is about self-knowledge.
Hoscheit’s clients come to her with myriad issues, from cancer to depression to addiction. Blending her yoga-therapy training with a background in Ayurveda (an ancient Indian healing system), her sessions typically combine talk therapy (this gives Hoscheit an idea of where a person’s imbalances might be, plus it’s cathartic for clients who often come to their own realizations just by talking aloud), bringing awareness to the breath and body, yoga poses that ease pain and balance energy, and techniques for focusing and calming the mind.
“We really look at five layers of the individual—the physical (anatomy), energetic (breath and chakras, or energy centers), mental (thoughts and beliefs), emotional (feelings) and the spiritual,” she explains. “Ultimately, all lead to spirit, or that connection to ourselves, nature and the understanding that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”
A lot of us are looking outside of ourselves for answers, she notes, but this process helps people turn inward. “Different postures have different effects on all these different dimensions. Yoga therapists understand the subtle differences and how to customize them.”
Throughout the process, Hoscheit and her clients continually work together to develop effective tools and techniques. “Learning how to customize their own process is where the empowerment comes in,” she says. “They realize they can influence the way they feel through certain practices.”
Yoga therapy has not only helped Hoscheit’s clients abandon harmful thoughts and behaviors, but it’s also enabled many of them to avoid painful surgeries and stop taking prescription medications.
“Often people who come to me have tried a lot of things that didn’t work,” Hoscheit says. “There are fewer side effects with yoga. I think this is an evolving field and that people are beginning to open their eyes to how much of an impact it can have on their well-being.”
Plus, once you know which techniques work for you, it’s free.
Yoga therapists adhere to a strict code of ethics and refer patients for treatments that are outside their scope. For more information, visit harmonyyogatherapy.com.