Yoga's Healers : Therapeutic Yoga teachers work with the vulnerable


Not everyone can do the dynamic flowing sequences or poses taught in active forms of yoga. But therapeutic yoga reaches a population that is unable to move and bend as easily, including the elderly, ill, injured and pregnant, as well as those who simply want to slow down.

When Santa Barbara resident Cheri Clampett developed the form more than a decade ago while living in L.A., she had the vulnerable in mind.

“In the late ‘80s in Los Angeles, AIDS was really prevalent and a lot of my dear friends were dying with AIDS,” she said. “I started teaching a class for people living with HIV and AIDS. A lot of them weren’t well enough to do the traditional yoga poses.”

Now the renowned yoga therapist has co-authored “The Therapeutic Yoga Kit” with Biff Mithoefer (Healing Arts Press, $29.95) so that people can learn to do the healing practice at home. The boxed set includes a book, 16 cards with photographs of the poses and a CD of guided routines and meditations.

It’s due for release on Thursday and will be carried locally by Chaucer’s Books, Paradise Found, Drishti, Santa Barbara Yoga Center, Borders and Barnes & Noble.

Therapeutic yoga incorporates elements of restorative yoga, which uses props such as blankets, to help support people in passive poses; gentle yoga; body work; breath work and meditation.

“The great thing about this is anyone can do it,” said Mrs. Clampett, who’s taught popular yoga classes at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara for about a decade. “I’ve done it with 90-year-olds. I’ve done it with people in hospice that were dying. Wherever you are, it can support you.”
While therapeutic yoga teachers guide classes and may gently massage their students, people at home can learn to do the poses, along with self-massage and self-care techniques.

A cancer survivor, Mrs. Clampett used therapeutic yoga techniques in conjunction with other approaches to help herself heal from her illness years ago, she said. But therapeutic yoga — and the kit — is really for everyone, she added, “because we all need to slow down and find balance in our lives.

Local yoga therapist Cheri Clampett, shown here at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center, where she teaches, recently co-authored
“The Therapeutic Yoga Kit” (Inner Traditions, $29.95).

Cheri Clampett demonstrates gentle body work, which is part of
therapeutic yoga, on a student at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center.
She developed the modality more than 15 years ago and trains
teachers around the country.

“We’re all living in such a fast-paced world. One of the gifts of the practice is it allows you to relax and meditate. You can be quiet and still and reflect about your life, while these poses open and stretch your body in very positive and healing ways.”

For a decade, Ms. Clampett has led teacher trainings in therapeutic yoga around the country for yoga instructors, nurses and other health practitioners with Arturo Peal, a Santa Barbara-based yoga therapist and aikido teacher. (Incidentally, he was one of the models in “The Therapeutic Yoga Kit’s” card deck.)

Mr. Peal, who previously taught at Yoga Soup, recently opened the Yoga Dojo in the back of the building at 121 N. Milpas St. Since the newly refurbished studio is shared by Aikido of Santa Barbara and has soft tatami mats covering the floors, it’s an ideal environment for therapeutic yoga classes, which he offers Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.

“Typically in the classes it’s usually people of a certain age,” said Mr. Peal. “There are some youngsters — youngsters meaning somebody in their 30s or 40s — but a lot of the students are either a little bit older or can’t do a regular practice because of their injuries.”

“I try to make a class that everybody can do all of,” he added. “Even if they can’t do it, I’ll bring a lot of modifications … They’re not trying to fold themselves in half. They’re getting comfortable being in their body, working with breath and movement and awareness.”

The classes are intentionally small so that Mr. Peal, who’s also trained in craniosacral and trigger point therapy and acupuncture, can give students individual attention. The maximum size is 15 students.

Those who don’t typically do yoga or work out can benefit from the gentle, simple practice. “I’ve had students say this is the first exercise they’ve done in 30 years. And for somebody to start moving and feeling comfortable in their body is just wonderful,” said Mr. Peal. “It’s sweet that people can start to enjoy their bodies again, even though they aren’t 20 and super bendy any more.


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