For some of us, yoga is just a fun way to get a workout while also letting off some steam (think: themed hip hop yoga, for example). But for others, yoga can be the best therapy there is. Allison Jones, a yoga instructor at Health Yoga Life, Open Doors Yoga, All One Yoga, and Exhale Spa, is one of those yogis. After recovering from a drug and alcohol addiction and bulimia, Jones found a refuge in the practice of yoga. Why is yoga so powerful? Jones tells us about teaching yoga to women with eating disorders and explains her newest passion: yogastrology.
When did your love of yoga begin?
I was in the process of recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and also bulimia. I had always enjoyed doing things that were physical, like running, but I was looking for something that also had a spiritual component. Someone had suggested that I take a yoga class eight and a half years ago, and I found that I loved it right away. It definitely fit with the new lifestyle that I was trying to live— a clear, clean, present lifestyle. Yoga was one of the only things I had found that helped me navigate my anxiety and depression effectively.
I wanted to deepen my own practice. I thought I might end up teaching a class on the side. But the training helped me gain confidence and helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin, which I’d never felt before. I started teaching mainly because I wanted to help other people experience the benefits that I experienced while doing yoga. When I started to teach, I found it instantly rewarding— seeing other people give themselves permission to fully exhale and feel better about themselves was so wonderful. I eventually left my 9-to-5 job, and now I’ve been a full time yoga instructor for a year.
You teach at the Monte Nido recovery home in Medford. What’s that like?
The recovery home has 10 beds for women of any age who are struggling with anorexia, bulimia, and exercise addiction. Some of them have had previous yoga experience and others have never done it, but the common thread is that none of them are comfortable in their own bodies. I try to lead practices there with a focus on breath and slowing down. I want them to be able to be present with what’s going on in their lives because most of them have been fleeing from being present for a long time.
What’s the best part of teaching at the treatment facility?
Sometimes after a class, one of the women will burst into tears because being in silence for five minutes at the end of the practice can bring up a lot of emotions. It’s been so rewarding for me so far to watch them get comfortable each week and to see them start to open up, to exhale deeper, to have smiles on their faces, to see them feeling comfortable in their own skin. There’s a quote somewhere that says that yoga is not about self improvement, it’s about self acceptance, and I really see that here. I’m so glad that yoga has been welcomed into therapeutic settings because it really works.
Why is yoga good therapy?
Yoga allows for the intentional slowing down and deepening of the breath, which is really important. When I think of anxiety, I think of short breaths right up in the top of the chest. By smoothing the breath out, by lengthening it and deepening it, you can calm yourself. Also, when you bring a mental focus to particular sensations in your body, it’s very grounding. When you’re focusing on your body, your mind can’t be focusing on anxieties. It might go back to the anxiety every once in a while, but during the practice we train ourselves to bring back our minds back when they wander. You might have to bring it back 20 times, but there’s something about it that’s so healthy.
What’s your newest focus in your yoga career?
I think we’re all one little piece of a greater whole, so to me it seems logical that the planets and the moon would have some effect on us. If I know what’s going on astrologically, I can use that energy in a positive way. I can harness the energies that are stronger right now and tap into that in yoga and in my life. I’m dying to do yogastrology, which is a fusion of yoga and astrology. Yogastrology teacher training is my next move, I think. Astrology is pretty out there for most people— I know that— but this training would allow me to bring elements of astrology into yoga in a way that would hopefully resonate with people.
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