CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Twisting this way and stretching that way during a yoga class is like attending therapy, church and the gym all at once.
At least that's what Folded Leaf owner April Woody tells her yoga classes.
"Yoga is different than plain exercise and just stretching," Woody said last week. "There's a deeper spiritual component to it. The mere epidemic of people struggling with anxiety and stress ... people understand that taking a pill to try to fix whatever is wrong with them is just like putting a Band-Aid on it and it doesn't address the issue."
Woody said her Bridge Road studio that she opened in January 2008 has seen an increase in attendance each year since.
About 1,000 people a month take off their shoes, lay out a mat and focus on forms at Folded Leaf, Woody said.
"I've never really had a month since I opened where I worried about the upcoming month," she said.
More than 20 million Americans practice yoga, an increase of nearly 30 percent since 2008, according to Yoga Journal.
Employment of fitness trainers, including yoga instructors, is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That job growth is faster than the average of all occupations, according to the BLS.
More than 250,000 fitness trainers were employed in 2010.
Fayetteville native Randy Boyd became a yoga teacher after he learned the therapeutic benefits the practice brings him and wanted to share it with other people.
The 57-year-old taught special education and then civics and history for nearly 30 years in Fayetteville schools. He said he would spend most lunch periods playing basketball with students in the gymnasium.
But his active lifestyle seriously started when he hit the whitewater rafting scene as a guide in 1981. For 15 years Boyd's back, knees, and shoulders "were just completely wrecked," he said.
He now teaches at Kula Community Yoga and Wellness Studio in Fayetteville.
"I've been very active all of my life. I found myself so injured I didn't want to give up what I did, but the more I did it the worse I felt," Boyd said. "I started doing yoga and was fortunate to find an alignment-based yoga that really is therapeutic for muscular skeletal injuries."
Yoga done correctly can heal the body, he said. And Boyd is living proof.
When he suffered a herniated disc, he didn't seek surgery or perform physical therapy. He perfected the alignment of a couple of yoga poses, instead, he said.
"The body is designed to heal," Boyd said. "It's not magic, it's using the body in a certain way. Yoga is about engaging muscles in a way that brings protection to the joints."
It's Boyd's strong belief in the practice that led him to organize a yoga retreat in his hometown next month.