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Yoga on the rise in West Virginia

By Megan Workman

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.

Todd Norian, the same master teacher who taught Boyd the training necessary to be certified in yoga, will lead a weekend retreat April 12 to 14 at Opossum Creek Retreat in Fayetteville.

Yoga retreat attendees will stay in log cabins and walk to a great room where they will practice in different classes.

Boyd said he wanted to invite people who "might not normally come to the area" to help boost the city's tourism.

While participants will spend a few hours of their days in Fayetteville inside the lodge bending and balancing, Boyd said he left enough time in the schedule for them to enjoy the city's restaurants, shops and even hiking.

That could convince them to come back to go mountain climbing, whitewater rafting or to festivals, he said.

"They can see the small town and how cool it is and hopefully generate some interest from people who are from out of state," Boyd said. "The New River Gorge brings the much needed economic roof to a southern county where coal was once triumphant, but it's not the economic driver that it was before."

The retreat supports Fayetteville's tourism industry, he said.

Opossum Creek owner Jeff Header said he welcomes retreat participants because it allows his company to expand and fill rooms during a typically slow season.

He is offering special pricing for the yoga retreat, he said.

Emily Jones, owner of Lifespring Yoga and Nutrition on Quarrier Street, said she is happy to hear Boyd is bringing a yoga retreat to West Virginia.

She said her studio has seen a gradual increase in clients since Lifespring opened in January 2012. Jones credits more awareness of yoga to a boost in the business.

"It's because there are studios like this space opening and making it available to people," Jones said. "It used to be not very long ago you could only find yoga studios in big cities and now they're popping up all over the place."

Charleston is a small city and even has two studios, she said.

How is competition between the two studios?

"Charleston has been really supportive of the opening of my studio," Jones said, "and I think it's great that there are multiple venues here where people can get the benefits of yoga for their body, mind, and soul."

For information about the Transformational Yoga Retreat in Fayetteville, call 304-573-0111 or visit www.opossumcreek.com

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.

 


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