PRESTONSBURG – To some people, yoga is something only new age hipsters do. However one fitness instructor is bringing yoga to the community of Prestonsburg. Troy Burchett, a fitness instructor at Pro Fitness also teaches yoga at First United Methodist Church located in downtown Prestonsburg.
Yoga as exercise or form of alternative medicine got a boost during the “yoga boom” of the 1980’s when Dean Ornish, MD, a medical researcher connected yoga to heart health, legitimizing yoga as a purely physical system of health exercises unconnected to a religious denomination. Since then, yoga has been used as a supplementary therapy for diverse conditions such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, depression and even AIDS.
Many of the students in Burchett’s yoga class say they sought the class after a medical condition affected their quality of life.
Kendell Epperson, age 74, is a student in Burchett’s class. Epperson said after having a pacemaker put in, he developed an infection in the area around the device. The infection was so severe, doctor’s had to perform surgery and remove the pacemaker and attempt to clean out the infection that had built up surrounding the device. The infection left Epperson with loss muscle control and left him with limited movement of his neck and shoulder.
“Taking this class in only four weeks has given me my life back,” said Epperson. “A little more than a month ago I was unable to turn my head. I can now turn my neck any direction I wish and can easily lift my arm and move my shoulder. The benefits of this class for me have been amazing. I recommend everyone come and try it. Don’t be embarrassed, it will be the best decision you have ever made.”
The class has a variety of individuals ranging from twenty-somethings to eighty-somethings. Yoga is something anyone can do and should do according to Burchett.
Yoga as exercise or alternative medicine is a modern phenomenon which has been influenced by the ancient Indian practice of Hatha yoga. It involves holding stretches as a kind of low-impact physical exercise, and is often used for therapeutic purposes. Yoga has been studied as an intervention for many conditions, including back pain and stress.
Mable Brown, age 87, is a student in Burchett’s yoga class. Brown suffers from Lumbar spinal stenosis. She takes yoga class a couple times a week at the urging of her children to stay active.
“I have always tried to exercise and stay in shape throughout the years. My children push me to exercise and I enjoy the company and the workout allows me to stay flexible, which is important when you’re my age,” said Brown.
Jerri Williams, pastor of the church also participates in Burchett’s yoga classes.
“We all benefit from any physical movement and exercise. I believe it is important to take care of the mind, body and spirit,” said Williams. “When we first started the class as we would progress through different moves, you could hear pops and cracks of joints. Now after a few classes, it is obvious the flexibility and movement has improved as the poses are becoming easier. We want to invite anyone who would like to try yoga to come down to the church Monday, Wednesday, or Friday or all three days if you like and try it out with us. We are hoping to start an evening class soon, but that has not been finalized.”
Yoga as a low impact workout is an easy way for those who haven’t exercised in a while or may have health concerns or limited mobility to begin an exercise routine.
“A lot of people say they would love to take a yoga class but they don’t think they can,” said Burchett. “I don’t know of anyone with an expiration date on the bottom of their foot. It doesn’t matter if you can do all the moves, what matters is your moving and movement is good for the joints and the body.”
Burchett teaches yoga for free, some give a love offering at the church every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon and at Pro-Fitness Multisports on Tuesday and Thursday at noon.
Andrea Saddler is a reporter for The Floyd County Times. She can be reached at (606) 886-8506.