May 25, 2010
Nikki Saad came to yoga to learn to breathe again.
She's stayed because it did that and more—it helped her combat chronic stress.
"It's so peaceful and relaxing," said Saad, a 29-year-old cancer survivor who attends yoga classes almost every day at the Yoga Shelter in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. "I especially like going when it's darker outside. The instructors walk around and help you, and the things they say are inspirational. The music they play is soothing. One time, I just had tears coming down my face. I was so relaxed, I felt I could let go."
She's not the only one letting go of stress through yoga.
As the nation suffers through a recession that has touched nearly everyone—whether through unemployment, foreclosures or worry over money—area yoga studios are seeing more people looking for an antidote to rising stress.
"People travel less, they eat out less, but they spend a little bit of money getting healthy," said Donna Orbovich, who opened the Yoga Shelter in Grosse Pointe, Mich., in 2008. "They find they don't need the external stuff they're spending money on, but they say 'I have to be here, taking care of myself.' It's been profound for people, to see that they are stressed, but they have the tools to deal with it."
Orbovich said, on average, 90 students attended classes each day a year ago. Now, despite the continued economic troubles, that's up to 100. She tops out with about 150 in classes each Monday.
Emily Tennyson, 53, of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., has gone to the Yoga Shelter for the past year. She has noticed the uptick herself.
"On a Sunday morning, it's like a parking lot on Black Friday," said Tennyson, who describes her own stress as "typical." The mother of three works as a freelance writer, and finding assignments has grown more difficult as media outlets have slashed freelance budgets. Her husband works in the auto industry.
"It's very therapeutic," said Tennyson, who attends class every day. "It's quiet. It's thoughtful. You just feel better. I don't understand enough about yoga to know how it works. I just know it does."
In 2008, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that by 2018, the fitness instructor industry, which includes yoga teachers, should grow 29.4 percent—a number that's higher than the average for most other industries. It's comparable to the nursing care industry, which was projected to grow 27 percent as the baby boomer generation ages.
Yoga has become a nonintimidating option for the masses.
Saad started yoga as a form of lung therapy. The St. Clair Shores resident was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2005 and has had two bone marrow transplants. She has been in remission for three years, but had to quit her job with AIG, move in with her father and suffer through the side effects of chemotherapy and steroids.
Her stress is constant and, because of complications from her transplant, she is short of breath. The steroids have made her face swell; her self-image has been damaged. Saad said the hardest part is realizing she'll never go back to her old self.
But yoga helps.
"If I could, I'd go to yoga twice a day," Saad said. "I look forward to it and plan my day around it. I always feel better after going."
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