Stretching the benefits of yoga

When people think about yoga, some think of it as a trendy exercise discipline for Lululemon-clad ladies.

Yoga is much more: a far-reaching discipline that operates on emotional, psychological and spiritual levels as well as physical.

Making yoga more than a trendy pair of pants

Robin Campbell, teaches Mental Health and Yoga Therapy Applications in the Yoga Therapy Extension Certificate program in Mount Royal's Faculty of Continuing Education. He developed the curriculum with Hana Stasny, another yoga therapist and instructor in the program.


Robin Campbell helped design Cont Ed.'s Yoga Therapy curriculum. Now he's using hoga to help women with a traumatizing past.

Campbell is also a family counsellor for the Sheriff King Home, working with women and children to overcome the effects of domestic violence.

It was his idea to introduce a weekly Restorative Yoga class to the residents. Child care is available so that the women can take time for themselves and experience deep relaxation and stress release.

Along with Kathie Rosenstein, a practicum student from the program, Campbell is bringing yoga therapy to abused women in YWCA's Sheriff King Home this fall.

The Sheriff King Home is a 38-bed emergency shelter in Calgary for battered women. Women come to Sheriff King Home for a maximum of 21 days. They are offered complimentary individual and group counselling, follow-up services and referrals in addition to food and shelter.

The first yoga therapy session was held on October 6, 2010.

"One of the women was really keyed up because she had a court case coming up with difficult custody issues," Rosenstein says. "She couldn't believe the stress relief she experienced after just one hour of yoga." Another woman reported an easing of her chronic back pain.

Mount Royal is ahead of the curve, yet again

Yoga therapy is an emerging field in North America, although it has been practised in India for ages.

The Faculty of Continuing Education and Extension at Mount Royal University has offered a Yoga Therapy Extension Certificate for experienced yoga teachers since 2009.

The roll of the Yoga therapist is to create individualized treatment plans to address common health issues and individual well-being, recognizing the interconnection of mind, body, emotions and spirit.

Yoga therapists work with clients one-on-one, in groups and with special populations, such as women recovering from abuse.

Sharing in this rare opportunity with our students

Campbell and Rosenstein have a lot in common beside their passion for the Sheriff King project. Both are working on their Master of Arts degree in Counselling Psychology, Robin with City University of Seattle, and Kathie with Yorkville University in Toronto.


Yoga Therpay student, Kathie Rosenstein works with Campbell at Sheriff King Houe to offer therapeutic yoga to women with a difficult past.

They expect to complete their programs in the spring of 2011. Kathie will also complete her practicum and the Mount Royal Yoga Therapy program in January.

Both Robin and Kathie originally came to yoga for personal reasons and deepened their understanding of the ancient tradition on their own and through studies in India.

They appreciate that yoga therapy can be adapted to individual needs. For example, Campbell has done therapy with a client in a wheelchair while Kathie has worked with a large group of children with ADHD at Third Academy.

"All these kids were running around like crazy and I couldn't imagine how I would ever get them to settle down. But soon all 25 kids were lying on mats, not moving for the whole 25 minutes," Rosenstein says.

Rosenstein considers herself lucky to work with Campbell. She is the first practicum student he has been able to take on.

"I thought that I already knew so much after taking a 300-hour yoga therapy program in India," she says. "But I realized I could spend my whole life learning more. The Mount Royal program has been amazing."

Kathie is passionate about bringing yoga to populations who would not normally have access to it or be able to afford it. They are surprised to learn that yoga is not just about poses and stretching, but has healing potential as well.

"Yoga is a service from the heart," Kathie says. "I teach yoga on a volunteer basis for 2 hours a week to populations that don't normally have access to it. That's what yoga is to me."

- Karen McCarthy, Sept. 28, 2010