In today’s fast-paced world, technology and innovation are ever increasing, but so, too, are stress and anxiety.
One local woman is bringing the ancient practice of yoga to the community in order to combat stress and help children and adults increase their overall wellness.
“I truly believe in the healing power of yoga and I’m excited for the opportunity to share that with people in the area,” said Kelly Dougherty. Dougherty is the owner and instructor of Yoga On Main in Elkin. She also teaches yoga at the Yadkin Family YMCA and works with area youth as well.
“One of the most amazing things about yoga, from my personal experience and a lot of other experiences I’ve witnessed, is that yoga meets you where you are,” Dougherty said. “You don’t need to get in shape to start yoga, you don’t need to already be flexible to start yoga.”
In her classes, Dougherty takes special care to instruct her students on variations of the poses that work best for each individual.
“The present moment is the best time to start a yoga practice, and it meets you where you are,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said that even individuals recovering from injuries or with other health conditions, can find a version of yoga that will work for them.
“I really believe that yoga is available for every body type, situation or health condition, and it’s one of the only physical exercises that I think doctors really encourage people to do no matter what their health conditions are,” she said.
Pictures of yoga practitioners balancing on their heads, or other challenging poses, may lead some to believe that yoga is not something they can do, but Dougherty said that simple yoga practices and even simple mindfulness exercises associated with the practice, like focusing on the breath, can bring health benefits, especially when it comes to stress.
“In my personal yoga classes, we start every class with a breathing practice and end with a breathing practice and that can simply be laying on our backs simply focusing on our breath,” Dougherty explained.
A lot of the value that Dougherty sees in yoga is being able to take time out of the day to clear the mind of thoughts that are causing stress. The mind constantly is turning on a to-do list, thinking of what’s going to happen later in the day, or what happened earlier in the day, which can lead to stress and tension in the body.
“All those things that our minds get caught up in, all of these things they breed a feeling of stress in the body and then the body reacts with tightness in our shoulders, tightness in the neck, our heart starts beating faster and the body immediately goes into that fight-or-flight mode. What yoga does is it really tunes in to that parasympathetic nervous system letting all of that fight-or-flight mode calm down or ease.”
Dougherty has worked with area youth at local schools and with other groups to teach yoga as well. She said even children and teens can greatly benefit from learning the practice of yoga.
“There have been tons of studies recently, specifically in the mindfulness meditation practice, which is very aligned with yoga philosophy, that it is great for ADD,” she said. “It helps kids deal with stress and anxiety. It’s also really good for kids with autism to get some body awareness.”
Yoga can be a great tool for children as their bodies are constantly changing and growing, she said, and one that will be valuable to them for the rest of their life.
“Yoga really gives them an opportunity to get in touch with their body and notice what’s happening, notice how feelings of stress and anxiety are resonating within their body; and once they learn those skills to identify them, they can separate themselves a little bit from it and give themselves a little space, which really we can all use, and I teach the same things with adults.”
Dougherty began her own yoga practice about 10 years ago when she took a free class offered at York College in Pennsylvania, where she was a student.
“The teacher was amazing,” Dougherty said. “She kind of lead us through a similar way to how I teach now. She taught us poses and I’d go home and practice them. Me and my friends would practice them at home.”
She said she fell in love with yoga and it all evolved from there.
After college, Doughtery spent two years living in Nicaragua where she taught English and art. She also worked with a women’s group there and began to show them and other friends how to do yoga.
“It felt really natural for me to share what I did on my own with them,” she said.
After moving to North Carolina a few years ago, Dougherty said she decided to take a yoga teacher training course. She completed a year-long training with Sunrise Yoga Studio in Clemmons where once a month she would spend all weekend at the studio doing yoga.
“It was an amazing program,” she said. “I felt like my knowledge about yoga, the physical process and the mental practices just exploded and I was able to really jump into it.”
Dougherty has been teaching at Yoga On Main, located in the lower level of The Liberty, for three years now. She also recently began teaching yoga classes in Yadkinville at the YMCA on Thursdays with a lunchtime class and an evening course at 7:15 p.m.
At Yoga On Main, Dougherty offers a variety of classes for all levels, including a new class focused on restorative poses.
For those interested in giving yoga a try, she recommend trying at least three classes to start with. She also noted that there any many types of yoga, and something for everyone is out there.
“People should also know that if they’ve ever tried one type of yoga or if they do try one type of yoga and they don’t enjoy it, it doesn’t mean that yoga’s not for them,” said Dougherty. “There are so many different styles, ways of teaching, types of teachers. I encourage people, even if they decide I’m not the teacher for them, to really try another type of class. Though what I teach may not be what they’re looking for, there’s probably something out there that can help them in some way.”
Even the internet can be useful for someone interested in the practice of yoga, she said. There are many short videos for beginners available online. Dougherty said some people may prefer to try that at first to get an idea of the practice before attending a live class.
In addition to her regular classes at the Yadkin Family YMCA and Yoga On Main, Dougherty will also be doing special outdoor yoga classes this summer. Yoga with a View will be held on the second Sunday of the month April through October alternately at Skull Camp Brewery and Round Peak Vineyards. Those classes are $15 and include a glass of wine after the class.
For more information visit Yoga On Main on Facebook or www.yoga-on-main.com.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.