As a Yoga Instructor I receive a lot of questions from friends, students, and people that I meet on a day-to-day basis. Despite Yoga’s increasing popularity and the tremendous amount of media attention it has been receiving, there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding this ancient practice. I decided that I wanted to reach out to people I admire in their respective fields to dig a little deeper, find some new answers, and new information about yoga. I conducted this second interview with Andrea Paquette of Holistic Health Services. Andrea has been a board certified nurse practitioner for over 20 years, working in the southern New Hampshire area in various health care settings. She received her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Salem State College in 1984 and her master’s degree in Maternal/Child Health Nursing from Boston College in 1988. She earned her certification as an Advanced Holistic Nurse in March of 2009. Clients say Andrea’s kind and compassionate care addresses the needs of the whole person – body, mind and spirit. Her areas of expertise include holistic health care, pediatrics and eating disorders. She specializes in nutritional counseling and education, behavior modification counseling, dietary supplementation, mindfulness training and relaxation techniques. Andrea is a strong and dedicated Yoga Practitioner whom I admire as a friend, a teacher, and a student.
AS: Please tell me a little bit about your first introduction to yoga and how that practice has evolved for you?
AP: I started doing yoga about 15 years ago. I was tired of the gym and wanted to enjoy exercise. Yoga gave me so much more than I expected. Not only exercise, but body awareness, alignment, flexibility, strength, balance, stress reduction, joy and clearer thinking about myself, life and relationships. Yoga is an integral part of my life and always will be.
AS: I am fascinated with the ways that Yoga has assisted me and my students with channeling energy into a positive experience for body, mind, and spirit? How effective do you find Yoga as part of a holistic approach to treating anxiety and depression?
AP: Regular yoga practice is very effective as part of a self-care regimen to keep you healthy in body, mind and spirit. It helps with many symptoms of anxiety and depression, such as low mood, nervousness and body aches. Your yoga practice can be very meditative and private when you need to calm down and refocus. Or it can be very social and physical when you need to build confidence and challenge yourself.
AS: In what ways do you see Yoga as a tool to help individuals that have issues with food? Do you find that the practice assists them with figuring out what types of foods fuel their body to be strong and healthy? Do you find that it helps them pause and become more mindful about what they are putting in their mouths?
AP: Yoga is an excellent practice for mindfulness training. You can use the same principles of body awareness and thought awareness taught in yoga to become more mindful about your eating patterns. Yoga also helps with self-esteem building which leads to self-trust. When you trust your decisions about food, you can eat more intuitively which is usually healthy and balanced. Also, you just want to eat well because you have this awareness of which foods fuel you and which deplete you.
AS: What are your thoughts about how important the education and experience of the instructor is? How necessary do you believe it is for the instructor to have a yoga practice of their own?
AP: I think it is very important that a yoga instructor be well educated. I like instructors who learn several different styles of yoga and integrate them into their teaching. Amy, your integrative, eclectic approach to teaching really makes yoga accessible and enjoyable for anyone. I like to keep learning new poses and techniques so I expect my yoga teacher to do the same and keep her/his classes fresh and fun.
AS: As a medical professional, what do you consider to be some of the biggest health benefits of Yoga?
AP: Wow, I could go on and on about the health benefits of yoga! To start with, just learning to breath properly is so beneficial for oxygenation of the organs, muscles, brain, etc. The twisting poses help with digestion and detoxification. The focus on correct body alignment contributes to good posture and prevention of injury. The practice of quieting the mind lessens chronic worry and anxiety. Yoga has so many well-documented health benefits that all types of health professionals prescribe yoga for several types of physical and mental health conditions.
AS: Have you seen Yoga make a dramatic difference in your well-being and/or the well-being of your patients?
AP: Personally, yoga has been a stabilizing factor in my life. Along with good nutrition, yoga can be the cornerstone of a vibrant healthy life. In my work, I have seen many patients experience physical symptoms that will not resolve because their mind and/or spirit are distressed. If the mind and/or spirit are not healthy, then patients can experience chronic symptoms in the body, such as stomach upset from nervousness, headaches from stress, etc. Yoga is an exercise/practice that keeps the whole person in a balanced state of well-being.
AS: As a Holistic Nurse Practitioner, how often do your “prescribe” Yoga to your clients?
AP: I prescribe yoga for many different health conditions. Usually clients bring it up before I do, asking if yoga will help them and where they can find classes. I would like to see more of my clients practice yoga, but they often say they don’t have the time. Believe me, yoga is worth finding the time, money or whatever it takes to get you on the mat working your body and brain. For me, even if my yoga practice is challenging it is always restorative. I come out feeling more energetic, uplifted in spirit and proud that I did something for myself.
Did this interview answer some questions for you? Is there additional information that would like to know? Please let me know.