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Finding strength at Peace Yoga Studio

Reporter Danielle Switalski (left) tries yoga in a class offered by Diana Sutrick (right) of Peace and Yoga Studio of Menomonee Falls.

Reporter Danielle Switalski (left) tries yoga in a class offered by Diana Sutrick (right) of Peace and Yoga Studio of Menomonee Falls. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Oct. 7, 2013

"If only you could walk a mile in my shoes." We've all read it, thought it, and most likely said it, but how many of us have actually tried it?

Every day, each of us wakes up and tackles the day. Some of us head to an office and are inundated with phone call after phone call. Others don a uniform and ready themselves to help those in need.

Though it would be impossible for me to walk a mile in everyone's shoes, I am bringing the adage to life. From sweeping floors to farming, I am taking myself out of my comfort zone and being put to work like never before at businesses around Germantown and Menomonee Falls.

Telling me to relax is like telling a toddler to sit still. Spending the day at a place that specializes in relaxation was more out of my comfort zone than many other professions I've gotten a behind-the-scenes glimpse of since I started the In Your Shoes series. I run around and try different things, but relaxation isn't usually part of the deal.

In the early morning hours of Oct. 3, I stepped into the shoes of Diane Sutrick, owner of Peace Yoga Studio. The Yoga Studio is in the same building as The Healing Space, a holistic wellness center in downtown Menomonee Falls. That day I was introduced to four medical modalities in the building: yoga, chiropractic, reflexology and psychotherapy where I learned to do laughter yoga. Before last week, my knowledge of these practices were slim to none.

I was shown ways to enhance my own well-being, a mission the specialists and practitioners embark on every single day. Being a high strung, ball of stress, if someone would have told me I'd be inspired to breathe a little deeper, laugh a little longer and sit a little straighter by the end of the day, well, I still would have laughed a little longer — at the joke.

Sutrick was kind enough to ease me into helping her teach yoga. The first class was gentle yoga, which uses a chair for some sitting positions and to help with balance poses. The class is tailored for anyone, with any physical ability. Sutrick says the beauty of yoga is that it can benefit everyone, at all levels. Through utilizing simple yoga sequences, combined with the rhythm of the breath, the yoga classes' goals are to quiet the mind, release inner peace and help you find your center.

You work at your own ability, which was lucky for me, since I didn't have much of that. We went through the moves from sitting and stretching your arms to one side to the star position that entailed balancing on one foot with the other pointed to the side and your hands in the air. If you'd believe it, I actually took ballet lessons from the age of 3 until 18. I didn't really want to know the truth about my deteriorating coordination skills, but by deep breathing — an integral part of yoga — I was shocked to find myself mimicking Sutrick's star pose. (OK, maybe mimic is too strong a word, but it was pretty close.)

Relaxing can be hard to do

At the end of every class, you spend about 10 minutes laying on your back with your eyes closed, breathing deeply, finding inner peace. As we laid on the ground, Sutrick went around gently pushing everyone's shoulders downward. When she got to me, my eyes were wide open. I was curious about what everyone else was doing that I kept sneaking a glance at them.

Plus, our newspaper photographer was hovering above my head sneaking pictures, making it hard to breathe easy and relax. But, I got another chance — without a photographer.

As the first class ended, a stream of people left and a new group arrived for a full blown yoga class. Sutrick and I had 10 minutes to transition from one class to the next. I don't know how she goes from one class to the next. I was ready to go from one class to a nap. Sutrick teaches on average 15 classes every week, sometimes four per day.

The hour-long class tested my core muscles and flexibility through a variety of poses. It was difficult, but in a good way.

By the time the second class was coming to a close and I was told to lie down on my back and breathe deeply, I was ready to fully embrace the exercise. This time I kept my eyes shut, focusing only on my breath. After literally stretching my body as far as it would go, breathing deeply, I felt calmer than I have felt in a while.

I carried that calmness with me as I spent some time getting introduced to holistic medicines practiced at The Healing Space.

Learning proper posture

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Theresa Arts, certified massage therapist with Touch of the Arts, Mike Meleski, owner of Meleski Family Chiropractic, and Elizabeth Boeck, licensed therapist, who is also a laughter yoga instructor, tie their practices together through education.

When I met with Meleski, he said he would rather see a lot of patients, very little, than a few patients, a lot. The less he sees patients, the more he knows he did his job about educating them to live a healthier lifestyle.

I don't know much about chiropractic medicine, but the longer I sat with Meleski, the more I learned how terrible my posture is. Not surprising as I spend a lot of time in front of a laptop with my head stretched out like a flamingo, shoulders slouched. Meleski showed me a few simple demonstrations about what poor back and neck posture can do to your spine. I have been sitting up straight ever since. Though it hurts, he said so does working out for the first time. But, eventually, he assured me it will get easier and help me avoid a world of hurt later in life.

When I met with Arts I learned reflexology, though she also offers massage and spa services. She tries to send everyone home with more knowledge on how to live better. Reflexology can be used every day if you are shown how. It is based on the premise that the feet are a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect the image of a body. It is an ancient Egyptian method of medicine where the physical act of applying pressure to the feet can produce results.

For example, if you have knee pain or lock jaw, there is a part of your foot you can massage every day, which is supposed to ease the pain over time. It is also meant to help people relax their entire body, simply by having your feet rubbed in certain areas. Arts said many patients come in and use reflexology in addition to other forms of treatment to address a variety of conditions. I've been trying it lately when I get headaches, which has been taking some stress away.

Complementary medicine

These practices are not meant to be an alternative to modern medicine. Rather, Boeck said they are a complement to it. Boeck specializes in anxiety, depression, grief issues, wellness coaching and behavior techniques and teaches clients stress reduction and meditation techniques. She taught me laughter yoga, which I never heard of until last week. Laughter Yoga is a simple exercise, where you very literally sit with a group of people and laugh. Last week, Boeck and I sat in her office, trying different laughs until you are completely out of breath, then breathing in deeply.

This form of yoga can have a myriad of effects such as decreasing depression and anxiety. It seems so simple, but as I was doing the act of laughing, it made so much sense. For example, Boeck said if a client has anger management issues, she tells them to practice laughter yoga. I tried it later that day as I was driving home about to honk at a driver. Per Boeck's advice, I made myself laugh. I may have looked crazy, but she was right, it was better than shaking my fist at the driver.

If there was one thing I learned last week, it was that there are many small and simple changes any of us can make to enhance our overall well-being. The Healing Space sent me home with the knowledge to improve my life. From sitting up straight to laughing, the little lessons can go a long way.

WHY THIS JOB IS FUN

· meeting new people

· making a difference in people's lives

· maintaining a healthy lifestyle

WHY THIS JOB IS HARD

· sore muscles

· exercising patience

· requires a deep understanding of the body and how it works

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