Asana Xpress: Constructing a healthier life

Image 1. Uttanasana: Yoga instructor and physical therapist Ryan Conrad demonstrates Uttanasana, the next pose in the Sun Salutation series. This pose is considered calming to the the mind, stretches the hips, hamstrings and calves while it relieves tension in the neck and back.
Image 2.Therapeutic practice: Though he works as a teacher at Asheville Yoga Center and One Center Yoga, Conrad also works as a physical therapist and offers yoga intervention at Care Partners. Photos by Kate Lundquist.

This is the third in a yoga series that explores Sun Salutation poses and profiles lcoal teachers and students. Look for the feature online each week.

Translated, yoga means ‘to yolk’, or 'union,' and a yoga teacher is a guide who helps improve the health and functioning of an individual on all levels. Ryan Conrad, yoga instructor and physical therapist, lives this mission. He originally studied architecture, but decided trade the blueprints of buildings for blueprints of the body. In an attempt to improve his yoga classes, he combines Eastern and Western healing modalities. By doing so, he expects credence from both the medical world and the yoga community.

He receives both.

A teacher at Asheville Yoga Center and One Center Yoga, Conrad also works as a physical therapist and offers yoga intervention at Care Partners. He works closely with patients who had a stroke or a traumatic brain injury that resulted in orthopedic and neurological damage. To help them, he teaches stability, breath work and rehabilitation exercises. “Impairments become part of their identity,” Conrad says. “As the impairments subside, they see who they really are. Pain is distracting from that.”

Though perhaps not as severe as a stroke or a car accident, Conrad says everyone is lost to distractions throughout the day. This philosophy translates into his public classes.

“A tiny bit of prevention does a lot more than fixing something after the fact. We need to change habits and awareness to make a change for the future,” Conrad says. As a teacher who focuses on anatomy and physiology, he offers a unique understanding and approach to the postures that he attributes to his physical therapy background. For example, his classes provide his students with props and modifications for the poses.

Wherever and whoever he is teaching, he says, “My appreciation of who they are and an understanding as to what they need grows, and our relationship evolves and allows me to be a better teacher for both of us to progress along the path.”

Kate Lundquist is a freelance writer and yoga teacher living in Asheville. Her website is www.lightonbalance.blogspot.com, and she teaches Saturdays, 2:15 p.m.-3:45 p.m., at Asheville Yoga Center.

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