Stress busters

A rain stick creates a soothing ambiance as the students settle onto the props at Asheville Community Yoga. An African kalimba evokes a delicate higher tone while the didjeridoo sends a strong, fluid sound around the circle.

It’s Friday afternoon, and Robin and Corey Costanzo’s restorative yoga with didjeridoo meditation class aims to help people release the week’s stresses while giving mind and body a rest. Corey and Timothy Burgin, another local yoga instructor, choose instruments to play as they walk around the room, giving everyone some attention.

“The music and sounds can evoke different emotions,” Corey explains. “It’s interesting what one sound can do to one person, and another can have a completely different experience. It plays on emotions and anxieties that are unique.”

As the students shift poses, the music changes too, working in harmony with Robin’s calming words and gentle assists to create a supportive environment where each person can examine their emotions, anxieties and stress.

Robin, a masseuse and yoga instructor who taught at the famed Esalen Institute for 15 years, is now in the midst of an advanced, 500-hour teacher training. “The yoga practice is steeped in mindfulness,” she notes. “We approach the student as an individual, not as someone that needs to be fixed.”

The Costanzos met when both were working at Esalen, a pioneering holistic center in California’s Big Sur; they’ve now teamed up to give clients here a well-rounded therapeutic experience. Besides the weekly Friday class, the couple also operates Still Point Wellness, a downtown Asheville spa. While Robin offers massage and therapeutic yoga in one room, Corey, a certified somatic psychologist, conducts sessions next door. Working in tandem, they aim to provide a retreatlike experience right in the middle of town.

One of Still Point’s more unusual features is a flotation chamber — a vaultlike, 10-by-12-foot black box filled with heavily salinated warm water — that gives users a chance to be completely devoid of sensory stimulation for an hour.

“The experience is like no other,” says Corey. “You can literally just let yourself be suspended and observe your thoughts. It is like a floating savasana [“corpse pose”]. People who float regularly report a deeper understanding and the ability to transform stressful patterns, habits and beliefs into new strategies for success and happiness.”

The spa also offers aura imaging, a biofeedback system based on body temperature. At Still Point, the goal is to create a total wellness experience: A typical day, for example, could involve a one-hour float, a massage, somatic therapy and yoga. Clients could also choose to spread out those treatments over two days.

“The body is a container to hold emotions,” Corey explains. “We work to help someone notice how thoughts influence the body and how to regulate emotional responses.”

Robin, meanwhile, says it’s really about “just getting present and mindful.” Clients, she continues, “are perfect just the way they are: They just need to shift within. It’s about empowering people, not trying to fix or change anything. I try to convey that, to help support them and help them realize that it’s all there in that moment.”

— For more information on the restorative yoga with didjeridoo meditation class, go to ashevillecommunityyoga.com. To learn more about the Costanzos’ new wellness center, visit www.stillpointwell.com.

Freelance writer and yoga instructor Kate Lundquist lives in Asheville.

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