A therapy first developed more than 100 years ago in India is helping contemporary Salem people lead less painful, more dynamic lives.

Salem’s Leah Fish says the therapeutic yoga sessions led by Dr. Zohra Campbell at Indigo Wellness Center have sped her healing from a compression fracture; Rebecca Woodcock, who faces the challenges of an artificial knee, scoliosis and a “lumbar region completely compromised from nerve damage in the lower back” has experienced increased flexibility and reduced pain and reports the practice has helped her “regain that sense of movement and that sense of confidence in your body that is as important as anything else.”  Christine Hannegan says she can’t imagine life without her therapeutic yoga at Indigo.

Significantly more training is required to conduct yoga therapy sessions than to teach traditional yoga classes.  Practitioners such as Campbell – the only one in Salem – must study the subject for 300 hours (200 hours are already required for traditional yoga teachers) and learn how the therapy improves the physical and psychological status of individuals with Parkinson’s disease, how it can ease the transition of teenage girls from incarceration to society and how it improves the flexibility of elderly individuals, according to the International Association of Yoga Therapists.

Supporters cite Scientific evidence for the effectiveness of yoga therapy, especially as a treatment of depression, anxiety and schizophrenia so soundly that practitioners like Campbell now work in areas as diverse as early childhood education programs or helping children with autism, assisting veterans afflicted with cancer, breathing difficulties or PTSD or supporting patients who suffer from insomnia or autoimmune illnesses, among other ailments.

“I love this direction that my work is taking,” Campbell says.  “I entered a 300- hour yoga therapy training more than two years ago with the intention of bringing my chiropractic and yoga worlds together.  I was blown away at learning how current brain science and neurobiology are explaining how and why the practices of yoga: movement, pranayama, and mindfulness are so beneficial to mental health and general well-being.”

Indigo client Leah Fish is afflicted with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on both hands and recently suffered a compression fracture brought on by osteoporosis.  A yoga student since 2000, Fish began taking therapeutic yoga at Indigo Wellness about a year ago to address loss of flexibility, increased pain and healing times.  She was delighted with the results.

“The orthopedist said I healed faster and better because I did yoga,” she says.  “That was the best news.  They say, ‘mind, body and soul,’ and it’s true, I’ll tell you!”

After the introduction of yoga therapy in the late 1800s, the practice received new, wide recognition in North America in the 1980s when Dr. Dean Ornish published a study of the effects of lifestyle intervention on heart disease.  Ornish’s study showed that heart disease could be reversed through lifestyle changes including therapeutic yoga, meditation and diet.  In the 1990s, Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease was approved for health insurance coverage, making yoga therapy an official part of medical procedures.

One patient at Indigo, Rebecca Woodcock, performed for 30 years as a professional singer who also danced at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Portland Opera.  She began Indigo’s “Healthy Back” class in October 2012 to address nerve damage in her lower back.  Since then she’s participated in therapeutic yoga twice a week for two years now.  “I take advantage of every service Indigo offers,” Woodcock says, “Chiropractics, acupuncture, massage therapy and yoga.”  Her goals with the Wellness Center were to increase flexibility, reduce pain and increase her quality of life.  She says she has achieved all three.

A Salem institution for many years, Indigo Wellness moved to the ground level of Pringle Park Plaza on Liberty Street SE in October 2014.  There it incorporates a comprehensive array of therapies, including Healing Touch Chiropractic, Indigo yoga, Indigo massage and Earth Moon Acupuncture.  A supporter of civic events like the Earth Day “Earth 411” celebration, Zombie Yoga and the High Street Hustle road race to address heart disease, its offerings of life-enhancing class experiences have evolved over time.  Included are live music performances to accompany yoga, prenatal yoga, pilates, retreats in Hawaii and a Kid’s Yoga Series for boys and girls age 5 – 12.

But the benefits of therapeutic yoga are what keep clients like Hannegan coming back.  “My central nervous system has reaped the benefits,” she says after just one year.  “I am experiencing life with a new attitude.  I am very grateful to have achieved greater mindfulness and better health.  I owe it to Zohra’s brand of medicine for healing – therapeutic yoga.”