Beth Yazell remembers her very first yoga class 40 years ago like it was yesterday. The sensation she felt leaving that class was “magic,” she said, and it planted the inspiration to what would become her own Bloom Yoga & Wellness practice at 181 Kenwood Ave., Oneida.
“I left there thinking I wanted to feel that way forever,” Yazell recalled of attending that class at the Utica YWCA in 1977 when she was 18. Within a year, she earned her first certification as a yoga instructor, completing her second in 2004. Today she is dual-certified with more than 500 hours of training and has been teaching yoga continuously since 1979.
Yazell also has a master’s degree in health services administration, and is a registered nurse, a Thai yoga massage practitioner, and a certified wellness coach. She offers yoga classes of varied intensities at Bloom Yoga & Wellness, plus Thai yoga massage, private health coaching and private yoga coaching.
She even offers classes on belly dancing. Yazell is the leader of the Oneida-based Adi Shakti World Fusion Bellydance troupe.
Yazell created Bloom Yoga & Wellness in 2006 after teaching at several area locations, with her classes open to anyone of any skill level. She knows people can often be discouraged when they see photos of yoga practitioners in intricate poses that are unattainable for most mortals.
But she reaches out to everyone, from the experienced yoga veterans to the newcomers. She offers a “gentle” yoga class for people of all shapes and sizes who might want to better their own health and reduce stress without the rigors of a more energetic regimen. Yoga is accessible to anyone, regardless of age, shape, or level of ability or experience, Yazell promises.
There is soft music and candlelight as she encourages all participants to respect their own limitations, telling them if something doesn’t feel right not to do it. She has foam blocks for anyone who might not be able to bend and stretch all the way to the floor at certain points in the sessions, and will even alter the pose if she notices someone struggling with it.
Every class ends with the sivasana, a rest period of simply lying on the floor as Yazell guides the class into a deep state of relaxation. This is often the participants’ favorite part of her teachings, she said. Yazell’s yoga sessions helps alleviate stress, improve the quality of sleep, and even improve the immune system, she said.
Yoga is also a great beginning point for many people to form the foundation for a complete health overhaul. “It really turns into a motivator to do other things that will lead to a healthier lifestyle,” she said.
Karen Kloss of Oneida was there for her first-ever class on July 24, looking for a stress reliever. Kloss said she felt Yazell took good care of her newcomers during their session.
“It was challenging, but not unrealistic, and I didn‘t feel pressured to do anything I couldn’t do,” Kloss said. “I loved it. The relaxation part was the most beneficial to me. There is so much stress out there in the world. This is ‘me’ time.”
“Our brains are constantly in a hyper mode with everything going on around us,” agreed Yazell. “Yoga gives you the chance to drop out of it and drop into yourself, and that’s good for you.”
Lori Thorna and Betty Lyboult, also both of Oneida, joined Kloss at that gentle class; they are regulars who have been coming for about a year. “We came in as friends together and that helps keep us both motivated,” Thorna explained. “If one of us doesn’t feel like going, the other will talk her into it.”
“I really need just to take the time to keep doing it,” Lyboult added. “I always feel so good afterward. It helps out with any aches and pains, and it is definitely relaxing.”
Yazell co-authored a Syracuse University health study for the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2010 showing the benefits of yoga on asthma patients. She hopes to earn her credentials from the International Association of Yoga Therapists in yoga therapy in the near future. That would enable her to help people with a variety of ailments, from insomnia to back pain to cancer symptoms, she said.
“Name a malady, and there is a yoga technique to remedy it,” Yazell said. “I will use all of the yoga tools to help people who are suffering.”
She teaches from the Kripalu yoga techniques, a merging of body, mind and energy. Although the majority of her class members are women, men are definitely welcome as well. No reservations need to be made, and there is no obligation to attend every session, with participants paying only for the classes they attend.
Yazell said her own mentors have inspired her with a devotion to yoga techniques that transcend physical boundaries to delve into a more spiritual healing. She said her teacher came from a very mystical line, where deep states of meditation coupled with yoga techniques created a true state of grace, much like speaking in tongues.
That is an experience she wants to share with her own classes: Yoga is not just about becoming more flexible, or trimming the stomach and firming up the buttocks, but about reaching an emotional state of grace as well. This is something Yazell strives to convey to all of her students, she said, as she helps them along a traditional yoga path to wellness.
“My focus is on providing people with an authentic yoga experience,” she said. “I am pretty much a curmudgeon that way.”
A full schedule of all of her offerings, as well as those of several other teachers at her studio, is available at bloomyoga.webs.com or by calling (315) 525-9165.