Don't Struggle Alone
YogaCity NYC's Elysha Lenkin sat down with Elizabeth Plapinger, architect and director of this unusual class, to learn more about using yoga for mental wellness.
Elysha Lenkin: Your program takes place at TBP, hospitals, and community centers. How did this get started?
Elizabeth Plapinger: It was founded by Bess Abrahams, a yoga therapist, back in 2004, as a pilot program for the BP. I joined Bess in the late fall of 2004. I began as her assistant and was mentored by her. (That mentoring work remains a facet of our program today). In 2005, we began co-teaching, and then I took over the program, with Bess as my co-director. The same mentoring to assistant to co-director pattern was followed with our third YMW partner, L. Ruth Kalvert. Currently, I run and direct the program, and my partners provide support as needed.
EL: How did YMW get into hospitals and community mental health programs?
EP: Our first hospital assignment was at Mount Sinai in 2006. Bess took us there. She was working with a young woman who had been routinely hospitalized since she was 16. Bess visited her, and started the yoga program for the young adults.
EL: What is the difference between your classes at the different locations?
EP: My teaching changes given the resources of the room and the abilities and needs of the students. The studio is fully stocked with props. At a hospital or community mental health center, the poses I teach can also vary depending on the props that are available. But the skills and ideas I teach are always the same.
If I only have chairs, I start students seated in them for the opening breath and meditation work. Then I teach standing poses, using the chair or wall as a prop (e.g., modified down dog), and then seated poses, and finally, chair savasana.