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Polson yoga studio offers benefits beyond the physical

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POLSON — As people work to develop new habits for a healthier life during the new year, Polson’s YogaHeart Home is ready to help them begin their journey - no matter their skill level. 

While yoga is an ancient practice that comes in many modern-age varieties, Polson instructor Debra Sykes approaches yoga with a focus on alignment. “If you believe in science and believe in yoga, everything is made of energy,” Sykes commented. “When our energy is aligning, we feel more at ease in our bodies.”

When she first started in her 30s, Sykes said she felt drawn to yoga from the inside - like she needed to do it, even though she didn’t know anyone practicing. So, she said she drove to a bookstore in Kalispell and bought a book on the subject to teach herself. “Literally from the first time I stepped on a mat, I felt better when I got off, and I was literally aware of the benefits from yoga from that first time just looking at that book and attempting a posture,” Sykes said. Now she’s been practicing for over 30 years and teaching for over 20. “I practice yoga for my sanity,” she added with a laugh.

According to Sykes, with alignment-based yoga every posture is attempting to do a sacred geometry, where everything in the body is lined up optimally, which makes the practicer feel better. If someone’s had a successful practice, no matter how long or short it is and no matter what issues they bring to the mat, Sykes said they’ll feel better thanks to that alignment. 

According to Harvard Medical School’s Health Publishing, several studies have found yoga to have a positive effect on cardiovascular risk factors, from lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension to restoring “baroreceptor sensitivity,” which helps the body sense imbalances in blood pressure and maintain balance. Practicing yoga was also found to improve lipid profiles in patients with known coronary artery disease and lower excessive blood sugar levels in people with non-insulin dependent diabetes. 

While many students approach yoga due to a physical issue they’d like to address, Sykes said the benefits from yoga can go much deeper. “Yoga ought to be the foundation in everyone’s life, because it doesn’t contradict anything you might believe in. The very foundational principle of yoga is to do no harm, or to be kind both to yourself and to others,” Sykes explained. “A lot of us are very good at (generosity and compassion) for others but a lot of us don’t offer that to ourselves as much as we could.” 

In addition to more traditional yoga classes, Sykes also offers something called the Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique (B.E.S.T.) to help people learn to align what she calls the invisible self with the physical self. This is done by accessing areas of the brain through a pressure point related therapy while thinking about memory stresses to rebuild circuitry within the brain. This practice has been clinically studied as well, as research done by Dr. Fabrizio Mancini of Parker College of Chiropractic in 2004 shared that patients experienced an 85% improvement not only in their areas of pain, but also in with emotional stress level and wellbeing. 

“Something I teach a lot with my students is how to be kind and compassionate to yourself and how to take time to care for yourself,” Sykes explained. “When you do, it’s like you’re better not only for yourself, but for your friends and family and community, and for your physical body … Yoga has the ability to up level our lives in a way that we can have a sweeter experience in ourselves and live our best life.” 

Though there are those who are interested in yoga but may be tentative to start, Sykes said she’s always felt that if someone comes with a good attitude, they can go to any class regardless of experience. Those who are timid can schedule a private session with her to speak about their concerns and learn the foundations, but everyone is welcome in class. “As long as they have an attitude of ‘I’ll just do what I can and I’ll watch if I need to watch,’ that’s always perfectly fine in my classes,” she stated. 

Sykes herself had a shock of an experience in her first class, she shared, signing up for a weeklong yoga retreat after only ever doing yoga by copying the postures in the book she’d bought. “At that point I was very young and very proud of my yoga practice because I taught myself and so I had a lot of ego,” she laughed. “My very first class I was dropped into this class with all these people who were so generous and so loving and so supportive, but boy I was the babe in the room, and it was the best experience of my life at that point. So, when I teach my classes and somebody doesn’t find the exact right class, I really encourage them to just step in. I did it, and it’s just incredible, and you’re not expected to do more than you’re capable of and you get immersed in this community of sweetness. It’s just a remarkable thing.”

The YogaHeart Home studio also has two other teachers, one being Dr. Nikki McKinsey, a family practice doctor in town. Those interested in signing up for sessions can call or text Sykes at 406-887-2050 email, or visit their website at:

“There’s a saying about yoga: Steady practice over time and with devotion,” Sykes said. “The devotion is really just about realizing where you come from, what your source is, and really appreciating how this very ancient practice of yoga was really designed to help us remember who we are at our core … When I started doing yoga, it was the best choice I had ever made, and I continue to believe that.” 

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