CLAYTON — A yoga studio owner in the village wants yoga studios across the country classified as essential health and wellness services in order for them to continue providing services in the event of another mandated closure.
Liz Price-Kellogg, owner of River Yoga, 234 James St., created a petition on Change.org, an online petition platform, calling on government officials to recognize the importance of yoga and classify it as an essential service. As of Tuesday afternoon, 233 people signed the petition.
On Tuesday morning, Mrs. Price-Kellogg welcomed state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, for a tour of her James Street storefront and to enlist her help in spearheading the cause. The exercise aspect of yoga is a tertiary benefit, Mrs. Price-Kellogg said, and the main focus of the practice is to encourage whole-health wellness.
“Yoga is a 3,000- to 5,000-year-old science, it’s not an exercise,” Mrs. Price-Kellogg said. “It’s a proven science and it’s probably the oldest healthcare system we have in the world.”
Mrs. Price-Kellogg was joined by yoga researcher Dr. Paul Mills, a professor of psychiatry in the behavioral medicine program at the University of California San Diego.
When an individual regularly practices yoga, Dr. Mills explained, their body starts to turn down the production of cytokine proteins, many of which are responsible for inflammatory immune system responses to disease. Cytokines are proteins that help people battle infections, Dr. Mills said.
“That is relevant because, as you may have heard with COVID, the disease creates a cytokine storm,” he said. “…that cytokine storm can take the body in a certain direction with inflammatory responses, which is important in the path to getting better, but you don’t want that cytokine storm to get out of control, which it often does.”
In addition to its physical benefits, which Dr. Mills said are numerous, yoga helps foster a sense of well-being, reduces depression and can help foster a sense of connection with the world around you.
Dr. Mills conducts research, both in his capacity as a professor at the University of California San Diego, and with The Chopra Foundation, an organization that studies the effects of mind and body practices like yoga on health and wellness. Dr. Mills studies the biological effects these practices can have, and has found people who practice yoga regularly see decreases in the amount of stress-related chemicals in their body.
“We find people who practice yoga, their chronic levels of stress in the body goes down,” he said. “They often have lower levels of these hormones, and as a result, they often have lower levels of these inflammatory proteins in the body.”
Mrs. Price-Kellogg said she has multiple students who were directed to attend yoga classes by their doctors, and various health insurance companies help cover the costs of taking classes.
“I’m really, really concerned that yoga has been lumped in with gymnastics and zumba,” she said. “All of those are really great recreation, and great for the physical and even mental health, but yoga is a full health system.”
Sen. Ritchie said she sees how beneficial yoga can be for those who practice it. She said she would consider introducing legislation to the state Senate that would classify yoga studios as essential, and recognize the benefits they provide.
“We can look at a way to drive legislation to spread awareness, and talk about the benefits and why it’s essential,” she said.