When asked about the benefits of practicing yoga, practitioners often respond that the ancient Indian discipline heals both the body and the mind. Through the class that they offer every Saturday morning, yoga instructor Cheryl Beckmann and sound therapist Daniel Roy hope to add spiritual healing to that list.
Each weekend, patrons of Beckmann and Roy’s yoga class file into the upstairs classroom at the Woman’s Club of Albany. They leave their shoes by the door, and spread a colorful assortment of yoga mats in rows against the hardwood floor, in preparation for a yoga experience unlike any other in the Pine Hills community.
Beckmann and Roy combine more traditional yoga postures and stretches, with meditation, breathing techniques, energy awareness and sound healing through crystal bowls, to provide an all energy style yoga class, and a physical, mental and spiritual healing session for attendees.
At the end of each hour long session, the blinds are drawn, and class participants lie on their mats with their eyes closed. Roy leads a small group of crystal bowl players, who are spread around the room, in playing their instruments. There is silence, except for the vibrating sounds of the crystal bowls, and an occasional word from Beckmann, who leads the class in meditation.
“Crystal bowls help to release energetic blocks in our body,” Beckmann explained. “Each bowl corresponds to a chakra, which is a point of energy in the human body. Crystal bowls help to align our energies.”
Roy and Beckmann train their bowl players in the proper playing technique, in order to create the most satisfying, full-body experience for participants. Players are taught how much pressure to use when dragging the mallet around the bowl, to control how loudly each bowl sings, and to ensure that all the bowls play in sync with each other. “You have to be able to play the crystal bowls the right way. If you play them too loud, it can actually be uncomfortable for the listeners,” said Beckmann.
Beckman and Roy each have years of experience in their respective disciplines. Alongside her full-time job as a Spanish teacher at Colonie Central High School, Beckman has been working in fitness for at least fifteen years, and has completed more than 400 hours of yoga training.
As for Roy, spirituality and healing was introduced to him by his mother, who was an energy and crystal healer in Las Vegas. The practice has been a part of Roy’s life for over 25 years. In addition to practicing sound therapy during yoga, Dan has worked at assisted living residences Millview and Belvedere, using his crystal bowls to help patients with traumatic brain injuries. He has also volunteered to play for families of patients in Hospice Care.
“He knew about crystal bowls first,” said Beckman, in reference to Roy. “We knew pairing them with yoga would heal people even more. That’s how the idea for this class came about. We wanted to really heal people.”
Class participants find healing from both yoga and sound therapy in different ways. Cathy Labarge, and her daughter Caitlyn Labarge, have been attending the class every weekend for the past four months, and have already felt its effects. Caitlyn said that the yoga stretches and postures have made her stronger and in better shape, and that the experience in general is great for relieving stress.
For Cathy Labarge, the benefits have been similar. “I have fibromyalgia which is a chronic pain disorder. So, these exercises and movements seem to ease the pain a lot, which makes my mobility better, and my stress level comes down,” Labarge said.
Tami Sherry has been a dedicated member of Beckman and Roy’s class for a year, after she heard about the class from Beckman herself.
“I decided to come and try yoga for the first time because I felt safe, and I knew Beckman wouldn’t let me hurt myself. Even with my bad knee and my bad back, I’ve been getting better every week. I feel a world’s better. I feel calmer, and more collected. I feel stronger. I have muscles that work now, that probably didn’t work so well a year ago,” said Sherry.
Sherry said that her experiences with the crystal bowls change from week to week. “Some weeks are really more about the meditation and the spiritual, and trying to bring yourself into a different plane, but, some weeks are just about experiencing the vibrations of the bowls, and trying to feel it within your body. They just feel amazing.”
Cathy Labarge said that the crystal bowls are great for releasing negativity. “What happens with me is, I kind of get a tingling all over. It’s not a painful tingling, though. It feels like a release of bad energy, or bad chi.”
by Yanique Burgos For Times Union