HealthVoices of Hope


Former CPS worker explains how yoga can benefit your mental health

'The most remarkable feeling of peace and Zen.'
Posted at 1:17 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 14:24:04-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- With the demands of a stressful job, James Bryant began practicing hot yoga 15 years ago.

He said the focus on breathing with body movements helped give him peace of mind and the tools to better cope with the stress and anxiety associated with working in Child Protective Services.

“You leave with the most remarkable feeling of peace and Zen,” Bryant said. “I took that job very seriously and very personally, so I invested a lot of myself in every case I was assigned. The responsibility for the protection of children is a very heavy burden to carry because you are constantly worried about making the right decisions.”

Bryant said hot yoga not only relieved stress, but improved his strength and flexibility -- and even eliminated back and joint pain.

“The combination of the physicality of the series of postures, coupled with the heat of the room and the steady instruction of the teachers, makes for a very positive experience,” Bryant said.

The vast benefits of yoga are the reason it’s become one of the most popular exercises over the past few years for people of all ages and abilities.

“A lot of people will come out and say they feel amazing and relaxed,” said Hot House Yoga owner Emily Erbe. “I’ve heard the term yoga daze, where they are just calm and relaxed.”

Erbe purchased Hot House Yoga in Midlothian last year because she believes in the physical and mental benefits of the practice.

Hot yoga is done in a room, which is heated anywhere from 80 to 100 degrees. The high temperature allows the body to safely open up, giving the heart, lungs and muscles an even greater workout. Instructors demonstrate and talk the class through various poses.

“We are very encouraging, but we’re not too pushy,” Erbe said. “Sometimes I tell people if you’re not feeling it, just lay down and be in the heat, listen to the music and listen to your breath.”

Erbe said focusing on one’s breath, in connection to body movements, has long-lasting benefits that carry over into people’s daily lives.

“That’s the biggest gain from hot yoga, the mental health benefits,” said Bryant.

Now retired from his career, Bryant returns to yoga on a regular basis because of the tranquility it offers.

“I was shocked that I became as addicted to it as I did," Bryant said. “It really helped me finish out my 30 years of service.”

This segment is sponsored by WHOA Behavioral Health.