Yoga: a multipurpose healing practice


Anissa Keyes
Anissa Keyes

Yoga is a growing phenomenon in Minnesota. Chances are you can find classes at the YMCA, YWCA, CorePower, Bikram Yoga, or Major Body Fitness.

Yoga is an ancient practice that has been documented going back some 5,000 years. However, according to, some researchers think the practice may really go back as far as 10,000 years.

There are four main periods in the development of yoga

Pre-Classical Yoga — ancient writings, songs, and mantras used by priests in that period. In the pre-classical stage, yoga was a mishmash of various ideas, beliefs and techniques that often conflicted and contradicted each other.

Classical Yoga — The classical period is defined as the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written sometime in the second century, these texts describes the “eight limbed path” containing the steps and stages towards obtaining enlightenment. Classical yoga still strongly influences most styles of modern yoga.

Post-Classical Yoga — Yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas (early texts of Indian philosophy) and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. The goal of Tantra Yoga is to expand awareness in all areas of your life, thus using a holistic healing approach. The Post-classical exploration led to what we call Hatha Yoga.

Modern Period — Now we move into what the Western world is enthusiastically practicing. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters began traveling westward. This attracted attention and new followers. Hatha Yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (asanas) used to align the muscles and bones and open the many energy channels of the body, especially the spine, so that energy can flow freely. Hatha Yoga is intended to create strength and flexibility in the body. It is a powerful tool for self-transformation.

Take Anissa Keyes, for example: mother of four children, one girl and three boys ages 18, 10, nine and seven, North Minneapolis born and raised. Anissa is the owner of Arubah Emotional Health Services, which opened its doors in 2012, the same month Keyes got her Marriage and Family Therapy license from St. Mary’s University.

“Arubah is Hebrew for restoration to sound health. So what I wanted was restoration partnerships. I went out to shelters and tried to advertise and promote my services to CD [chemical dependency] treatment facilities and anybody that was working with clients that could utilize mental health services but were not providing these types of services.” Keyes explained

Keyes started Arubah Emotional Health Services because through her work experience after graduating from St. Mary’s, “[I] was able to see what really needed to happen. Services needed to come to people.

“Most people were not showing up in office spaces to talk about their problems. Most people were focused on sustaining, stabilizing, so what ended up happening is [that] I sort of found my niche, which was bringing services to the community.

“I specifically wanted to bring services to the community members that were falling between the cracks — the homeless population, MICD [mental illness, chemical dependency] clients, people that were ostracized, people that were not paid attention to,” she added.

“I [have] worked with all kinds of populations: woman and children, African American men, [as well as] in-home and hospitals, but I felt like it wasn’t enough. What I was doing was putting Band-Aids on things and no sustainable change was really happening, and I needed to get to the core reason why families were struggling,” Keyes explained.

Now that she has made some headway in working with the underserved, Keyes is moving her practice into yoga focused on trauma. Yoga focused on trauma has become a leading way to treat trauma mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. This form of yoga, focused on healing PTSD and other traumas, has been gaining headway since being introduced to the Western society.

“I’m doing Holy Yoga in 12 churches this year, one church a month! I also do trauma sensitive yoga three days a week, two times a week at Park Avenue — a chemical health treatment facility — and then once a week at Hart House, a supportive living facility. I also do yoga at North Commons [Community Center]. My objective is to bring a holistic mind, body and soul practice to diverse communities looking for alternative forms of healing,” she explained.

For anyone who has experienced trauma, a body-based practice like yoga can also be a lifesaving healing technique. By releasing held tension, paying attention to the present, and regulating the nervous system, a somatic approach helps ease the feelings of helplessness, fear, arousal, and disconnection that can arise for trauma patients.

If you are looking for an alternative to your common trauma-focused treatments, try yoga as your new therapy.


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2 Comments on “Yoga: a multipurpose healing practice”

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