Yoga Instructor | Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Practitioner
Nick Beem is the co-owner of Grateful Yoga in Evanston, Illinois, a cozy space off of one of the town’s main drags. I had the pleasure of joining a Hatha class of his, in which Nick encouraged the group to be very mindful of an area that’s particularly tricky for me: the lower back. Throughout class I appreciated how Nick gave us several opportunities to reconsider even the most basic or popular of poses, like cat and cow. I realized it had been awhile since I’d taken a yoga class not at my gym, but at a true yoga studio, where teachers have had rigorous training, frequently build relationships with students, incorporate meditation, and have time to address form and how to avoid injury – I could go on. I bring this up because Nick and I talked plenty about how modern (and dare I say, corporatized) yoga often focuses more on performance and less on form, which can result in injury. Nick has built a very different model for his practice and teaching.
Nick has an impressive resume of training and accomplishments. I’m focusing on one particular method, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT), which Nick has been practicing for several years now. In Nick’s words, PRYT consists of “assisted yoga poses, helping people be in a yoga pose through physical support so they can relax and focus on their response instead of the instructions [on alignment].” Nick works one-on-one with clients or in a small group for 6-8 sessions. There is “integration” dialogue at the end of each session to discuss what actions or acknowledgements should take place next.
PRYT is unique in that it’s “client centered, meaning all the ideas are coming from the person on the mat rather than the expertise of the practitioner.” For Nick this is invaluable: “because my ideas are always limited by my knowledge or my concepts of what’s right or wrong.” The focus is to empower the client to explore themselves, and for the therapist to witness their discoveries. Nick believes the body to be an authentic site for receiving messages and inviting change. It allows clients to,
“get insight into something that would take a lot of time otherwise to figure out through the intellect...and instead it comes out of the receiver’s experience. It comes out of the body and there’s often a sense of clarity...because it comes from the receiver it has so much more power.”
This hits on a couple consistent themes I’ve seen across modalities. First, that the body holds the information, and if we are willing to dive deeper and listen to it, we can better understand ourselves and how we can evolve. Second, Nick as a therapist is not there to project, as he said, his “knowledge or concepts of what’s right or wrong,” but rather to support the client by witnessing the process, by holding the space. Nick has witnessed some profound changes from his clients who complete the PRYT sessions. Listen to Nick speak about the conclusions of his small group program, when clients share their realizations. He describes a few examples of his clients feeling they can now relate to others better and handle the curveballs of life more easily. (Audio below).
Whether facilitating PRYT or teaching one of his classes at Grateful Yoga, Nick believes the body is never fully separate from the mind or spirit and incorporates this into his teaching, daily life, and meditation practice. Additionally, Nick introduced me to the work of Matthew Remske, the yoga teacher, writer, and ayurvedic practitioner behind What Are We Actually Doing In Asana (WAWADIA), a multi-media project that tackles these tough topics about how “Modern Postural Yoga” is marked as therapeutic, a work out, and is increasing the number of yoga-related injuries all over. If you’d like to read some of Nick’s writing on these subjects and others, check out his blog, Inward Facing Dog. Keep up with Nick’s teaching at Grateful Yoga’s website and Facebook page.