New “healthy back class” offered in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD — Nearly one in 10 people worldwide suffer back pain. It is the number one reason for missed worked days in the United States. Ranging from uncomfortable to debilitating, back pain often is not a one time event.

While exercise helps decrease rates of back pain, beginning an exercise program while in or recovering from an episode can be very difficult. Worse, it could trigger another episode if the back is not strong enough to support the movement.

“I suffered from back pain for years after a misdiagnosed injury led to herniated disks in my low back,” said Wendy Reese, a yoga teacher whose registered over 500 hours. “I had been doing yoga and Pilates before and during my injury. In one aspect it probably saved me from a worse injury, but the pain was excruciating and exhausting. A surgeon told me I should consider quitting my yoga teaching and I’d never run again. I left his office in tears. At one point, I contemplated ending my life. I just couldn’t imagine another 20-30 years with that kind of quality of life.”

Reese eventually found a therapist who supported the philosophy that the body when properly supported can heal itself. Working with the therapist, Reese used her knowledge of anatomy, exercise physiology, and yoga to start the healing process. That required stretching areas that had been contracted and strengthening areas that had be stretched for an extended period of time to the point of atrophy.

“Forward bends were the worst,” Reese remembered. “I found a picture of a person in a seated forward fold, where their belly, chest and head were touching their legs, hands wrapped around the soles of their feet. At one point, I could do that. I had that picture for three years, believing I would fold again.”

In just 18 months after her first visit with the therapist, Reese ran a trail half marathon. Four years later she’s yet to have any significant episodes of back pain.

Now, Reese is offering a weekly class through February in Pittsfield, Vt., at Amee Lodge on Wednesdays from 5:30-6:15 p.m. The gentle yoga class is designed to strengthen, stretch, and facilitate healing. Class size is limited to 10 people and cost is $8 per class. She also offers a Pay It Forward program for people who can’t afford the class. For more information or to register, please email

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