Online Exclusive: East, Meet West

Why fields like yoga, Pilates, and alternative medicine aren’t just for hippies anymore.
January 6 2012, 9:48 AM

5280.com Exclusive: Want to learn more about starting a new career? Read "Back to School" (from our January 2012 issue) here.

 

As anyone who’s spent even five minutes dealing with insurance companies knows, they’re a little frustrating. You’re injured or sick, you want relief, and these companies—and often, your traditional M.D.—play by a rigidly prescribed set of rules. If the diagnosis of your problem doesn’t really cure it, you’re back to square one, trying to explain to the underwriter examining your claim why they need to cover this procedure as well.

Annoyances like these—along with the crippling cost of traditional health care—are driving more people to explore alternative remedies, which in turn motivates more mainstream health care practitioners toward fields like acupuncture and herbology. “Many of our students have some sort of medical training,” says Luke Terry, an instructor at Just for Health, an Englewood-based training center for massage, reflexology, and other alternative health care practices. “They want a new toolbox to increase the number of services they have to offer their clients.”

Terry himself was headed toward a career in traditional medicine before an acupuncturist showed him how the procedure—and adding Chinese herbs to his diet—could alleviate his chronic sports injuries. Now he’s thinking of pursuing an advanced medical degree with heavy Eastern influences (he already has a master’s in Traditional Oriental Medicine). “I had all kinds of tendonitis in my wrist, elbows, and neck before that,” he says. “It really was life transforming for me, and interest in this field is higher than ever. The amount of money consumers spend on things like herbs and natural remedies is growing year over year,” and creating more jobs as demand grows.

Similarly preventive aspects of yoga and Pilates are opening those arenas to new opportunities. Although some might see franchises such as Core Power Yoga as a bastardization of an ancient and pure art, the fact remains that people who may once have considered physical therapy or personal trainer careers are realizing that adding alternative practices can give their resumes a boost.

Danielle Hendricks, an instructor at Pilates Aligned (pictured) in Denver, says that anyone considering getting into Pilates instruction should research teaching programs thoroughly. “The Front Range is a great area to get trained in it, but a tough place to start a practice from scratch,” she says. Hendricks earned her credentials at the Pilates Center in Boulder and landed teaching jobs in Chicago, Boston, and elsewhere before returning to the Front Range. “I feel bad for people trying to start their practice here,” she says. “You need a niche,” such as qualifying yourself”—via various certifications—“to work with clients who are rehabilitating injuries.”

She adds that when looking for a training program, it’s important to zero in on schools that require a certain number of practice hours—say, 1,000 in a year; that train you on all the Pilates apparatus, not just mats; that offer classes in human anatomy; and that provide good feedback from your instructors, including extensive practice teaching. “Are you learning the method yourself?” Hendricks says. “Studying it in a book may let you explain it or pass a test, but it doesn’t mean you can actually do it with your own body.” So much like the green movement, the alternative healing craze might just be for you—as long as you keep it real.

 

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