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For Downward Economy, Try Downward Facing Dog

By Andrea Shea (WBUR)

More people are turning to yoga during this depressing economy, according to Phillipe Wells, co-owner of Prana Power Yoga. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)
More people are turning to yoga during this depressing economy, according to Phillipe Wells, co-owner of Prana Power Yoga. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

How do you feel about the economy lately? If you're like a lot of us, you could be exhausted. Foreclosures, down-sizing, layoffs, closings…in epidemic proportions. Our daily dose of economic hard times is, for many, a brutal pill to swallow. But what's the antidote? WBUR's Andrea Shea reports on what some people are doing to relieve their "economic fatigue."

John Spooner spends hours staring at stock market activity on his computer screen.

JOHN SPOONER:  Green is up and red is down, so you can see kind of a mixed bag.

Spooner is a wealth manager in Boston, so you can just imagine how he feels these days.

SPOONER: Absolutely worn out. Economic fatigue hits everybody in this firestorm we're going through differently.

"Economic fatigue" isn't a clinical condition, but Dr. Christopher Palmer says it's palpable in our culture these days. He's a psychiatrist at McLean Hospital in Belmont.

DR. CHRISTOPHER PALMER: The first sign for a lot of people would be a transition from a state of anxiety to a state of hopelessness, increasingly feeling powerless, and that can then lead to a mild depression or just feeling numb.

To prevent that spiral Dr. Palmer recommends exercise. Wealth manager John Spooner is already on board with that.

SPOONER: I tell all my crew, everybody who works for me, you better find some way to work out four or five times a week, or everyday if you possibly can, because it's so debilitating and you need energy in order to be in any occupation.

Taking a long, deep breath might help too.

More people are turning to yoga during this depressing economy, according to Phillipe Wells. He co-owns  Prana Power Yoga, which has three studios in Massachusetts and one in New York City.

PHILLIPE WELLS: Any kind of twists will reinvigorate us physiologically, people just get into a place where they kind of feel down and they need something to lift them up.

Wells says yoga also teaches students how to accept change and uncertainty. Gina Pierce agrees. She's 41 years old, a single parent and says she's thankful to have her job as a weight counselor in a hospital.

GINA PIERCE: Yoga really helps me to face the challenges I have daily, which we all do in a way that I'm responding calmly sort of from a centered place rather than reacting like a lunatic from a place that isn't balanced, so I really think that's how I could look at my yoga practice as it relates to the economy and how it feels to me just in general.

While yoga is the answer for some, others escape the onslaught in a tub.

RENEE FARSTER: The news is brutal. I make sure I soak once a week just because it's a moment of 'everything's perfect when I’m in this hot water.'

That's Renee Farster. She owns Inman Oasis, a massage and hot tub spa in Cambridge.

FARSTER: As a business owner here I feel like I’m a bit of an anomaly. I mean, we're doing well, we're humble enough to be grateful for that because I see a lot of my colleagues who are small business owners in retail struggling and other service industries. I think we're doing well because people need a break.

Dr. Palmer of McLean Hospital applauds people's search for solace during hard times.

DR. PALMER: The good news is that most of us are gonna get through it, we'll be a little fatigued; the bad news is that some people won't get through it in a healthy way.

Meaning they might turn to drugs or alcohol. Dr. Palmer says adapting is essential when faced with our worst economic fears. Being flexible certainly helps.

Downward facing dog is one of the most common yoga positions. Student Tony Bartone is doing a lot more of them since he got laid off this past fall.

TONY BARTONE: One downward facing dog and the economic fatigue will pass.

And, with time, the downward facing economy should pass too.

This program aired on March 12, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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