Columbus, Ohio USA
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Peace, Love and Weight Loss
Yoga on High program fights flab
with body-mind makeover for women
by Dennis Fiely
November 2008 Issue

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Women who question the commitment required to participate in a new wellness program at Yoga on High, should consider this: “There’ll be homework,” promised instructor Shelly Dembe.

Dembe, a registered nurse, certified yoga instructor and personal trainer, is seeking a few brave bodies and souls to enroll in Not Another Diet: A Yogic Path to Health, a year-long training for women dedicated to improving their physical, emotional and psychological well-being.

The trip to body-mind Nirvana costs $2,420 (payable in monthly installments), but the benefits could be priceless – ranging from a reduction in disease risk factors to a more positive attitude. And don’t forget weight loss. “It will happen as a natural result of the program, as opposed to being the actual focus of it,” Dembe said.

Dembe is the headmistress of this self-improvement school that runs January through November with a summer break beginning in June so students can engage in some independent study. Sessions resume in September for a three-month refresher that concludes the 11-month intensive with a “new you” fortified just in time to tackle the temptations of the ’09 holiday season.

“So many programs abandon you when they end,” Dembe said. “We bring women back for trouble-shooting to help them identify and overcome obstacles they faced in the summer. This is not a quick-fix program for someone who wants to squeeze into a wedding dress or bathing suit. Our goal is to facilitate weight loss in the context of a healthy lifestyle.”

Toward that end, students will attend two-hour weekly Sunday meetings and a weekly 90-minute yoga class of their choosing at Yoga on High. The get-togethers, scheduled to accommodate busy lifestyles, blend yoga with Reiki, dance movements, counseling, exercise and educational components such as guest speakers, cooking classes and shopping trips.

Although the program is for women only, partners will be welcome to potlucks and other events so they can support the participants’ long-term goals.
Pre-program assessments will enable Dembe to customize offerings according to individual needs. Journaling, meditation and breathing exercises will be among the homework assignments.

Yoga is the cornerstone of the program, with its emphasis on balance, inner peace, mindfulness and spirituality. Scientific research by Dr. Dean Ornish, of the University of California, San Francisco, and others continues to link meditation and yoga with mental health, heart disease reversal and weight loss.
“We’re not just talking learning to put your leg behind your head,” Dembe said, “but giving people the ability to experience joy and optimal health from the inside. Once people fall in love with themselves, they treat themselves better and the weight starts to come off.

“I compare it to cleaning house. A clean, uncluttered house is more pleasant to live in. The comprehensive nature of this program will allow us to pay attention to the house we live in – our bodies and minds – for the rest of our lives.”

The program limits participation to 10 women to create an intimate, supportive community. “They will pair off in partners to help each other; every one will get the attention she needs,” Dembe said.

All ages, at any fitness level, are welcome. “Women can have any objective they want,” Dembe said. “I’m sure many will walk in here defeated, having failed different diets.”

Dembe and Marcia Miller, a Yoga on High owner, devised the program in response to prospective yoga students who wanted to lose weight before they began classes.

“We knew a six-week class with a little bit of yoga and a little bit of lecture wasn’t going to meet their needs,” Miller said. “This will give them the time and tools to make permanent changes.”

Dembe based the structure and content on her decades as a registered nurse in hospital settings such as intensive care and cardiac rehab. “My job was to help people change lifestyles,” she said. “But I found that it demanded more than exercise and calorie restriction. Yoga adds a missing spiritual element that improves self-esteem and body image.”

Married and the mother of four children, Dembe, 47, operates A Healthier Balance, which offers personal and corporate exercise for body, mind and business. She’s earned certifications in personal training from the American College of Sports Medicine, in Kripalu yoga dance and in LifeForce Yoga, a practice that focuses on mood management.

“We created this program with Shelly in mind,” Miller said. “She’s the only one who could teach it.”

The program will complement Dembe’s expertise in exercise, counseling and nutrition with Yoga on High resources that include massage and Reiki therapists.

Although the yearlong commitment seems like a grind, the program promises to lighten the load with a sense of fun. “Most diet regimens are based on self-hatred,” Miller said. “Our belief is that people can feel good about themselves right now, before they lose that first pound.”

Joy is the overriding objective.

“We’ll build it, in part, through movement,” Dembe said. “For yoga dance, we’ll just put on the music and let loose. When women start to feel comfortable in their own bodies and learn to be present for the joyful moments in their lives, it changes their outlook. They can achieve goals they never thought they were capable of. This is really about learning to fall in love with yourself.”

A free two-hour introductory meeting about Shelly Dembe’s year-long wellness program for women, Not Another Diet: A Yogic Path to Health, will be held at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, at Yoga on High, 1081 N. High St. Interested women can sample Dembe’s teaching style at her class, Breathing Between the Bites: A Yogic Approach to Holiday Eating, 1-4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, at Yoga on High. Fee is $35. Call 614-291-4444 for more information or visit

© 2008 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.

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