Turning Point: Terry Schaff
Terry Schaff, E-RYT, works as a yoga therapist with Loren Fishman, developing therapeutic yoga protocols for people recovering from injuries and living with physical challenges. Terry leads yoga classes for people with Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, and back pain, and specializes in post-operative rehabilitation and geriatric problems. www.terryrothschaff.com
Q Describe what you do in 15 words or less.
A I’m a yoga therapist at Loren Fishman’s Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in New York City.
Q Tell us about a turning point in your life.
Becoming a yoga teacher and yoga therapist was not my first or even my second career. After almost three decades of practicing yoga, I became interested in deepening my knowledge about this practice that had helped sustain me through three decades of joys and sorrows. I decided to take a yoga teacher training program to learn more about yoga—but becoming a yoga teacher wasn’t an interest or destination.
I loved the creativity involved with sequencing a class, and, to my surprise, found that I was adept at adjusting people’s yoga postures. I had an intuitive sense of touch. Skillful hands didn’t translate into gifted teacher, but after assisting and coteaching in friends’ classes, subbing for other teachers, and studying with a buddy every week, I found my voice. Soon I was teaching more than 30 hours a week—including classes for at-risk children and senior citizens—and loving it.
Early on, I figured out that I wanted to specialize in yoga practices that could be helpful for people living with medical conditions. My Uncle Ted had lived with Parkinson’s Disease for close to a decade, and I had been tremendously impressed by the way my Aunt Renee had used her dancer’s background to keep him agile and mobile. I established a class for people living with Parkinson’s disease, took training programs, and started attending anatomy workshops. That work led me to Dr. Fishman. Today, I use yoga therapy to help people with specific diagnoses such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs, rotator cuff injuries, thoracic outlet syndrome, and multiple sclerosis.
Q What do you love about teaching?
A A commitment to being a teacher keeps a healthy pressure on me to keep learning—to deepen my understanding of the nuances and benefits of yoga postures, breathing techniques, and meditation practices, along with a greater understanding of the physiology and anatomy of the human body. Putting that knowledge into practical application, to help a person with a specific diagnosis, takes this work into another realm. Observing myself mature as a teacher and a therapist is very rewarding, but that takes a back seat to the joy of seeing my patients and students grow through their yoga practices.
Q What are you passionate about right now?
A Documenting the yoga sequences that I’ve put together to treat specific medical conditions, and collaborating with medical professionals to make yoga practices viable and available treatment options.
Q What do you do in your downtime?
A Taking a yoga class is always a treat. I love to study with teachers from a variety of traditions.