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Classes, programs in Sewickley can show you how to de-stress

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Instructor Chris Steinmetz leads a morning yoga session inside the Sewickley Valley YMCA Community Activity Center on Friday, Aug. 14, 2014.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Deb Balotsky (middle) of Leet participates in a morning yoga session inside the Sewickley Valley YMCA Community Activity Center on Friday, Aug. 14, 2014.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Instructor Chris Steinmetz leads a morning yoga session inside the Sewickley Valley YMCA Community Activity Center on Friday, Aug. 14, 2014.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
Rayanne Sifferlin of Bradford Woods (second from right) talks to the group about things going on his her life during a Reiki Healing Exchange session led by Reiki Master Deborah Donoghue (far left) at Sewickley Public Library on Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014.

Janice Held wants you to slow down a minute, find your inner energy and learn who you really are.

Held, of Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood, is just one class instructor showing people who live in and around Sewickley how it's possible to de-stress in a stressful world.

She offers weekly Sahaja meditation sessions at the Sewickley Public Library.

It's one of several offerings in the Sewickley Valley to help people learn to take time for themselves.

Sahaja meditation is an ability to achieve balance, peace and joy by awakening your own energy and allowing it to help balance yourself, Held said.

“The whole focus is to learn about who the person really is based on their whole inner being,” she said. “We sit down, close our eyes and we take you through an exercise that awakens the energy within you that is a pure desire to achieve peace and a connection. The connection is important because we are connecting ourselves with the energy around us. That's when we are able to meditate.”

Sahaja practitioners focus on the “subtle system,” which involves energy centers, Held said.

“If you know about it, you can really balance out your inner being by using very simple methods,” she said. “For example, if you feel guilty about something, guilt impedes spiritual growth because you're living in the past. Simply by putting your attention on that center ... say, ‘I don't feel guilty' and you can achieve that, make the connection and achieve growth with everything around you.”

Franklin Park resident Linda Fetzer, who hosts tai chi classes at the library, said participants spend most of their time learning and practicing what she referred to as “meditation in motion.”

“It is a serious class but so much fun to teach,” she said. “Everyone, including me, leaves with a smile,” she said. Her beginner-level courses start next month.

The most valuable benefit is stress reduction, Fetzer said.

“There are many studies that demonstrate the powerful effect of mind over body,” she said.

In the library's Reiki healing exchange, participants learn about therapeutic touch and have the opportunity to relax and find peace.

Deborah Donoghue conducts the sessions once a month in the library.

“It's not a workshop or class or anything like that. It's a healing circle and meditation circle and stress-reduction session. People find that they leave feeling very relaxed and light. A lot of their anxiety and tension is relieved when they're finished.”

The two-hour session includes a guided meditation and a healing circle that includes the use of Reiki, which is a form of laying on of hands that many medical facilities offer, including Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital.

“Patients that receive it notice a difference and request it again. They've had good results from it. It's really gone mainstream,” Donoghue said.

“It's bringing universal life force energy to the person. The person that's receiving the energy finds that the area where the other person's hands are gets very warm, and they feel a sense of lightness and relief.”

At the Sewickley Valley YMCA, there are more ways to de-stress.

In addition to its own roster of tai chi and yoga classes, the YMCA offers ai chi — a form of water exercise that is a series of slow, graceful movements accompanied by deep breathing.

The class is ideal for those with arthritis; diabetes; balance impairments; chronic pain; or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; as well as anyone needing to find a new way to relax, YMCA spokeswoman Jessica Scioscia said.

The YMCA offers Introduction to Yoga classes, as well as a class for those who have been at it for awhile.

Leet Township resident Deb Balotsky is a YMCA who participates in yoga, as well as Pilates classes there. She said the yoga class is “such a nice, very relaxing setting.”

She credited instructor Chris Steinmetz for placing emphasis on purging stress.

Balotsky said the classes have helped.

“You leave behind your work, leave behind your family,” she said. “It's all about you for just one hour. It helps you to stay free and focused.”

Mya Koch is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-324-1403.

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