“Yoga fusion is what I typically teach right now. That’s alignment based, focusing on preventing injuries as we are moving through postures,” said Wu, of Snyder, a Hong Kong native who moved with her family to Boston when she was 10 and has lived in Western New York since she was accepted out of high school into an eight-year medical program at the University of Rochester. She will teach Fit/Fly/Acro yoga at 2 p.m. and Pi/Yo at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Willow Tree Tent during the free Budding Tree Yoga Festival, which will run from 9:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Wilkeson Pointe, 225 Fuhrmann Blvd., in the Outer Harbor.
Wu spends three days a week in her clinic at the Rochester Regional Health System in the suburb of Greece. She moved to Snyder last year with her partner, Dr. Chris Battaglia, a critical care physician at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. She spends more time in the Buffalo area these days, working her wellness business, Fit2BWell, teaching spinning and TRX yoga at Revolution Indoor Cycling, and various forms of yoga at Longboards and East Meets West Yoga, as well as health coaching. Learn more at her website, drjoannewu.com.
See Budding Tree Yoga Festival schedule here.
Q. What is your philosophy of medicine, healing and wellness?
I believe movement is the essence of healing. There’s definitely a paucity of doctors out there who are emphasizing what we can do with preventative medicine, especially focusing on exercise. There’s a lot of tools out there focusing on how to eat better but safe exercise instruction is lacking.
Q. What are your keys to good health?
I think stress is at the root of a lot of our disease. To focus on good health we have to focus on stress reduction and focus on practical and realistic goals that we can keep. We’re a society that’s focused on producing more and working harder. Sometimes, we just need to work smarter and move smarter, so we’re taking care of our bodies.
Q. You say finding the sweet spot in an exercise program is important?
It’s easy for people to say, “You’ve got to be healthier and lose weight. Go exercise.” But exercise for people who aren’t used to movement is scary and intimidating. Having someone to coach them, to get an understand of what they like, what kind of comorbidities they have, how they are coping with health conditions, helps get the right exercise for them so they can stay motivated. To have joy with movement, I think, is key. One of the things I like about acroyoga, and yoga in general, is that I get people smiling and laughing. They’re having fun with their workout. After a while, they don’t even realize they’re working out. That’s helpful for keeping people interested in movement.
Q. How and when did you discover yoga?
During the time I was a competitive triathlete and marathoner, I was racing at least 20 races a year – including nine or 10 marathons – and my body was tight. My hip flexors were getting tight. My hamstrings were getting tight. My coach at the time, eight or nine years ago, said, “You should try yoga.” It was before the yoga boom. I decided to explore that and really loved it. It was beyond the physical changes I saw in my body – I was able to have better stride length in my running and my breathing was better in my racing – I saw something happening with my mind starting to shift. I was really paying attention, becoming more aware, in terms of my connection with my community, with my patients, with my partner. That mindfulness component was really intriguing to me.
Q. Talk about how you pursued becoming a teacher.
I decided to seek my first training and really loved it. I wanted to bridge gaps in health care and thought about yoga therapeutics, to turn this into something people could use for their own health. I’m happy I have established myself in yoga therapeutics world. I have really good friends who inspire me with their yoga research. My next five years will be in helping develop yoga therapeutics and what we can do to really spread this in a mindful way.
Q. What styles of yoga do you teach?
Right now, my focus is teaching a flow yoga which combines principles in the yoga realm with Pilates and barre. I also teach a lot of acroyoga as well as aerial yoga and TRX yoga, programs that blend other principles with yoga.
Q. What is acroyoga?
Acrobatic yoga is a brand developed by Jason Nemer and his partner, Jenny Sauer-Klein, about 10, 12 years ago. They decided to blend sports acrobatics – people balancing people – and tie in his yoga background and his concept of connection with community. Jason and Jenny also were very into tai yoga massage, so they developed and trademarked acroyoga. ... There are now many different schools. I’ve been trained under Jason and Jenny’s brand and also with Seattle Acro, which is a different style, and Acro Montreal. They’re all people balancing people, having a good time and trying to spread community joy. That’s really the essence.
Q. What do you see as the greatest benefits of regular yoga practice?
It’s becoming more aware of your own body, where the strengths are, where there could be some pain, where it might need a little more TLC. I also really think the yoga exercise of mindful deep breaths, diaphragmatic breathing, is very beneficial in slowing your heart rate, decreasing the need for this fight or flight tendency that can come with stress. I also like this concept of finding this peace just by being present. It’s not very hard work if you learn to just appreciate this moment that you have.