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Amherst mental health counseling center using yoga to bridge mind-body gap

Amherst mental health counseling center using yoga to bridge mind-body gap

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Elvira Aletta has battled kidney disease and scleroderma since she was in her 20s and wants to bring every evidence-based weapon necessary into the fight.

“Living with chronic illness has made this a mind-body mission of learning how to take care of myself, because with chronic illness you have to live with a lot of discomfort,” she said.

It helps explain why Aletta has added yoga and wellness workshops to the offerings in her Amherst psychotherapy office, Explore What’s Next, and looks to bring massage therapy and meditation classes going forward.

The choice to become more holistic is part of a trend in mental health counseling. Balance Whole Life Therapy in Clarence, Be Embodied in Kenmore, and Living Wellness of Niagara in Niagara Falls are among other regional adopters.

“I think that yoga, especially gentle yoga, offers an opportunity to slow down, to connect with mind and body and to calm the nervous system, allowing us to see things in a slightly different way,” said Monica Zucco, owner of Yoga for Every Body Buffalo, who teaches classes at Explore What’s Next and Balance Whole Life.

Aletta grew up in Kansas and attended college in New York City, where she met her husband, John, a neurobiologist. The couple moved to the Northtowns in the early 1990s, and she worked at Erie County Medical Center before opening her own practice a dozen years ago. She also has an office on Delaware Avenue near Gates Circle.

She expanded holistic offerings after enlarging her suburban office space last fall at 1416 Sweet Home Road, Suite 3. Psychotherapists in both offices work with clients individually and in groups. Mental health therapy includes counseling for children, adults and couples.

Aletta specializes in helping people recently diagnosed with chronic illness – or struggling to find a diagnosis to explain their aches, pains, anxiety or depression. She has written an ebook, “7 Rules for Living Well with Chronic Illness.”

She has learned over time that mental and physical challenges feed off each other – and the prescription to overall well-being addresses both.

"Coming from that philosophy, as someone with chronic illness, I was very aware that if I was under stress, there was a greater likelihood that my symptoms would get aggravated. I'd get sicker. I had to learn how to take care of my body very mindfully.

“When I have a new person I'm talking with, some of the first things I ask are, ‘What are you eating, how are you moving, and how are you sleeping?’ If I can help somebody sleep better, if I can help someone start moving, either walking or going to a yoga class, or even walking around their living room during the commercials on TV, they come back and say, ‘I'm not as anxious. It's amazing.' Then you have the opportunity to get to the psychological obstacles that are in the way."

Yoga classes are available several times a week. For more information, call 634-2600 or visit

“We're not power yoga,” Aletta said. “We're more the accessible, gentle and trauma-informed kind. The Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic and Roswell Park hospital are recognizing the benefit of these movement classes.”

Zucco teaches gentle yoga at 5:30 p.m. Mondays at The Studio at Explore What’s Next, as well as 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Balance Whole Life Therapy, 10295 Main St., Suite 2, Clarence. Classes cost $15 with multi-class discounts. For more info on Tuesday classes, call 863-5075 or visit

New Kenmore wellness studio soothes mind, body and spirit

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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