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| October 22, 2015

Vanessa, one of Healthe Communities’ fitness instructors, never figured she’d be on the receiving end of the program’s health education services. Yet many years after she first quit smoking, she found herself drawn back to the habit, despite all other attempts at a healthy lifestyle.

Having never formally exercised in the past, Vanessa became addicted to yoga after searching for a physical outlet she could tolerate while experiencing knee pain. She started taking yoga classes at the local community center, then switched to the Healthe Communities wellness center in Belton, Missouri. It was soon after her instructor left on vacation for a week—thus cancelling classes—that Vanessa felt the need to become a certified instructor herself.

Vanessa has since taught restorative yoga, gentle yoga, regular yoga and stretch & strength at the wellness center. She has seen vast improvements in class participants, who range in age from four years old to 70.

“Their range of motion gets so much better!” exclaimed Vanessa. “One lady who just started came up to me and said, ‘I can knit again because of all the hand exercises we do!’ She hadn’t been able to knit for a while, but now her hands feel so much better.”

Though the classes provided Vanessa the ability to relax and rejuvenate, the stress of daily life still nagged at her. Smoking was her escape.

“I started smoking when I was in high school,” Vanessa revealed. “I smoked until I was in my 20s and had my three girls—I quit when I was pregnant and raising them. But then I got back into it probably ten years later. I’d smoke a pack every two or three days.”

She started noticing broken capillaries on her skin and found herself short of breath. So when a smoking cessation class was offered at the wellness center, she jumped at it.

The five-week class helped participants—including Vanessa—recognize the reasons behind their habit, understand its health effects, and build positive stress management skills. The supportive group environment was the catalyst Vanessa needed to quit for good.

“We went over all kinds of techniques that can help you quit and we talked about why we were smoking, just really breaking it down. What stuck with me was the information about my health. I really wanted to improve my health and I wanted to be a better role model.”

With only one minor setback, Vanessa is now—and forever—a nonsmoker!

“My family is very happy…very happy. My husband and kids have urged me to quit for years. Now I’m trying to get my youngest daughter and her wife to quit.”

Vanessa has already seen health improvements.

“I feel good! I can definitely tell a difference. And I have more time to be available for my family, to be present. I’m not wasting my time standing on the back deck smoking.”

What really made the difference for her—and for her own class participants—were the people at the wellness center.

“Everybody’s so warm and welcoming and accepting. The teachers really make themselves available to the students. If we can’t answer a question, we can refer them to the nurses on staff. I walk into that place and just take a deep sigh. It makes you feel like you’re at home.”

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