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A life far-reaching

Decades of yoga have transported Lake Oswego physical therapist Julie Gudmestad around the globe
by: VERN UYETAKE Gudmestad has been a physical therapist for 34 years and her niche is to integrate yoga into her therapy.

A typical American body has tight legs, tight hips, a weak back and a weak rotator cuff.

If that description fits you, it would be a good idea to see Julie Gudmestad.

'I know where the vulnerabilities are in the American body,' she said. 'Their bodies are out of balance, and with yoga you can get a really nice balancing.

'I've been a physical therapist for 34 years, and my niche is integrating yoga and yoga therapeutics.'

The Lake Oswego therapist has been in the body-healing business for more than 30 years, and she has become so well-known in her field that she now travels around the globe to impart her knowledge - to England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and all over the United States.

'This started because (of) people from other countries taking my class,' Gudmestad said. 'They'd go home then contact me to see if I wanted to come teach in their country. I now have wonderful friends from all over.'

Gudmestad is plenty busy right at her studio in Portland. She has 35 classes, 600 students and 10 instructors under her supervision.

'It's a happening place,' Gudmestad said.

Gudmestad's yoga saga began about 40 years ago, when she was growing up in the 1960s. There were not a lot of sports options for high school girls in those days, other than running around a track. Gudmestad was a dancer, but she found something even better - yoga.

'Right away I knew I loved it,' Gudmestad said. 'I started teaching little classes, and I've been doing yoga and teaching it ever since.'

Once she graduated from physical therapy school in 1977, Gudmestad was on her way as a guru for balanced bodies. She has lost track of the number of before-and-after stories she has been responsible for since she opened her studio 25 years ago.

'I've heard countless stories from students who tell me they couldn't run or ride a bike if they weren't doing yoga,' Gudmestad said.

'One woman had three operations on her lower back, and she could only walk with a walker. She started with very gentle things and worked her way up. Now she can hike and ski, and she no longer needs pain medications.'

Then there was a bike racer who fractured his hip in a serious crash, which severely limited his ability to pedal. Then he started taking yoga classes with Gudmestad.

'As he progressed, he began cycling a lot faster for the amount of work he was doing,' she said. 'Yoga reduced his internal resistance. Before, he could move but only with a lot of difficulty.'

Gudmestad is inspiring. But she can also be intimidating. When people get a load of her incredible flexibility from seeing her promo photos, they get cold feet about trying yoga. They get mental pictures of themselves coming apart at the seams.

However, once people make the commitment to yoga, Gudmestad is confident they can achieve outstanding results.

'Healing benefits are available at all levels of fitness and at all ages, from teens to the 80s,' Gudmestad said. 'We get all different sizes, shapes and ages.

'If people have severe physical problems, we can give them individual appointments, and if they don't have acute problems they can come to a class in the fall, winter or spring terms.

'I suggest they take several classes instead of dipping their toe in the water once.'

Gudmestad believes that what makes her system different is 'we give rules so they can take care of themselves with exercise and positive work.

'Often physical therapy gives positive results, but you just lie there on a table. You have to keep making repeated trips to get help. We like to empower people to take care of themselves.'

Too often, she said, human bodies are 'like cars with the emergency brake on.'

With her system, Gudmestad says she can put bodies into high gear.

For more about Gudmestad Yoga Studio, go to the website www.gudmestadyoga.com.