Former accountant Toni Farris turned to the healing power of yoga several years ago after encountering a number of health problems that started taking a toll on her mobility.

The owner of Yoga Tree Plano said she decided to leave her corporate career for an opportunity to help others combat debilitating illnesses, such as cancer patients, as well as the average professional living with stress. The properties of this form of exercise have proven to be beneficial on a number of levels for its ability to relax the mind while rejuvenating the body, Farris said.

“I started doing yoga and it just brought me back to health,” she said. “The goal of every class is to improve body awareness and body mechanics. You’re learning how to use [your body] better.”

Three years ago, Farris opened a studio in an apartment she rented at Eastside Village in downtown Plano. The business took off, and in November 2014 she purchased a storefront off E.15th St. where today she and 11 other instructors offer various forms of yoga classes, including tai chi.

“This is the first debt I’ve ever had. It’s exciting,” Farris said. “Everything just fell right into place. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. The community has been really wonderful.”

With a teacher training school and a growing group of clients, the studio also offers a special cancer survivors class on Wednesday nights. The class is free to patients in treatment and Farris charges other survivors
a reduced rate of $5 per class. The
specialty class has become popular for those who are recovering from cancer and can benefit from its low-impact poses that help increase mobility and muscle tone, Farris said.

“It’s a great way for them to move and be cared for in an environment where they’re not being poked. They’re being touched in a way that’s not invasive,” she said. “I have people [in my classes] that have had knee replacements and herniated discs. I also have a woman in her mid-60s who has lost 100 pounds and has been coming here for three years.”

Yoga Tree also organizes a class in Haggard Park three times a year. On July Fourth, 75 people attended the latest outdoor event, which raised money for a fellow yoga instructor, who is battling cancer. Farris and her instructors have also offered free yoga classes to children in the Douglass Community Center and teach classes through the Plano Parks and
Recreation Department.

The next outdoor class is set for Sept. 7 on Labor Day.

Yoga is an effective way to relieve many different forms of stress by using one’s own body weight, Farris said. It can also help restore balance and improve the internal flow of blood and oxygen through the body with less recovery time compared to other forms of exercise.

“The stress response is very
inflammatory. It breaks down tissues and causes the blood rush to the arms and legs and [affects] digestion [and] reproductive [systems],” said Farris, who has fibromyalgia. “The chronic stress has a huge ill effect on a person’s overall health. Sitting, they say, is the new health problem.”

Clients do not need to be suffering from an illness to benefit from yoga, Farris said. Many clients come to Yoga Tree simply to escape the rigors of daily life and enjoy the soothing environment Farris has created in her studio. This quiet time spent practicing poses is an effective way for the mind to process the mental clutter, she said.

“Real life really happens. Impressions are like food for your mind and your mind has to parse through all of that and digest it, but it can only do that when you’re quiet,” Farris said.

“Repetitive tasks [like yoga] are the time when your mind gets rid of what it doesn’t want. Yoga creates that designated space where there’s
nothing else than what’s happening in the present moment,” she said.