After growing up in Woodstock and leaving to work for two decades as a bodyworker in California, Jory Serota has returned to his hometown, bringing a system called neuro-kinetic therapy (NKT) that he combines with Iyengar yoga. He teaches at Woodstock Yoga and will be offering training for bodyworkers, called Applied Yoga Integration, at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck this summer.
Over the years, he has taught yoga and practiced NKT in Taiwan, Japan, Bali, and Costa Rica. He studied at the Iyengar Institute in Pune, India, and met the master teacher and founder, B.K.S. Iyengar. Still, says Serota, the stepson of town supervisor Bill McKenna, “It’s good to be back in Woodstock.”
The moving body has been of interest to Serota since his teen years, when he played on the Onteora High School tennis team, winning a Mid-Hudson Athletic League championship in 1996. As a massage therapist, he followed the pro tennis circuit, treating injured players, including major stars, and getting them back on the court. In California he established a steady practice, Marin Sports Therapy, which led to his meeting with David Weinstock, the founder of NKT. “After some resistance, he convinced me to take his course,” Serota recalled. “It blew me away and changed the way I was treating everybody. It’s more intelligent than any type of bodywork I have experienced.”
NKT offers a specific diagnostic approach to musculoskeletal pain. “You’re able to hone in on the actual source of the pain,” Serota explained. “NKT assesses motor control function in the cerebellum. Instead of just working on tight muscles, joints, and range of motion, it assesses how the brain is perceiving motion, and it changes neural pathways. You’re retraining the brain how to move.”
He gave the example of a case of tennis elbow, in which pain comes from overworking of the common extensor tendon. “Instead of treating the site of the pain, you figure out which muscles in the shoulder and wrist are not working property. In NKT, you stop chasing pain. Your job is to treat the cause, not the symptoms.”
In 2014, he was taking classes at the Iyengar Institute in India when the renowned teacher died. In a blog post, Serota described the overwhelming grief that followed and the rituals before and after the cremation. Just a month earlier, he had watched Iyengar take challenging yoga postures with the support of assistants. Serota recalled a final opportunity to pass by the master’s body as “one of the most profound moments of my life.”
During his four months in Pune, he was one of only a few Westerners allowed to assist in medical classes for people with problems from shoulder dysfunction to severe scoliosis. As he helped the teachers, he was amazed to see how effectively serious issues could be treated. “I had always believed yoga can help any condition,” he said. “But this gave me a deeper understanding of the ways it can work therapeutically.” The experience also led to his integration of yoga with NKT.
Iyengar yoga places particular emphasis on alignment, which helps prevent and treat injury. “Yoga has an ability to take joints that are not healthy and make them more mobile,” said Serota. “When joints are not in proper alignment, the muscles around the joint fight with each other, some overworking, and some underworking. A properly aligned yoga pose can put the joint in the right place, soften tight muscles, strengthen weak muscles, and change patterns of movement.”
When he sees a client for NKT treatment, the first step is a movement screening to see which parts are moving well and which are not. On a massage table, he performs manual muscle tests to discover which muscles the brain is connecting to and why a muscle group is not firing properly. Then a massage, incorporating soft tissue release, helps the muscle to work properly. Serota gives exercises for homework, to reprogram the brain and change the movement pattern that caused the pain. These simple exercises are based on yoga postures.
This summer Serota will launch the teaching of his Applied Yoga Integration (AYI) for such practitioners as physical therapists, chiropractors, personal trainers, Pilates teachers, and massage therapists. Later in the year, he’ll be teaching AYI in Toronto, Arizona, Washington, and New Jersey. “I love to teach,” he remarked. “I like to be onstage and crack jokes.”
Serota’s return to Woodstock came nine months ago, when he tore a knee ligament during a game of ultimate frisbee. He had played competitively in college and went back to the sport after not playing for 15 years. Needing knee surgery, he thought he would spend a short time in Woodstock, but when he arrived, he found himself “sinking back into the place. It’s been nice to have my mom and stepdad and brother in town, to be in such a relaxed community after San Francisco.” It looks he will stick around for a while.++
Jory Serota offers a weekly Iyengar class at Woodstock Yoga, as well as a popular monthly Saturday workshop. On Saturday, March 18, from 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m., he’ll be focusing on yoga for the hips. For schedules and to register, visit http://www.woodstockyogacenter.com. For Serota’s upcoming seminars on Applied Yoga Integration and Neuro-Kinetic Therapy, see https://joryserota.com.