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As director of Mental Health Services and the MindBody Center at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center, Andrea Soler helps patients improve their mental and physical well-being through yoga, mindfulness, stress reduction and psychotherapy.
Soler, who has practiced yoga all her life, finds that teaching yoga and stress reduction to patients with diabetes, heart conditions and chronic pain helps them develop good self-care and an interest in healing.
“It is so exciting to see patients learn how a change in their breathing or posture can change their perspective or mood,” said Soler, who earned her advanced yoga teaching certification at Kripalu Center in Lenox, Mass. “Body awareness enables patients to form a stronger partnership with their medical providers.”
The medical team at SJPHC is supportive of these strategies for patients. “Doctors often refer patients to the yoga, stress reduction and meditation classes,” she said.
Soler spearheaded the development of the SJPHC MindBody Center 10 years ago as a way to teach yoga, T’ai chi and meditation to the Jamaica Plain community. “We have a large Spanish-speaking population at the health center and in the surrounding neighborhood,” she said. “I really wanted to make yoga available to people who couldn’t access it because of a lack of information or language and financial barriers.”
With the help of grants and the support of SJPHC executive director Tom Kieffer, Soler offers free yoga classes in Spanish to the community. “I love teaching people who are new to yoga and watching how they truly feel more grounded in the world. Teaching the Latino community has been an extraordinarily heart-warming experience,” she said.
Soler, a native of Argentina, has a background rich in dance therapy, clinical social work and yoga and mindfulness. This variety of experiences has helped her find ways to bridge the mind and body. “The MindBody Center brings together the medical and mental health departments, the health center and the community,” she said. “For our patients, the health center is a home. It brings us together.”