Health & wellness

Restoring Balance

A near-death experience leads to a career of health and wellness

You have no idea how much I needed this!

Many have spoken these words after stepping into Restore Balance, a new business at 451 Glen St. in Glens Falls. Helping people achieve that ever-elusive inner balance is particularly beneficial for dealing with holiday stress and seeking a fresh start in the new year.

It’s a technology-driven world, with texts, tweets and emails; our computers and cellphones have become tools we can’t seem to live without. For many, a large portion of each day is spent in front of a screen.

“There is no down time, and it has to be countered with something,” says Restore Balance founder Stephanie O’Hanlon Kayalar, RN BSN. “We are going to get sick if we don’t find ways. We have not evolved and adapted as quickly as our technology has, so our brain doesn’t know what to do — the speed is too great.”

We don’t know how to relax, and that’s exactly what Restore Balance is for — a counter therapy.

Restorative yoga, aromatherapy, massage therapy, reiki and psychotherapy are among the many methods Restore Balance offers to obtain equilibrium within our bodies. Kayalar also created a new kind of restorative yoga — Kambal (blanket yoga) — which utilizes weighted blankets along with other props to allow participants to hold poses without stress to the body.

“I read an article about kids wearing weighted vests at school to calm them down, and I wanted to see how it worked with clients, so I started using weighted blankets,” Kayalar says. “It was like night and day. The response was amazing.”

In medical terms: The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic nervous system — which is our fight or flight response — and the parasympathetic nervous system — which has the completely opposite effect, inhibiting the body and slowing high-energy functions. “Weight activates the parasympathetic,” Kayalar says. “I use 12-pound whole body weighted blankets, which give you a ‘hug’ feel, so that you don’t feel claustrophobic. Then we go through restorative yoga poses with these blankets.”

Kambal, her new form of yoga, is trademarked and will be registered in a few months. The process took almost a year, she says, with her patent lawyer checking worldwide to ensure no similar form of blanket yoga was registered or being done. Kambal proved to be the first of its kind.

Kayalar has brought a similar-minded practitioner under her roof: Acupuncture Nirvana, owned by Katherine McKensie. They’re two separate businesses but share a common goal, helping many of the same clients seek wellness and healing.

A Rough Road to Restore Balance

Three years ago, Kayalar’s life was altered immeasurably.

With a background in nursing, Kayalar was working in the intensive care unit of Glens Falls Hospital, going to school full-time for her master’s degree in nursing, and taking care of four kids at home. “I noticed that I was losing weight, having leg cramps and having some heart palpitations,” she says. “But I pushed it all off.” Kayalar also has celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder that causes the body to be unable to process gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley). If gluten is ingested, the body attacks the small intestine and prevents nutrients from being absorbed.

One night at 4 a.m., she shot up in bed. “I felt the impending doom,” Kayalar says. “It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I knew; I just knew.”

She turned to her husband, Dr. Atilla Kayalar, a cardiologist, and shouted, “I’m having a heart attack! I’m having a heart attack right now!”

She tried to stand, but as soon as she took a step, she was down, pulseless, not breathing. “He lost me,” Kayalar says. “He was doing CPR but I was gone.” Her husband didn’t lose faith and managed to get her back. Once in the ambulance, Kayalar slipped in and out of consciousness. She had come back to life.

At the hospital, countless tests were run. Her heart was fine; she passed every EKG with flying colors. What had caused her to go into cardiac arrest? Electrolyte imbalance and her celiac were to blame. “It was the perfect storm,” Kayalar says. “I was getting unknown exposure to gluten [causing malnutrition] and my magnesium levels plummeted, and when that magnesium gets too low, our potassium starts to shift… It was all driven by my celiac.”

The worst part was the aftershock. Panic attacks became part of her everyday routine. “I couldn’t power through it; I wasn’t myself,” she says. “I was a shell of myself. I would start shaking and think I was dying.” She was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Refusing the medication route, she sought refuge at Yoga Kayla on Glen Street, founded by Kayla Sehlmeyer.

Prior to walking into the studio, Kayalar couldn’t shake the feeling that death was around every corner. It didn’t help that everyone kept saying, “What if Atilla hadn’t been there? You’d be dead.” She was constantly checking her heart rate, and did so several times throughout that first yoga class. “I have so much to thank her for,” Kayalar says. “I walked out of that class and had that light-at the-end-of-the-tunnel feeling… ‘I’m going to be okay.’” She started doing yoga twice a day, and her body started to calm down. She found peace.

“I learned to trust myself and breathe,” Kayalar says. “Yoga resonated with me, and I was able to come back to myself again. My body would let go, and it was the only time that it would.” She knew she had to train to become a restorative yoga teacher.

Finding a Home

After obtaining the necessary certifications, Kayalar searched for a home for Restore Balance. The 1900 house she found, a former office on Glen Street, was just the right fit. “I wanted an imperfect look — boho with modern touches.” Extensive gutting and renovation revealed elegant hardwood floors beneath the drab office carpeting.

Now, with Kayalar’s gentle touch, when you walk through the front door, there’s a soothing atmosphere aglow with salt lamps. She kept some of the other classic touches — the original rippled French windows, handmade blown-glass doorknobs, and old-fashioned radiators that provide a toasty vibe to every corner.

“We took the anxiety out of the building, and I feel it loves it,” Kayalar says. “It feels like a womb; a warm, loving, safe place… and there aren’t many places like that.”

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