A prescription for health on the yoga mat |

PITTSBURGH — Dr. Natalie Gentile stands in an exercise studio in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, leading a workout class as soothing music plays and images of Pittsburgh flow on a massive screen.

“Inhale, up dog, tops of the feet flat,” she says, confidently shepherding the students through yoga poses and strength exercises.

The class this month was part of a series of pop-up events promoting a wellness center that Gentile plans to open in Pittsburgh early next year.

The wellness center will be located in the same building as a new office of Gentile’s medical practice, Direct Care Physicians of Pittsburgh, representing the seamless connection that Gentile hopes to draw between wellness and primary care medicine.

Often in primary care medicine, a doctor tells patients who are pre-diabetic or have other health risks that they need to make lifestyle changes, such as exercising more or eating more healthfully — and that’s where it ends.

Without more encouragement or tools, the patients often have difficulty following through, Gentile said.

“What I found myself doing with patients, I found myself getting on the floor with them doing planks, talking about cooking tofu,” she said. “It was just how I practiced medicine.”

She plans to expand that in-office advice with the new wellness center. She is calling it Rebel Wellness, a nod to her complicated relationship with the “wellness” industry.

“I’ve been involved in the wellness industry knowing or not knowing it for the majority of my life — always into fitness, playing sports, diet, what we were eating in our home, what I should and should not be eating was always on my mind,” she said. “I struggled with disordered eating for many years.”

With her patients, she finds herself continually debunking myths about wellness.

Some patients come to her with an all-or-nothing mentality about diet and exercise, she said, believing that if they are not adhering to restrictive diets or highly regimented exercise routines, it’s not worth trying at all.

Others come in with the attitude that their body is broken, looking for solutions in supplements and medications. And some just have the mentality that certain foods or certain body types are bad or shameful.


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