We have a new wrinkle in yoga training in the DC area.
Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH, formerly the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, MD) will offer a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy, starting in September. It calls for 39 credits. Classes will take place on weekends and stretch over two years, three terms per year. To qualify for admission, you must have a bachelor’s degree, a 200-hour yoga teacher certificate, and a year’s teaching experience. The degree will cost $25,000 (about what I paid for my MS in Information Technology). That price makes a 200-hour or 500-hour teaching certification seem like a bargain.
Doug Keller, a well-known and respected yoga teacher, is the advisory director and Mary Partlow Lauttamus is Program Director. The website does not mention other teachers to be involved in the program.
The Tai Sophia Institute used to be focused on Chinese acupuncture and herbal medicine, health and wellness promotion since 1974, and began offering a masters of acupuncture in 1985. It changed its name in March. I noticed the news when I spotted an ad in Yoga Journal.
I think it’s going to be a hard sell because MUIH has not previously worked with yoga, so why should you pick that school. It does have the pedagogical and administrative infrastructure to flesh out a graduate program. Elsewhere, the Loyola Marymount University at its Los Angeles Extension has a yoga studies program and offers a Master of Arts in Yoga Studies. It has a Graduate Program on Yoga Studies (36 credits). The Yoga Therapy Rx program, led by Larry Payne, has a faculty of 25 teachers. Many of its course offerings are similar to standard teacher training programs. LMU is a Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition.
I was finally able to fit in a yoga class at Thrive with Pierre Couvillion this evening. My first class since mid-August and almost two months after my knee operations. I forced myself to go by packing my kit and rolling up my mat this morning before I left for work and giving my wife instructions to take it to the studio when she went to her class in the afternoon. I knew I had to put some kind of imperative in the formula because I was building up all kinds of resistance to the yoga class and even going to the gym, even though I can feel the adverse effects that their absence is having on my body and temperament.
Pierre led a pretty straight forward class that was good for me because it was am all-levels class that emphasized grounding in the basics of good form and breath. I did not do anything crazy — no jump-backs or jump-throughs, no wheels or advanced inversions. I just wanted to feel easy and comfortable in my asanas, and focus on my knees to make sure that they were solid and fully engaged. Pierre led us through some fundamental variations in standing poses that reinforced the tracking of the leg muscles. I think the factor that had deteriorated the most during the break was balance.
In preparation for the class, I had a session of acupuncture in the morning that was supposed to help break up some of the scar tissue in my knee.
I woke up this morning and felt a big relief in my knee. The relief of tension that I had felt yesterday after treatment had continued after a night’s rest. Yesterday, I was really sore, and felt tired from the difficulty of walking and climbing stairs. I could feel the strain building up in my shoulders as I clinched with each step with my right leg. I have started icing down my knee this weekend. I previously thought that my knee did not show any signs of swelling, but today I did detect some puffiness above my knee, which may be a sign of inflammation. Another symptom is that I get pain relief from ibuprofen.
In other words, I am treating it as if it is an injuruy, not just a nick or ding that will go away with a little rest and time.
Another consequence is that I’ve gone up five pounds over the past four weeks. I have to cut back on my calorie intake due to the drop-off in my physical activity.
Acupuncture chart from Hua Shou (fl. 1340s, Ming Dynasty). This image from Shi si jing fa hui (Expression of the Fourteen Meridians). (Tokyo : Suharaya Heisuke kanko, Kyoho gan 1716). Courtesy of Wikipedia
My knee bothered me more each day as the week went on. Ibuprofen has become an essential intake several times a day. Last week, I could still feel capable of taking a yoga class. This week, it’s out of the question because of the increased pain and the sensation of instability. I was lucky to already have a Friday appointment with my acupuncturist, Kelly Welch, only three blocks from my office. Kelly also practices Ashtanga yoga and had two bad knees so he has first-hand experience about dealing with the problem.
I gave him the background on the injury, which I have already laid out here in excruciating detail. He asked about where the pain was felt, zeroing in on medial side of the knee. He really did not give me a “diagnosis” in a medical sense, leaving that for a Western physician who could use MRIs and other tools to rule out things like arthritis, torn ligaments and other nasties. He gave me some pointers about how to keep up with my yoga while not injuring it further by using a rolled-up towel or blanket between my thigh and calve behind my knee whenever I have to go into hero’s pose or similar poses that put pressure on the joint. He gave me the name and phone number of his orthopedist, who handles a lot of sports related cases. He also gave me the name of his massage therapist who has worked with people with knee issues, too.
Kelly did acupuncture on my right knee and left elbow (China medicine is into the yin-yang thing so a Chinese doctor would always treat the opposites to restore balance). He also applied some electrical stimulus, a slight sensation of being shocked. He adjusted it so that it did not reach discomfort or pain. And then he left me to simmer for 20 minutes. The treatment seemed to release a lot of muscular tension that had built up by the pain — and the anticipation of pain. As always with acupuncture, the treatment seems to wash me clean of tension and compressed energy. I feel lighter, more clearheaded.
Finally, Kelly set me up for three more weekly appointments for follow-ups on the initial treatment.
As soon as I made it back to the office, I shot off an e-mail to the optometrist’s office assistant and set up an appointment for next Wednesday afternoon, the soonest that he could see me.
This weekend I realized that I had not done the long kriya in nearly two months. My original group had stopped meeting because it lost its borrowed office space. I looked up another group in my area (Rockville, MD), made contact to confirm the meeting, went to Stephen and Amita Cupp’s house this Sunday afternoon and participated in the weekly gathering. It was a very Indian setting — we sat in a living room without chairs or couches, just a beautiful carpet. In addition to the long kriya, we spent some time singing AoL songs. Apparently my DC group was musically challenged and skipped the singing part.
It’s important to keep doing the long kriya because you can check your form and timing. I noticed that I was cutting my intervals in 3-part breathing too short.
Last week in my acupuncture session, Kelly told me that he was going to work at opening up my lungs and heart, in addition to dealing with my lower back strain. I noticed on Friday during my morning kriya that my breathing was exceptionally deep and fluid. That also made me want to do the long kriya as well.
It fits together.
Last night my yoga class really rung the last ounce of energy out of me. I had noticed that I had good flexibility in my spin, being able to do twists that had proven hard, if not impossible, before my acupuncture treatment last week (But it could also have been due to continuing work that I’ve been doing since I injured my lower back a month ago). I was more flexible, but because my stiffness and rigidity had been propping up my core, I struggled to hold positions. My breath got out off control and I had to drop out of a couple of poses. I committed myself to accompanying my body through the process — not judging it or getting discouraged.
Later at home, I really felt drained. I had a late supper and went to bed. I got up this morning still feeling fatigued, and dragged myself to my acupuncture appointment at 9:00. One hour later, I was re-energized and feeling fine. I had spent about 20 minutes on the table and felt as if I had taken a long nap. Kelly Welch also prescribed some Chinese medicinal herbs to help improve blood flow.
In general, my back is much better. The day after my first treatment, my ache was no longer concentrated on one side, but had dissipated across my whole lower back and lessened. It was like a knot had loosened. Over the weekend, the pain became an afterthought. I only had a twinge of stiffness in the mornings when I got up, and that usually disappeared before I was out of the door for work.
Over in the Moving into Stillness forum, a participant said: “Sounds like you got a dedicated doc! I’d say that you are one of the lucky people.” He’s right.
I have not posted here much over the past few days because the acupuncture treatment has loosen up some other emotional things that I have been working through in a private journal. I don’t want to turn this blog into a confessional.
I had a session of acupuncture treatment for the back pain that I’ve been suffering from for the past month. One of my yoga instructors, Anne Thiel, recommended that I try acupuncture, instead of a chiropractor or doctor for dealing with the lower back sprain. She recommended a young couple, Kelly Welch and Katherine Yonkers, here in downtown DC, only a few blocks from my work place. They were on my CareFirst approved list of alternative medicine providers so I got a discount. I would have gone sooner, but they were on vacation for the week prior to July 4th so I got an appointment as early as I could fit into Welch’s schedule. Since this was the first time, the session lasted 90 minutes — the first half for a general evaluation and history taking, and the second half was the treatment. Welch explained the principles behind the Chinese medical practice and explained how it would be applied to my problem.
I came out of the office without feeling even an ache in my lower back, a relaxing flush in my body and a new appreciation for an “occult science.” Admittedly, as soon as I made my appointment this week, the pain began to subside sharply. Today, it was not that severe and I even had some problems pinpointing it once I was lying on my stomach. I will have to see how I feel after my yoga class this afternoon.
I will have two more sessions, the first in a weeks time’, and then assess if additional treatment is necessary. I have read that back pain has a really low success rate for treatment, though my is not chronic pain so it may not be more prone to treatment. I liked that the treatment was holistic in approach and fit smoothly and neatly with my yoga practices: there’s no meaningful difference between Chi and prana — both are life energy.
Postdata: I noticed during my yoga class that I felt energized and in touch, even though it’s been a while since I had a class and I was out of form. It was a very emotionally satisfying session, even though my thighs ached from the deep lunges.