Tag Archives: health

A yogi gives his take on drug abuse and treatmenet

One of the most accessible online resources about substance abuse gets down with a leading advocate of including yoga in treatment:

The Fix The Next Phase in Recovery—The Tommy Rosen Solution
Ninety minutes later, having come through an intimate and powerful experience, I would be directed to lie down, relax completely, and let the full weight of my body rest upon the earth. This was savasana or corpse pose. The feeling was electric—energy humming through my body. I felt like blood was pouring into areas of my tissues that it had not been able to reach for some time. It was relieving and healing. It was subtler than the feeling from getting off on drugs, but it was detectable and lovely, and there would be no hangover, just a feeling of more ease than I could remember. I felt a warmth come over me, similar to what I felt when I had done heroin, but far from the darkness of that insanity, this was pure light—a way through.

Also see Yoga and Recovery: Three Ways to Start on The Path To Wellness.

Yoga as medicine gets a bad review

Brian Palmer is Slate‘s chief explainer and tackles the claims that yoga is medicine for many medical conditions.

Slate Does therapeutic yoga work? The best studies say no, but they don’t get much press..
Doctors eventually realized—most of them, at least—that prayer didn’t fit well into a clinical trial. Yoga doesn’t, either. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do yoga. By all means, do yoga, pray, and eat lemons, if those things bring you contentment. Do yoga especially if it’s your preferred form of exercise—exercise is a health intervention supported by thousands of clinical trials. But recognize the “yoga as medicine” craze for what it is: an indicator of the zeitgeist, not a scientific discovery.

I’ve commented on the trend towards prescribing yoga for all kinds of ills and flaws. Much of it goes back to the inception of modern yoga in India when its early advocates wanted to validate yoga within a Western, medicalized framework. In the States, the application of yoga as a therapeutic tool has also help it makes inroads into mainstream culture. There’s been a lot of bad science done around yoga therapy, which has compounded the problem. It’s hard to run standardized, double-blind studies on a massive scale on a practice that should be tailored to individual bodies.

But I also think that all this talk about yoga addressing medical conditions is wrongheaded. The practice of yoga is aimed at wellness, the holistic utilization regulation and balancing of bodily systemic functions (myofascial, neurological, circulatory, lymphatic, and others). You could focus a session exclusively on lower back pain, but the asanas and vinyasas would not affect just the lower back, but the whole body. The effects would be accumulative over time, not something like a round of antibiotics. In addition, yoga addresses mental states that Western-style exercise ignores and have a huge impact on well-being.

This article is the latest wave of skepticism about yoga, mindfulness and other things vaguely New Agish. You should also check out The Mindfulness Racket: The evangelists of unplugging might just have another agenda by Evgeny Morozov, a senior editor at The New Republic. He’s actually talking about another trend, the recommendation that people should unplug from their stress-inducing devices because Western society is too hyper-wired and needs to stop multitasking. The mindfulness thing gets lumped in because unplug advocates frequently cite that mind state as the counterweight to multitasking.

Slipping into the American life style

It’s the last day of February. I’ve made four entries into this blog and probably gone to four yoga classes too. I’ve gained five pounds, setting off personal health alarms, which contributes to not getting to the yoga studio or the gym. The weather has been chilly, if not frigid for most of this month, with a few balmy breaks, so I have not been lured outside. My wife is away visiting her family in Peru, and I am home taking care of the dogs.

And of course, there’s the job. Things have been going great  at DMI. I feel privileged to be clearing a new career path at this stage of my life. My work as a technical proposal writer strikes the tricky balance between exploiting my skill set and experience and making me stretch to complete the assignment with the quality needed. If I run into difficult, I don’t get down on myself because I know I have a team backing me up. I’ve also noticed that I am more resilient — when I run into a problem, I usually  bounce back with a solution the next day, after sleeping on it.

Writing responses to Federal requests for proposals (RFPs) and similar documents is not going to win me a Pulitzer Prize, but it is disciplined writing. Lessons can be applied in other formats. The assignments require sprints of one or two weeks to finish. I am being given more independence, not having to check in with my boss. I’ve even been asked to teach a young copy editor how to write, mentoring him for the day when he can take on proposals himself. It’s harder to find solutions architects (the professional who pulls together the parts of a proposal) that can write than it is to find writers who can handle IT subject matter, according to one of my supervisors.

Now the bad news

Becoming so absorbed into my work has meant that it is hard to get myself to a yoga class or to the fitness club. I put in longer hours to meet deadlines. I even work on weekends. I find it hard to go to the fitness room on the first floor of my work place. At the end of the day, I am emotionally and physically squeezed dry. If I go home after work, I can’t get myself out again.  The convenient location of my job, only a 15-minute drive from home, means I don’t have a long commute, but I don’t get the benefit of walks to and from the Metro. The more out of shape I become, the harder it gets to get back in shape, the slower the recovery.

The personal habits and patterns that served me well over the past 10 years or so are broken, and the end result is good, but I’ve got to find a way of readjusting my life so that it’s physically and emotionally sustainable. Otherwise, I will fall into the mold of the American office worker — drives to work, sits in front of a keyboard, eats more than his body needs, develops a paunch and fails to get enough exercises. After three months on my new job, I realize that I could end up that way.

Reclaiming your body – yoga’s healing power for trauma

Photo: cover art of book on yoga and trauma
This book should be required reading for all yoga teachers.

I’ve been reading and thinking about a book that surprised me by its fresh perspective on yoga practice and yoga teaching. The book is Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body by David Emerson and Elizabeth Hopper, PhD (Boston: North Atlantic Books, 2012). The book should be required reading for anyone who plans to teach yoga, even if they are not going to specialize in yoga therapy or deal specifically with populations that undergone high levels of trauma (war veterans, sexual abuse victims, battered wives, etc.). 

The credentials behind the book are impressive as well. It has two forwards, one by Peter A. Levine, PhD, author of  Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma and a leading advocate for a somatic approach to healing trauma, and a second one by Stephen Cope, the head of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living and an author of yoga-inspired books. The introduction is by Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD, the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center  and one of the intellectual thinkers behind this approach to treating trauma through yoga. The lasting physical and psychological consequences of trauma is a growing field of investigation, theory and application. Certainly, the mangled bodies of veterans from two decades of American wars abroad and related stress have forced greater attention on this issue.  But trauma is also present in child and sexual abuse, which are both widely prevalent in our society. Trauma can also be the result of neglect, of lack of human affection at the most formative stages of life.

Continue reading Reclaiming your body – yoga’s healing power for trauma

Limping towards the end of the year

I’ve been dragging around a lot of aches and pains for too long. I’ve had a sinus infection that has lingered for months as as a legacy of my extended bout with bronchitis. This past weekend I finally saw a doctor (walk-in clinic) who ordered another round of antibiotics, this time a bit stronger than the first (in September). I haven’t lost a day of work, but I arrived home feeling exhausted (for multiple reasons, read below). Continue reading Limping towards the end of the year

Yoga and its application in health and wellness

Photo: ornamental shrine in bronze, India
Siddha Pratima Yantra, Western India, dated 1333 (Samvat 1390) Bronze, 21.9 x 13.1 x 8.9 cm Freer Gallery of Art, F1997.33

The next major event of the Yoga: The Art of Transformation exhibit is the Medical Yoga Symposium to take place on the weekend of January 11-12, 2014. The first day with the theme of “Discovery and Didactics: Professional Perspectives and Personal Stories” will be in the Meyer Auditorium at the Freer-Sackler Gallery while the second day (Master Classes, Experiential Workshops,  3-hour intensives and Discussions ) will take place at the Marvin Center of the George Washington University. Participants should be prepared to get down on the mat.

The event will be led by a lot of heavy hitters in the American yoga scene, especially those devoted to yoga therapy and related applications, as well as medical researchers, doctors and psychiatrists—more than 20—too many to list here so you can consult the flyer or the website for more details. It is shaping up to be as thought-provoking and body-shifting as the yoga symposium in November.

The event is being organized by the Gallery, the Center for Integrative Medicine at George Washington University Medical Center and Therapeutic Yoga of Washington, DC. Because the two-day event is not only an exposition, but a teaching event (attendees are eligible for continuing education credits), it comes with a cost: $180 the first day, $100 the second day. Student and group pricing is available.

Topics include:

  • Evidence-based Integrative Health Practices
  • Yoga Practice in Modern Society
  • Yoga as a Therapeutic Intervention
  • Transformations in Modern Medicine
  • Scientific Research on Yoga and Yoga Therapy

“Yoga: The Art of Transformation” exhibit will remain at the Freer-Sackler Gallery until January 26, when it will go on a road show to San Francisco and Cleveland. Several special events are planned for the final week.

Yoga better than Pilates for overall strength

The following news item contradicts the conventional wisdom that yoga is not a good physical workout and, in fact, is better than Pilates for general fitness.

NY TimesAsk Well: Pilates vs. Yoga
“The upshot? Pilates may be preferable if your primary goal is a solid core, but if you’re hoping to strengthen your upper body and goose your push-up tally, you’ll probably accomplish more with sun salutations and other yoga moves.”

Of course, these studies are small slices of the human experience. You can lose weight maintaining any exercise regime that helps you burn more calories than you consume, and 30 minutes of walking three times a week can meet the minimum requirements for a healthy life style.

A reminder of the subtle power of yoga to heal the spirit, heart and disease

A personal account of a cancer patient’s first encounter with yoga as a solace for the suffering caused by disease took place in a New York City YMCA..

NY Times Living With Cancer: Patient Yoga
“As we became warriors, children, cats, cows and pigeons, I realized that concentrating on position and breath takes even the most cerebral of us out of our nattering, hectoring brains, reminding us that we have feet, ankles, knees, a spinal column, arms, shoulders, neck, mouth, all of which can stretch and relax, stretch and relax to release tension.”

For those who want to explore the use of yoga in dealing with cancer, you can also check out Yoga4Cancer and Yoga Bear.

A decision on the yoga in public schools case in California

Breaking news on the ideological front:

ABC News Calif. Judge Says Public School Yoga Not Religious
“A judge is allowing a San Diego-area school district to teach yoga, rejecting the claims of disgruntled parents who called it an effort to promote Eastern religion.”

Expect an appeal because the Christian groups opposing the teaching of yoga in public schools are going to treat this as a call-to-arms, all the way to the Supreme Court.

Offering yoga options for differing body sizes

People come to yoga class with all kinds of bodies and limitations, some obvious and others which the body owner is not aware of.

The Washington PostYoga for larger bodies:
“But Carlin still adored yoga, and in 2010, she went ahead with her plan to take teacher training, despite being the only “larger person” in the program. Beyond lessons on prenatal yoga that required her fellow trainees to strap big pillows to their bellies, most had no firsthand experience working with different bodies.”

Annie Carlin, the yoga instructor in question, teaches used to teach in DC, but has now moved back to Brooklyn. The yoga scene can seem to be commandeered by the slender and flexible, but others need it to, as this article shows. More teachers need to be aware of the diverse factors that affect how a person approaches yoga. Not all studios can offer classes exclusively for “larger bodies,” but they can offer modifications of poses. Annie has a website, Supportive Yoga, to provide the details missing from the news article and offer contact information and class scheduling.

The Washington Examiner offers another take: Yoga for all body types and sizes, including a video (2 minutes). Also see Curvy Yoga.