Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Yoga As Medicine: How it Can Help You

This past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to listen to some of the top world yoga researchers discuss the findings over the past 5 years to 35 years of how people have benefited from yoga. We got to listen to people doing field work on the practice of yoga, unlike, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards by William Broad who is just a writer on science, not a scientist. We heard findings from: Timothy McCall, MD, Richard Miller, PhD, Eric Schoomaker, MD, PhD, Robert B. Saper, MD, MPH and Dean Ornish, MD.

As a yoga teacher, I can sometime gets frustrated with teaching the western style of yoga. It seems to be a constant dilemma for me as a teacher because Americans, often times, want to forget about the practice with 8 limbs and focus on just the asana or the physical postures because this is what people often think will assist them in losing weight. However, with the complete practice of the 8 limbs we hear through actual statistics that a therapy, per Dr. Saper, the Director of Integrative Medicine for the Boston Medical Center which incorporates a spiritual component, social component, a mind component tying in with the actual physical body will have greater health outcomes and longer lasting effects than say a therapy that focuses on one component, such as physical therapy or taking a prescription drug. Dr. Dean Ornish, the founder and president of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute and is Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF, has demonstrated for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse coronary heart disease without drugs or surgery. And because of this in-depth research, his program of comprehensive lifestyle changes is the first of its kind to be funded by Medicare.  

So why as a country do we let heart disease be our leading cause of death, with over 600,000 deaths per year from heart disease. Why do 100 million Americans experience chronic pain, 5-10% with specific lower back pain? I came into yoga because I was in the latter group, I had terrible back pain since I was 12, my first episode when I couldn't walk for days. But I have used this ancient technique of yoga with many personal teachers and now supported evidence to assist me to live a happier life. We offer yoga classes, but the fact is if there is a specific injury or ailment that needs to be addressed that can not be addressed in a group setting. As a teacher, we do our best to give alternative poses or variations but it is not the same to have a one-on-one with a teacher. A person doing an intake to understand the stress level one is dealing with, the spiritual component, and then looking at the alignment of the body to come up with poses only for that person within the session will assist the individual on a healing journey.

Private sessions can take place once to get a yoga prescription or sequence of postures, breathing techniques and meditation to assist on the healing process or it can be a regular weekly session until one feels comfortable to do a home practice. But if you want to fully live a more joyful, peaceful life by taking less medication, feeling less aches and pains, and being able to smile more use yoga, a practice over 4500 years old.

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