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Yoga Medicine Stories: Healing Through the Practice of Yoga by Karen Fabian

When we think about the practice of “medicine,” our minds often go to the idea of surgery, pills, doctors and hospitals. But what about a yoga mat? Do we ever think of a yoga mat as a place where medical intervention occurs? If you teach yoga, you’ve most likely seen its impact medically. In my experience as a teacher, and especially in working with people one on one or in small groups, I’ve seen this first hand.

When we talk about intervening medically, we’re talking about healing. Healing occurs in different ways; just taking a few deep breaths can be a healing action. As we shift our mindset to envisioning medical care in a more holistic way, (some medical schools actually include yoga classes for doctors as part of their training now) we can start to expand our idea of what it means to heal ourselves.

I’ve worked as a Rehab Counselor, a Social Worker and also completed 2 years of the Physical Therapy Program at Boston University. I’ve worked in clinical settings and have seen the impact of rehab on patients. When I started teaching yoga, I realized it was a beautiful amalgam of my work in clinical settings, my academic and healthcare experience and my love of yoga. I love seeing how yoga shows up in a healing way. Here are some short stories from my own teaching and practice that illustrate the idea of Yoga as Medicine (*names have been changed):

I once worked with a man in his early 70’s who had lived with diabetes for many years. Bob’s neuropathy was at the point that he could no longer feel his feet. He got around by looking down and literally “willing” his feet to move. More often than not, he would bump into things. When he saw me for our first session, his hand was bandaged from walking into a parked car. He couldn’t transition from standing to the floor in a connected way; instead we did standing postures first, balancing second, poses on the belly and then poses on the back. We worked close to the wall and used a chair in some cases. He shared stories from college when he played basketball and it was quite evident he still had the spirit of an athlete, even though his body had changed. After one of our sessions, he declared he was ready to go to a group class. I’ll never forget the smile on his face when he walked into the studio and practiced in his own way, modifying and resting when he needed to rest. Bob was a beautiful example of a true yogi.

Healing can also mean taking action in order to make our health a priority. We can all relate to the challenge of finding the time to practice. Susan’s babysitting coverage fell through right before our session. Determined to stick with her schedule to practice, she called and asked if she could bring Maddie. When they arrived, Maddie had her art supplies in hand. While mom practiced, the young girl busied herself with drawing, my dog, Bailey Rose, at her side. At the end of the session, while mom was in savasana, Maddie came out and quietly lay beside her. Healing can sometimes mean taking the time to do the right thing for yourself and resting with those that you love.

Mary had injured her shoulder with a slip on the ice and snow. She had experience with yoga but was concerned about how she’d manage with her injury. Mary was attending Physical Therapy and it was one of the instances where my work with a student was in conjunction with treatment. After our sessions, she’d visit the therapist and report back to me with the therapist’s feedback. Working with her was a true lesson in anatomy as we modified poses to increase accessibility, flexibility and strength and talked about muscles and key actions in the body (she was a nurse as well). Her mind held the memory of regular practice; her body held the muscle memory. This served her as we moved through each posture. We’d start each session with an overview of how she was doing functionally and end each session with meditation. After a few months of private sessions, Mary and her friend attended a special weekend workshop I was hosting. It was a true joy to see her practice in a group setting, while honoring her individual needs.

Yoga Medicine means using yoga as a tool for healing. How it looks is up to you; how one finds healing is often a mixture of traditional eastern and western interventions. We know as practitioners and teachers that yoga can be an integral part of healing the body as well as the mind. We know that yoga’s look and feel will be different depending on the person. Our challenge as teachers is to help our students find their own way to experience yoga’s healing qualities on their mats and in their lives.

Karen

Tiffany Cruikshank: Making Her Mark Pt. 1 by KiraGrace

Showcasing the powerful, all new Warrior Collection is a woman made of fire and courage. Daring, tenacious, and fiercely compassionate, Tiffany Cruikshank defines what it means to be a warrior. With the incredible new launch of her visionary and notable mission Yoga Medicine, it’s proof that she scales mountains only to seek greater heights. She is such a joy to be around, and we love having her as one of our Global Ambassadors. It is with great pleasure that we share with you our most recent interview with the one and only Tiffany Cruikshank. Click here to read the full interview.

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The Ultimate Travel Company’s Guide From Distress to De-Stress

Has the start of 2015 been demanding, with hectic deadlines, chaotic time plans and pressured workloads? Often the unspoken terror of stress leads to burnouts and poor performance, but what the mind, body and soul really needs is an urgent break, complete with relaxation and wellness. With the help of our eight stress experts, we look at what stress is and how taking time out will help you to recharge your batteries.

“Another misconception is that if you don’t feel stressed then you don’t have a problem. High stress levels on a daily basis leads to the body to bypass those sensations or reminders of stress.” -Tiffany Cruikshank

To read the full article, click here.

The Raw Truth About Kale by Emilie Perz

The Raw Truth About Kale

Like any L.A. health nut, I typically jump on the bandwagon of most Food & Nutrition fads that pop up in this city. I’m OBSESSED with organic green juice (there are LITERALLY five juice shops within a two block radius of my house) and I only purchase my vegetables from local Farmer’s Markets that source 100 miles or less outside the city. I have a pretty regimented diet of kale juice for breakfast followed by another green juice for lunch and then typically a sensible dinner that includes some variation of a kale mixed salad. I hadn’t considered the dangers my veggie consumption placed on my already under active thyroid until I asked Tiffany what I can do for my under active thyroid with nutrition and she mentioned kale.  Though I’ve read reports that kale could be rough on the thyroid, I didn’t know why and refused to believe that this yummy leafy green could do me any harm. Little did I know that all things green are not created equal and that my indulgence of certain raw foods could actually be making my body unstable.

In general, consuming a healthy dose of raw kale on a regular basis is very good for you as it is high in vitamins A, C and K, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. The danger of kale, however, is that it falls into the category of a cruciferous vegetable. This classification of vegetable includes kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy and arugula to name a few. Vegetables such as these contain goitrogens, which if eaten in high concentrations, can interfere with iodine in the body.  Goitrogens suppress the function of thyroid hormones by interfering with the iodine uptake. Since Hypothyroid disease is exacerbated when there is a lack of iodine to produce thyroid hormone, studies have found that kale has the potential to have a negative effect on thyroid function on those with a predisposition toward thyroid issues.

So what’s a kale junkie like myself supposed to do? The good news is, we don’t have to give it up altogether. Tiffany’s advice was simple; cook it, and avoid large quantities of the cruciferous veggies.  Cooking these greens is essential for removing goitrogens and will make a huge difference in the way the body digests them, and limiting intake to 1-2 cups per day can help as well. When it comes to your diet remember that food rotation and moderation is essential for optimal wellness. Eat your greens, but try new recipes, different vegetable groups and invest time in researching which foods work for your body and why. Like the lessons of yoga show us, over-indulgence in anything can be harmful so achieve balance by making well-rounded food choices that support your overall health.

By Emilie Perz

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Share Your Story Featured Yogi Devon Healey

Namaste Yoga Medicine community!  We are happy to announce Devon Healey as our Share Your Story featured yogi for the month of May.  Devon is a nurse and yoga teacher who discovered yoga while working with organ transplant patients. She quickly noticed that the lessons she was learning in her practice where applicable in treating patients who were suffering from severe pain. Feeling inspired, Devon began integrating basic yogic principles into her nursing care to assist people in healing. Devon currently resides in Luxembourg with her husband; and prior to her move she spent four years working as a nurse in public health integrating yoga modalities to treat chronically homeless and substance abusing adults. Read all about Devon’s story below and follow her on instagram at @devydove.

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In 2008 I worked as a nurse in solid organ transplant (kidney, pancreas and liver) and often took care of seriously ill patients with profound pain issues. During this time I had become deeply involved and dedicated to my yoga practice (mostly because it kept me sane from my crazy and stressful job!). Over a series of days I had a patient who had undergone a transplant and was experiencing severe pain all over her body. She had a PCA (patient controlled analgesia) with high dose dilaudid and various other narcotic prescriptions, none of which seemed to help with her pain. On the third day of taking care of her and giving bolus doses of narcotics, I realized we needed to try something different. As I waited for the doctor to call me back I sat next to her and asked her to breath with me. Between sobs and the clutching of the bed rails we began to breath ujyai together, deeply, slowly. At first she was skeptical, crying and very frustrated but slowly she followed my rhythm and occasionally would look into my eyes for reassurance. We stayed that way for quite a while, her heart rate slowed and gradually she let go of the bed rails, I stayed present with her the whole time, breath to breath, eye to eye. When the doctor arrived her pain remained but was much less acute and she was able to communicate what she needed, clearly and calmly.

It was the first time in my nursing career I realized that yoga was more than just a physical practice and that’s when I began my teaching journey. I’ve used so many yogic techniques in my nursing practice over the years and even though I no longer work in transplant I still feel a strong connection to the idea of yoga as medicine. My teaching has changed and grown and continues to evolve but I’m still so grateful for the opportunity to learn about the human body and the capacity connection and non- traditional methods of healing play in our recovery and discovery of life.