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A Yoga Therapist Shares The Truth About Trauma

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

Yoga Journal: Can you summarize your work? Gail Parker: I'm a psychologist, a certified yoga therapist, and a yoga therapist educator. I am a lifelong practitioner of yoga. 50 years. As a practicing psychotherapist of 40 years, I pioneered efforts
'Yoga therapist and psychologist Gail Parker, PhD, applies restorative practices in an innovative way to help people heal from racial wounds. Gail Parker, PhD Yoga Journal: Can you summarize your work? Gail Parker: I'm a psychologist, a certified yoga therapist, and a yoga therapist educator. I am a lifelong practitioner of yoga. 50 years. As a practicing psychotherapist of 40 years, I pioneered efforts to blend psychology, yoga, and meditation as effective self-care strategies that can enhance emotional balance, and contribute to overall health and well-being. I closed my psychotherapy practice four years ago, which allowed me to focus all of my attention on the therapeutic benefits of yoga, and in particular on how Restorative Yoga and meditation can be utilized and taught as self-care practices for managing ethnic and race based stress and trauma. I also teach mind-body strategies for reducing stress and healing emotional trauma to aspiring yoga therapists in the Beaumont School of Yoga Therapy in Royal Oak Michigan, the only hospital based yoga therapy school in the nation. Yoga therapy is a type of therapy—grounded in the ancient philosophical teachings of yoga—that utilizes yoga postures, breathing exercises, and meditation as self-care strategies to improve mental and physical health and well-being. See also   The Healing Power of Trauma-Informed Yoga Classes YJ: How do you apply this work to racial trauma (and can you define that term)? GP: Ethnic and racial stress and trauma refer to the events related to real or perceived experiences of discrimination, threats of harm and injury, and humiliating and shaming events. The terms also apply to witnessing harm to other individuals caused by real or perceived race-related events. Stress and trauma are stored in the body. Effective interventions involve physical engagement. Restorative Yoga is a form of yoga that is not intrusive; it is receptive. By stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, it evokes the relaxation response. It not only lessens the inflammation of tissues, it also soothes inflamed emotions. It tones the vagus nerve, which restores homeostasis and supports resilience, aiding in recovery from stress and trauma. Ethnic- and race-informed Restorative Yoga teaches people to experience safety in their vulnerability, which is a new learning for people experiencing the ongoing, cumulative, and recurrent nature of racial stress. People who are consistently marginalized, discriminated against, and profiled already know how to stand in the fire of unbearable suffering. They need the therapeutic experience of resting in safety. They need to learn what the absence of stress feels like. Ethnic- and race-informed Restorative Yoga can offer this experience. See also   Yoga Transformed Me After Trauma and Sexual Assault YJ: What do you want our readers to think about (as students and teachers)? GP: Even if you have never had a direct experience of racial wounding, as aware members of the human family we know that when something affects one of us, it affects us all. Regardless of your ethnic, racial, or cultural identity, living in a racialized world has an impact—from the daily lived experiences of stress and trauma that people of color endure, to the experience of white fragility where even a minimum amount of racial stress evokes defensive responses. The yoga community is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and the conversation within and around yoga needs to keep pace with the shifting demographics. Maintaining a culture of silence regarding ethnicity and race make that impossible. We have to engage in conversations about race and ethnicity as relevant topics of conversation. I think yoga is ideal for having these conversations because talking about race and ethnicity is really about each of us sharing our stories with each other.'

Energy Medicine Yoga: This Variation on Cobra Pose Improves Circulation in the Subtle Body

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

Get both energy and blood flowing better through your body with a modified Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Here, Lauren Walker and Donna Eden—who co-teach our upcoming course, Energy Medicine Yoga—show you how to strengthen your subtle energy systems and
'Strengthen your subtle energy systems and step up blood flow with this variation from Lauren Walker. Get both energy and blood flowing better through your body with a modified Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Here, Lauren Walker and Donna Eden—who co-teach our upcoming course,  Energy Medicine Yoga —show you how to strengthen your subtle energy systems and step up your circulation with just a few simple additions to this yoga posture. In YJ’s new online course, Energy Medicine Yoga: Transformation Through the Subtle Body , renowned energy healer and Eden Energy Medicine pioneer Donna Eden and Energy Medicine Yoga creator Lauren Walker lead an eight-week training that will shift longstanding patterns in your underlying energy, which affects your mind, body, and spirit. You will learn how to activate your innate healing for greater balance, vitality, and well-being. Find out more and sign up today! Watch also  Why the Subtle Body Isn't So Subtle After All'

How to Avoid Social Media Blues

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

I photoshopped a picture of myself once. Okay, maybe more than once. I’m not talking about adding filters or erasing stains from my shirt. I’m talking vacuuming away parts of my stomach, arms, and even a little thigh. When I gave my husband a
'Yacht parties and bikini bodies got you down? Here's how to get out of the funk. I photoshopped a picture of myself once. Okay, maybe more than once. I’m not talking about adding filters or erasing stains from my shirt. I’m talking vacuuming away parts of my stomach, arms, and even a little thigh. When I gave my husband a virtual tummy tuck, he finally forced me to check myself. “You can’t talk about self-love and authenticity and then use photoshop!” He was horrified. And then I was, too. I whole-heartedly believe we’re each put on this earth in our own unique bodies to express our true Selves. And through platforms such as teaching yoga, writing, and using social media, part of my job is to help people realize this. I teach the self-acceptance and body positivity—but I wasn’t always practicing it. What the bleep was I doing erasing a few pounds with the swipe of my finger? For the honest answer, we must take a little trip back in time. I have been dieting since I was 9 years old. Even now, while I may no longer count calories or weigh my broccoli, I still watch every morsel I put in my mouth. I was a child of the early nineties—the era of the supermodel. Pictures of Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford lined the walls of my room. My mum modeled, too (along with her many other careers), and I coveted her air-brushed headshots, just as I did every single page of Vogue . I wish I looked like that. Wow, she’s so beautiful. Why am I so ugly? These were the lyrics that played on repeat in my head. Not exactly the anthems we want for our children. The pressure of perfection is a force so strong it can flatten us, if we let it. Literally. It will drain out our color, wash away our texture, and suck us down to some sort of washed-out, skeletal, carbon copy of a Barbie doll. Under ever photoshopped picture is a human being. A real person, who’s every pore, every wrinkle, every scar, every pound, tells a unique story. Unfortunately, these are the stories the media does not want us to hear. If we did, we might never buy another beauty product again. Instead, corporate interest spins a golden yarn of the unattainable: the “perfect” woman, the “perfect” man. And the messaging is so loud and pervasive that we absorb it without even trying. Like a top 20 hit you’ve somehow memorized without ever intentionally listening to the song. See also  5 Poses to Inspire More Self-Love, Less Self Smack-Talk One day, you find yourself looking at a picture you just took, and instead of seeing the glory in your unique story, you see all your perceived flaws. So, you download an app on your phone that allows you to become a sliver of that “perfect” ideal with the click of your thumb. And like magic, all of the insecurities, the negativity, erase from the screen. That was easy! But to truly love ourselves in a world that tells us we are not enough is not easy. It takes great courage. It is a rebellious act. It means ignoring the toxic messages and beauty ideals and accept ourselves as we are in this moment. It means looking yourself in the eye in the mirror saying—and really believing—“You are beautiful.” Not because we are thin or tan or have poreless skin. You are beautiful because there is no one in the entire universe that is like you! And nor will there ever be again. So, the next time you take a picture that you are going to share to the world, I dare you to not add a filter. I dare you to not adjust or alter the image in any way. To share your story in all of its glorious detail. You do not have to be afraid, for I will stand with you. Or hands held, our faces clear, and our soul’s bright. See also    5 Ways to Radically Love Yourself Today Here are some tools to help you avoid the perfection trap: 1. When you take a picture, look at the whole picture.  How often do we take a picture and immediately zoom in to inspect ourselves? Think about group pictures: What is the first thing people do when they look at one? They focus on themselves and their flaws. But it is our imperfections that make us beautifully who we are. I’m a sucker for a big nose and a crooked smile. As Leonard Cohen says in his song “Anthem,” There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in . When you take a photo, try to see the entire image—the complete scene. Remember where you were, who you were with, and how you felt. Pictures should capture memories not project fantasies. 2. Delete image-editing apps from of your phone. Remove the temptation!  When I am not being mindful, my desire for perfection can border on obsession. Couple that with social media addiction and it’s a recipe for disaster. At one point, I had 10 different apps on my phone for altering images. 10 different apps! In the same way it is helpful to not have alcohol in the house when you are on a cleanse, removing the apps relieves the temptation. Instead, fill your phone with apps that help you grow creatively. Try learning a new language, playing brain games, and listening to interesting podcasts. Take more pictures of your dog. 3. Unfollow people who trigger you.  I stopped buying fashion magazines a long time ago because of how bad they made me feel. Even though I knew the images were altered, I could not help comparing myself to supermodels' stick figures. Nowadays, these types of images pervade social media, and because they appear in someone’s personal feed rather than a magazine, we think they’re real. It’s much harder to deciphering what is fake. If you find yourself constantly feeling bad from looking at someone’s posts, it might be time to stop following them. Instead, find people to follow who leave you feeling empowered and inspired. 4. Get off social media and into the real world.  One of my favorite things about teaching yoga is looking around the room and seeing all of the different body types. If we all looked or practiced the same, life would be so boring! When I look up from my phone and back out into the world, I find myself in awe of how beautiful everything is, from an 85-year-old walking with their 10-year-old grandchild, to a couple smooching on a park bench. Look around to see just how varied and unique and interesting we all are. Life is beautiful! 5. The next time you take a picture, look for one thing you love.  As mentioned above, we have a tendency to home in on what we think are flaws. We zoom in, looking for something wrong. The next time you take a picture, instead of looking for what to fix, look for what you love. If you cannot find anything at first, look at the bigger picture. What did you love about that outfit? That location? Who you were with? Start to train your brain to see the beauty. This can (and should) start in the mirror. One of my favorite self-love practices is to say one thing I love about myself every day. It doesn’t have to be physical, either! The more we learn to love ourselves, the more love we have to give others.'

Tantra 101: The Epic Love Story of Shiva and Parvati

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

Just one more setback away from giving up on your goals? Take some inspiration from the epic tale of two Hindu deities—Shiva and Parvati—and the role that persistence played in bringing them together. Sally Kempton—who leads our upcoming online
'Meditation teacher Sally Kempton shares the mythology of two Hindu deities that inform Tantra's tradition. Just one more setback away from giving up on your goals? Take some inspiration from the epic tale of two Hindu deities—Shiva and Parvati—and the role that persistence played in bringing them together. Sally Kempton—who leads our upcoming online course,  Tantra 101 —recounts the iconic story of love, devotion, and determination at the center of this tradition's sacred teachings.  Watch also   Is Tantra Really (All) About Sex? Want to learn how to tap into your innate power ? Join our new online course, Tantra 101: Awaken to Your Most Divine Life , led by meditation teacher Sally Kempton. In six weeks you'll discover Tantra's potent teachings and practices, so you can transform every breath, movement, and feeling into a pathway to greater insight and peace. Sign up today!'

I Tried 7 Days of Online Yoga and Here's My Five Takeaways

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

I’m toggling between work projects when I see the email from YogaAnytime.com pop up in my inbox. It reminds me that it’s time to take a break and start the 7-day Summer Challenge that I signed up for (for this assignment). When it comes to
'One yogi editor plunges into a seven-day yoga challenge and has five major takeaways from her experience. I’m toggling between work projects when I see the email from YogaAnytime.com pop up in my inbox. It reminds me that it’s time to take a break and start the 7-day Summer Challenge that I signed up for (for this assignment). When it comes to freelancing, the Law of Attraction actually plays out—a lot of work tends to beget even more work. So while several projects that I was juggling for other clients were already eating my weekends, I’d taken the assignment to do a 7-day summer challenge on YogaAnytime.com and write about the experience because I figured, if nothing else, it would MAKE me take a break each day for a week and get on my mat. So I do that now, unrolling my neglected yoga mat on my office floor. I play the Challenge Intro trailer, where I meet the spirited (and very young-looking) Steph Winsor for the first time. I have to admit, I’m skeptical. The title of the challenge is “Enjoy Yourself.” What does that even mean, I think, still wearing my editor hat. I’m a little annoyed that I have to trade the dent that I could be making in my long to-do list for “Day 1: Simple and Sweet.” I assume it will be a basic beginner practice that I could lead myself through—when I actually have the time. Which isn’t now. What can this twenty-something have to teach me? I probably finished my yoga teacher training before she was out of middle school, I think. But I suck it up and start—only because I have to. For work. Try the Yoga Anytime 7-Day Challenge , free for 30 days with Code: EnjoySummer It doesn’t take more than a few rounds of movement-synced breath before things start to loosen inside me. Steph’s voice feels a little too cheery at first, but the practice begins doing its work of slowly untying the hold my to-do list has on me so that I can just be there and breathe. Within minutes, I’m not thinking about deadlines or the impending parade of houseguests we’ll have over the next two months. I’m in the practice and I’m enjoying it, despite myself. And then—what? I suddenly can’t autopilot the pose she’s cueing. I look up at my screen to see her arrange her knees in Garudasana and then rise to stand on them. Garudasana is a well-worn groove in my body, but lifting my hips and torso to stand on my knees with my legs crossed? The action taxes not only my balance but my brain. It’s new—to me, anyway. I’m listening a lot more carefully to the ingenue on the screen now. And by the end of that first class, I understand that I’ve grossly underestimated her. The yoga is already doing what it reliably does well—holding up the mirror, showing me my blindspots. It turns out, Steph Winsor and this challenge did teach me a few things.  Here are five lessons I learned from YogaAnytime’s Enjoy Yourself Summer Challenge: 1. New movement leads to new discoveries. I later learned that the variation of Garudasana that Steph teaches so often is a pose from the Katonah classes she takes with Abbie Galvin at The Studio in Bowery . She says the kneeling version of Garudasana is not only good for people who struggle with the classic shape of the seated posture but for everyone because it provides you with information from both the right and left sides of your body. And sure enough, I did feel tightness in muscles on my outer left hip that I’d never felt before and nothing on my right hip when I switched sides. This is the kind of new knowledge about my body that I treasure as I work toward more functional muscular balance and symmetry. 2. Shaking things up is always valuable. A couple of times during the Challenge, I found myself gyrating in ways I hadn’t ever before on a yoga mat. One such instance, Steph had me sitting propped up in Virasana and then instructed me to bounce up and down for a bit. It felt a little odd at first but I knew this kind of bouncing was supposed to be good for moving lymphatic fluid and thus the immune system, so I went with it and felt undeniably lighter after. Steph later confirmed my suspicions, “Unlike the circulatory system, which moves by virtue of the heart, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump. Our daily movement is the source of the lymphatic fluid’s movement and filtration. The bouncing and shaking should also really help you clear your energy field and expel things that weigh you down.” 3. There’s no one right way to do things. With a background in an Iyengar-based practice, it used to be easy for me to get caught up in perfectionism on the mat. So Steph’s reversal and acceleration (she floors it!) of the usual breath pattern in Cat-Cow got me curious. Instead of inhaling in Cow and exhaling in Cat, she frequently exhales in the backbend and inhales on the contraction. Steph pointed out that we already do this (exhale on the spinal extension) in poses like Ustrasana or Standing Backbend. “I feel that this breath is safer for the back as we pick up the speed of Cat-Cow,” she says, explaining that as you exhale the engagement of the belly helps to protect the spine. But ultimately, Steph says if you’re practicing poses with integrity, “you should, over time, be free to breathe wherever and whenever you like. The practice can remind you that you’re not beholden to a certain way of doing things.” There’s so much freedom in that. 4. I can always talk myself into 30 minutes of yoga. This challenge reminded me of the value of a daily practice—no matter how short. A couple times I considered skipping it, but YogaAnytime’s daily email reminders were effective at fighting desk work–induced inertia and getting me up out of my head and into my body. After seven days, I learned that, really, I can always find 30 minutes in my day for yoga and without fail I feel better afterward. 5. And online yoga makes that even easier! When I’m time-strapped between work projects, family, and my social calendar not having to go anywhere but my browser window for a class or think about what to practice actually makes it 100% doable no matter how busy I am. After the first couple days I began looking forward to Steph’s bright, uplifting vibe. And each day I landed at my desk feeling a little lighter, a little clearer, a little more capable of tackling my workload. I have to admit it—I enjoyed myself. Which it turns out was exactly what I needed this summer. Try the Yoga Anytime 7-Day Challenge , free for 30 days with Code: EnjoySummer'

Mercury Retrograde Is Here During the Midst of Eclipse Season—These Six Yogis Will Help You Get Through The Chaos

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

Mercury Retrograde went into full effect July 7 and will be lingering around until July 31. While Mercury RX is usually doted as a time to avoid contractual agreements and long term commitments, is responsible for tech glitches and malfunctions, and
'These six yogis you should follow will help you stay in alignment with the stars during this chaotic time. Mercury Retrograde went into full effect July 7 and will be lingering around until July 31. While Mercury RX is usually doted as a time to avoid contractual agreements and long term commitments, is responsible for tech glitches and malfunctions, and is seen as a time that will wreck havoc over our lives, this is actually a great time for an inward journey and deep self-reflection. These six yogis you should follow will help you stay in alignment with the stars during this chaotic time.  View the original article to see embedded media. 1. Nina Yoga “Cancer month, dig down in your roots! Cancer is the sign that connects us with our roots, our family and culture. now wonder why my consciousness got me there. Every person has a family tree, know it or not.Mine is very colorful, with different cultures and races interconnected in one body now. The richer the tree, the richer the personality I believe. This month is an opportunity for us to know what makes us feel connected, belong and be part of s family, cause that’s what’s coming with LEO next. Out Identity. Family is the pre-set for us to create our personality and identity. In order to go through that process of “becoming” & “to be who we are” fully and completely, we have to do a bit of work. First deconstruct yourself, start digging deep down inside. Learn who you are. You’ll find that you are not alone, you come from a family, a tree.. so how is that tree? Is it healthy ? is it sick? Once we figure that out , then ask the same about culture. It represents me? not? Do I feel a part of it? not? Then about your country and at the very end, ask the same question about your race and then the human race. By honestly examining ourselves we can make some change for the better if necessary. With the eclipse a new cycle of six months has began relating to all this matters, now is the time to start moving to a different way. We are entering into a new space of possibilities and opportunities to change, individually and collectively. It's been too long , too wrong. Is obvious that things in the world need to change, now the time begins. Let’s do our work , lets learn who we really are and what we really want for us and the world. and this beautiful blue planet.” View the original article to see embedded media. 2. Cameron Allen “Astrology and yoga. I never really see them as separate, they are always in union, except when I'm trying to relate to others. ASTROLOGY IS YOGA from the perspective of my practice. Reflecting on it through some of the limbs. Yama is the literal basis of how I practice astrology. Niyama is how I choose to attune to the true Self for myself. Sit over your chart in the morning, what is the energetic overlay for the day? Tap in by doing pranayama. I've been doing lunar breathing to align myself with Mercury being in Cancer conjunct the north node. Mercury can be the monkey mind, the north node can bring excess, and Cancer is ruled by the moon. Are we calm enough to think about our emotions and make choices from a space of emotional security during times in which safety doesn't seem to exist? When the meditation is over I practice pratyahara and more pranayama. Laying down to do deep abdominal breathing while attuning myself to the energy of Mercury and Cancer even more. Cancer rules the stomach and Mercury rules the nervous system so I awaken the energetics within my being because I directly experience the lack of separation. It has me thinking about astrology and yoga and how they are usually presented in pieces. Most of the time when people think about yoga, they really mean asana yoga because in the mainstream it has been reduced to stretching practices that are fuel to our vanity which causes the opposite of what yoga truly is (from my understanding and perspective). Astrology is no different on some level, reducing people down to their sun sign when most do not even know what a rising sign is. I have no quarrel with this anymore because it hopefully is the prelude to a deepening process. But I do wish to extend an invitation to everyone to go tune in. What are the 8 limbs of yoga? Where were the stars when you were born? Feeling thankful for the gnosis that pranayama is Mercury. Work your astral body.” View the original article to see embedded media. 3. Yazamin Adibi “Spirit never put a cap on your potential. So why would you? Spirit, the cosmos, and our body actively listen to every tiny thought, gesture, pattern and intention we whirl into the ether. New moons are potent for activation + initiations. SO If you had no limits (at all), no breaks, no holds, what would your process, outcome, and feelings of connecting to your dream self look like? Take one actual (tiny or big) step today in that direction. Then take another tomorrow , day after, day after. By the full moon (in 2 weeks) you’ll have cues on how to refine your process or intention. A lot of you already do this subconsciously.” View the original article to see embedded media. 4. Astro Yogis “I have chosen Sukhasana or, easy pose as the yoga pose to pair with the moons energy. This is one of my favorite poses and provides a place for me to close my eyes, look within and give myself that self love and care through prayer, reflection and meditation. In this pose I connect to the universe and my highest self, I honor myself and my journey and express all of my gratitude. This pose creates a sacred space for you to be, let be, and breathe. I invite you all to give this a try for 2-5 minutes. Sit in a comfortable crossed legged seated position (I am in an advanced expression of this pose here), you may sit on a pillow or bolster for added comfort. Lay your palms facing up on your knees to allow yourselves to receive the peaceful energy and simply connect to your breath. Focus on gratitude and let whatever comes, come.” 5. Elisa Rose “In Cancer season, the theme being played out is allowing healthy boundaries for our sensitivities and emotions to arise and teach us/others what needs to be processed, experienced, or felt. But the patriarchal world we've been living in for generations has taught us to fear, disown, suppress, and apologize for our emotionality. And our BIG feelings are a part of who we are. Yes, they fluctuate and we are NOT the emotions themselves, BUT we do need to allow safe space to feel them through so they don't become stuck in the body and nervous system recreating and recycling trauma pathways and patterns. AND those tend to come out like big ol' zit THROUGH body symptoms and illness. When these symptoms arise, it's a call from our soul/the universe to LISTEN and PAY ATTENTION so that you can realign yourself back to our innate wisdom, truth, and authenticity. To come back home to our wise + wild soul. View the original article to see embedded media. 6. Destiny “Ishvara Pranidhana | Surrender | Surrender to the divine. Know that you are always divinely guided. Trust that everything is always working out for you. You get to choose how you perceive this reality. Promise yourself that you will always perceive this reality in a way that feels good to you and then don’t break that promise.Whenever something “bad” happens remember that promise and remember that every is always working out for you. Now that spirit has everything planned out and even if you don’t understand right now everything that happens is truly divine and is always working out for your highest good. Everything really is all good. Believe that, breathe that, live that! Everything is all good. Everything is aligned. And so it is.”'

How The Transformation Yoga Project is Helping Prisoners Find Peace

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

In 2009, Mike Huggins pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the off-label promotion of a medical device at a division of the company he worked for. As he awaited sentencing, he turned to his yoga practice—which he’d started years earlier—to mentally
'Transformation Yoga Project leads trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness classes in Philadelphia addiction treatment centers and prisons. Eastern State In 2009, Mike Huggins pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for the off-label promotion of a medical device at a division of the company he worked for. As he awaited sentencing, he turned to his yoga practice—which he’d started years earlier—to mentally prepare for prison. He attended a workshop held by the nonprofit Street Yoga, which teaches trauma-informed yoga and mindfulness practices to youth. “The idea of yoga for trauma was a game-changer for me,” he says. By the end of 2011, when a judge sentenced him to nine months, he was a certified yoga teacher with a new mindset. “I was committed to using prison as an opportunity to explore yoga off the mat,” he says. At the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia where Huggins was first incarcerated, inmates were periodically allowed to leave their cells and spend time in a common area, where some chose to work out. During those times, Huggins did yoga. Other men noticed and asked him to teach them. That led to guided meditations and talks about violence and the men’s anger, frustration, and shame over the crimes they’d committed. Inspired by how quickly a yoga community formed, Huggins continued teaching yoga to inmates after being transferred to a minimum-security prison five weeks later. “After our practice, we’d discuss the techniques and tools, such as breathwork and meditation, that could support us in living a full life while incarcerated and navigating the challenges of the reentry process,” he says. He also trained five men to continue his work after his release in 2012. See also How Yoga Offered a Former Inmate a Second Chance to Serve His Community After being released, Huggins continued to study how yoga can support those dealing with trauma and he started volunteering at an inpatient addiction recovery facility and a VA hospital. In 2013, he founded Transformation Yoga Project (TYP) to build a community of people to teach trauma-informed mindfulness practices to those impacted by violence, incarceration, and addiction. TYP trains teachers who lead classes in justice centers (prisons and youth detention centers), addiction recovery centers, VA hospitals, and other facilities in the Greater Philadelphia area. These trauma-informed classes always have the elements of safety, predictability, and control. “Unless you feel safe, no inner work can be done,” Huggins explains. Telling participants exactly what is going to happen and how long they’ll hold poses helps them stay calm so they can explore their feelings. Teachers use invitational language such as “Take a breath and see how you feel,” followed by suggestions for how to modify poses to empower students to have control over their bodies and breath. TYP also holds workshops about every quarter to go deeper into the eight limbs of yoga, and once someone is released from prison or rehab, they can continue to practice at free TYP classes at community centers or at yoga studios that donate space to TYP participants. “A lot of people really turn their lives around,” Huggins says. “People start to feel at ease with themselves and they’re able to do things they may not have thought they could do. Their yoga practice provides the tools to deal with the inevitable challenges they will face.”  See also 6 Yoga Retreats to Help You Deal With Addiction Transformation Yoga Project FOUNDER: Mike Huggins website: transformationyogaproject.org AT A GLANCE 40,000+ participants since 2014 400+ yoga instructors trained since 2014 15 recovery centers served in 2018 10 justice centers served in 2018'

Balance the Body, Mind, and Heart with Practices from Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today. 
'Get grounded, and then open your heart with two practices from the master Ashtanga Yoga teachers. Live Be Yoga ambassadors Lauren Cohen and Brandon Spratt are on a road trip across the country to sit down with master teachers, host free local classes, and so much more—all to illuminate the conversations pulsing through the yoga community today.  At the start of the tour in Boulder, Colorado, we had the privilege of meeting master Ashtanga Yoga teachers Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor, who led us through two powerful practices to balance body, mind, and subtle energy. The short sequences explore a range of poses—from grounding postures, such as forward folds, to expansive postures, including heart openers. Ready to give them a try? Check them out below. These two practices are meant to be done after a full warm-up that includes Sun Salutations and simple backbends and inversions, such as Bridge Pose. See also The True Meaning of Yoga, According to Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor Follow the tour and get the latest stories @livebeyoga on Instagram and Facebook .'

How to Find Self-Love and Acceptance Through Grief and Fear

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

Four years into dating, Robert and I were walking to the movies to see Inglourious Basterds when he nudged me to the other side of the sidewalk. He always insists (still) on walking on the side closer to the street. I wasn’t expecting it, so when he
'In her new book, On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard, yoga teacher Jennifer Pastiloff examines how facing loss, grief, and vulnerability allowed her to find endless love, self-acceptance, and wild happiness. Four years into dating, Robert and I were walking to the movies to see Inglourious Basterds when he nudged me to the other side of the sidewalk. He always insists (still) on walking on the side closer to the street. I wasn’t expecting it, so when he pushed me, I almost lost my footing. “So, um, would you ever want to be Mrs. Taleghany?” he asked, and he shoved me, which I equated to pulling the hair of a girl you like on the playground. “Are you asking me to marry you?” I said. “Well, would you want to?” “Wait. Is this how you are asking me to marry you?” It sure was. The next morning, I woke up to a velvet jewelry box on my pillow from a local jeweler. Inside was a small diamond engagement ring. I opened my eyes and rolled over onto the jewelry box. He said, “I waited for you for 10 years.” He had. See also 5 Pillars of Finding a True Love Connection I wanted to keep my last name. I felt like it was my only connection left with my father, who died at age 38, when I was eight years old. I am always going to be Jen Pastiloff, Melvin’s daughter. Daughter of Mel The Jew—his nickname when he hung out on 5th and Wharton in South Philly as a teen. I am an Avoider, not a Facer. And that is what I call a Classic Bullshit Story. The patterns of holding my grief inside my body have created neural pathways that cause me to binge-watch Netflix for hours under the covers instead of facing what is really going on. I equated wedding planning with going to the dentist. So I waited. I didn’t have any money, and traditionally the wife’s family pays for the wedding. My mom sure as shit didn’t have any money, so eventually I suggested we just get married in court. See also Embracing Yoga and Conquering Self-Doubt I was really into Wayne Dyer at this moment in time, and I kept thinking of him saying, “How may I serve?” My mom had tried to get me to read him for years. I was a hard No. Until one day, I heard Wayne on PBS and realized my mom perhaps knew more than I gave her credit for. I downloaded all of his talks onto my iPod. But the first time I heard him say those life-changing words was in an auditorium with thousands of people. I was in the front row because I was determined to meet the man who was changing my life, and also so I could hear better. When he said those words, I shuddered. How may I serve? It made me want to barf in my mouth because at the time all I was doing was serving people all day at my waitressing job. Veggie burgers and eggs and chocolate-espresso no-nut brownies and decaf coffee and screw serving. Then it hit me. I never woke up in the morning and asked, How may I serve? If my friends booked acting jobs and I didn’t, even though I didn’t really even want to be an actress, my first thought was always, What’s wrong with me? Why am I not enough? I am never going to get out of this restaurant. I was living in a desert of lack, a city of not-enoughness. I listened to Wayne speak and wondered, What if there really was enough? What if I am enough? And, Oh my God, I have been such an asshole for so long . I suggested to Robert that we turn our wedding into an opportunity to serve other people. I had no idea who was saying the words coming out of my mouth. Who was I? Having a wedding to serve other people? Did I think I was Wayne Dyer of the yoga world? Each time I thought about breaking a pattern that wasn’t serving me, I took a breath in, asked “Now what?” and then waded into water. And there was always someone holding my hand. I didn’t get there in a vacuum, and neither will you. Look around for the folks who will help you identify your bullshit stories and call them out. Look for those who will ask you, like my mom asked me, “Do you want to keep getting what you’ve always gotten?” “What do you mean?” Robert asked as we sipped pinot noir on my carpet. “I mean, I can ask if they will let me cancel my Sunday yoga class and instead have a party and invite everyone but tell them they can’t give presents. We can ask them to bring donations, and if anyone wants to sing or speak or play music or whatever, they can. It’ll be like a yoga-party-wedding thing, and we won’t have to spend any money. Oh my God, this is such a good idea.” “OK,” he said. That’s Robert. OK. It’s going to be OK. See also So You Found Peace Through Yoga—Here's Why the Practice Doesn't Stop There We got married at the Beverly Hills Courthouse on February 25, 2010. I taught a yoga class that morning at a donation-based yoga studio. I rushed out yelling, “I have to go get married now!” and almost forgot to collect my donations. I ran home to shower and change. I had 30 minutes. I wore a black dress I’d borrowed from someone and a little mascara. Robert wore a dark suit and a maroon tie. The judge who married us, a funny and warm woman, had us take each other’s hands under a wreath of beautiful white flowers to take our vows. It was just as I always imagined my wedding would be, which is to say, like any other day, only different. I had never imagined myself getting married because I could never imagine the future. I hadn’t thought I deserved one. My mind, even at 35 years old, would still freeze up when I tried to think of anything beyond one month into the future. See also A Meditation for Coming Back to Your True Home Finding “Now What?” In my empowerment workshops, I talk about how unbelievably hard it is to break patterns. How we can’t beat ourselves up when we struggle. We all struggle. It’s part of being human. I’d see someone come to my workshops again and again, and she would write the same things down when asked what she wanted to let go of. I didn’t judge. I was, in my late 30s and early 40s, doing the exact same thing. Moaning about how I needed to let go of the belief that I didn’t deserve a future, that I couldn’t plan anything. I would panic when I had to think about any moment beyond the one I was living in. I’d hear these women (it wasn’t just one woman; we all do this) repeat the same things over and over. It was from listening to them that I saw myself. If I wasn’t asking, “Now what?” after identifying a pattern that I claimed I wanted to break, then I was just making a list of reasons why I sucked. I saw these women doing this, paying a bunch of money to come to a weird yoga workshop and make a list that they would stick in a drawer and forget about. It’s what we do. See also   What’s Your Emotional Body Type? Plus, How to Unravel Deeply Rooted Patterns I started asking them to ask themselves, “Now what?” after making the lists. If I was asking them to do this, I absolutely had to do the same thing. I thought about how my mom, despite how complex our relationship is, has taught me so much. She introduced me to Wayne Dyer, and without him I never would have started the journey I am on. When I started dating Robert and I was deep in a cycle of over-exercising and starving myself (yet another pattern that came and went over the years like a virus), I called my mom and said, “I don’t know, Mom. He’s so great, but I’m not sure I’m ready for a relationship. I like my routines. I like coming home from the restaurant and being able to do my exercise and not talk to anyone and sit on the computer all night if I want to. If I have a boyfriend, I can’t just do whatever I want.” She said, “If you keep doing what Jenny Jen P has always done, you’ll keep getting what Jenny Jen P has always gotten.” “Oh my God, Mom. Did you really just call me Jenny Jen P? But, ugh, you’re right. Why are you always right? I love you. Bye.” Jenny Jen P was my nickname and my AOL Instant Messenger screen name and email address at the time. Essentially, my mother was asking me to ask myself, “Now what?” I would have talked myself out of allowing myself to be in a relationship just so I could keep up my self-destructive patterns. Turns out, being in relationship did interfere with my patterns. Thankfully. See also 5 Poses to Inspire More Self-Love, Less Self Smack-Talk “Now what?” will be my challenge for the rest of my life, as it will probably be yours, too. Allowing myself to enter into a relationship with Robert, and then having him move in, and then marrying him, helped me break the cycle. The first step was asking myself, “Now what?” Now what became “Yes, I will go out with you.” Then, “Yes, I will marry you.” Both things terrified me. And yet, moment by moment I entered into them as if entering cold water. And look, it did not kill me. Each time I thought about breaking a pattern that wasn’t serving me, I took a breath in, asked “Now what?” and then waded into water. And there was always someone holding my hand. I didn’t get there in a vacuum, and neither will you. Look around for the folks who will help you identify your bullshit stories and call them out. Look for those who will ask you, like my mom asked me, “Do you want to keep getting what you’ve always gotten?” See also   3 Truths About Anxiety That Will Help You Feel Better, Fast A Leap of Faith I wrote a blog post about my upcoming wedding and why it was special—and it wasn’t about how much money (that I didn’t have, that my mom didn’t have) I’d be spending, but about something much greater that had started to come together for me as a yogi, and as a leader of yoga retreats, and, finally, as the writer I’d always wanted to be. I wrote: This is such a special occasion. Not only is it marking my new life, but it is a sign of the yoga (meaning “union”) of the human spirit. When I told people I was giving the money to Haiti for my wedding, they wanted to be a part of it. Not only are we all coming together on Sunday, February 28, 2010, for something as beautiful as a marriage of two people (Jennifer Pastiloff and Robert Taleghany), but for the marriage of two different cultures: one in need, one in the place to give. The pots and pans and dish towels will always be there. I would really love a wok, though. At the wedding party at the yoga studio, little kids walked around with white buckets and collected money from everyone for the Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti. A woman who had taken my yoga classes for years did my makeup as a wedding gift, and I didn’t wear shoes since there was a “no shoes” policy in the yoga studio. I painted my own grubby toenails. Not surprisingly, I didn’t plan it very well because I only had wine, cheese, and crackers. My friend Gabby ran out and bought tons of burritos and tacos and came back with them 30 minutes later. We ate Mexican food with donated wine as we collected money for Haiti and celebrated my new life in our bare feet. We ate leftover bean burritos for a week. See also Yoga Teacher Lisa Rueff Helps Heal Haiti I asked anyone who wanted to perform music or read poems or get up onstage to do so. A friend of mine played the cello, another sang. Someone read poetry, some said prayers. Someone offered a blessing. My friend Annabel gave a speech. I stood on stage and spoke, although I have no idea what I said. I remember thinking I had to get up and speak. I hadn’t planned to, but as soon as I got up there in my silky dress and bare feet, the words poured out of my mouth. It wasn’t the wine, either. Being in front of people and speaking—connecting with them—was home for me. Once I was up there, I never wanted to get down. I had always been terrified that if I really accepted the beautiful scene in front of me, that it would all vanish, so I kept a part of me at bay, locked in my time machine, fiddling with the dials, trying to escape. I looked over at my stepfather, Jack, and my new father-in-law laughing with each other and I closed my eyes and imagined my dad in there, too, trying to smoke inside as if it were still the ’80s, making everyone laugh even though he wouldn’t have wanted me to leave him. He’d discreetly look at me and press his finger into his nostril and say, “You know what I mean?” Our secret code. And I would say, “Yes, of course, I know what you mean.” See also Find Inner Peace with This 60-Second Breath Practice I had spent so long not allowing myself to be present, drifting off and leaving when things felt like too much, that I didn’t even know whether I was physically hungry or not. I wasn’t ever sure how I felt. I was married. Oh. OK, I am married now. I remembered when my dad died, I said I didn’t care. That was not the truth, but that’s all I could allow myself. Only I don’t care. I smiled really wide for pictures, and I made jokes, but I wasn’t 100 percent there. I can see in the photographs I was indeed there, but I was not inhabiting my body. I wished I had continued therapy through the years. I had only gone a few times to a few different therapists over the span of 37 years. It’s always felt overwhelming, like dating. Having to go and retell your story again and again and hoping you find the right match. The closest thing I had to working through my shit was listening to Wayne Dyer and doing yoga. I had never dealt with my grief, my eating disorder, my relationship with my mother. And yet, there I was, married. A real adult. The guilt and the drama that don’t belong to me or that once belonged to me? Goodbye. Lightening the Load The next day, I walked into the local Red Cross with our donations. I don’t remember ever feeling as good. How could I keep doing this, this idea of serving? In life, we have so much shit, and we constantly collect new shit on top of the old shit, and we mostly don’t even remember the shit we already have, so when we get a new espresso maker we act delighted and we use it for a while before we stick it in the cupboard with the other things that don’t fit on the counter and then forget about all of them because they’re hidden. Isn’t it funny how we house so much crap that we aren’t even consciously aware of? We do the same thing inside our bodies. So much pain piled on top of pain and memories on top of memories that we just shut the door to our minds and pretend there is nothing in there. That we are fine. After I brought the money to the Red Cross, I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of stuff. I’m a stuff person. The kind who always has an indentation in her shoulder where the big heavy bag digs in. The kind who always leaves a trail and is always knocking something over because there’s so much stuff around. See also 10 Remarkable Yoga Service Organizations When I worked at the restaurant, the guys in the kitchen used to put things in my bag. Melons and cast iron skillets and bottles of hot sauce. There was a fantastic blue cornbread we served in a cute little cast iron skillet that always ended up in my backpack. I wouldn’t realize until I got home because my bag was already so heavy and filled with unnecessary things like shoes, hardcover books, sneakers, underwear, bottles of water, bananas. Sometimes I’d be happy, because, Hey, I needed a cast iron skillet! But mostly I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t noticed, that I walked around with so much that I didn’t notice when someone added their own stuff to my life. That’s how it is, though, isn’t it? When you have a lot of crap it takes a while to notice that more is being added, however slowly. This guilt? Not mine. This hot sauce? Not mine (but I’ll keep it). This shame? Not mine. This drama? Not mine. It’s hard to not realize you have the cast iron skillet before it’s too late. Once you get all the way home with it, you might as well keep it, right? Because, let’s face it, it’s kind of embarrassing to go back with it, explaining that you didn’t steal it, that someone stuffed it in your big-ass bag and you just didn’t notice. Or maybe it’s not embarrassing and you just want to keep the cast iron skillet because you think you should have one. Maybe you think you deserve one. That’s what we do: I know it isn’t mine to take on, but I’ll keep it because I probably deserve it. You think as you get older the weight gets lighter? It doesn’t. It gets heavier and heavier until you are buried in a pile of it and you can’t even reach to the front door. See also An Intention-Setting Practice to Nourish the Soul The things we take. The things handed to us that we walk around with as they dig into our shoulders and cause us pain, and yet we say, “No, I’m fine. I got this. I can carry it all.” When you carry so much shit, you don’t notice when other people add their shit, so truthfully, I was glad to have not gotten any more. As I walked out of the Red Cross, I remembered those days with my backpack at the restaurant and remembered my hiker friend Joe, who told me: “Carry only what you need.” After I got married, I thought about what I could carry. I decided to take an assessment of what was on my back and in my car and in my heart and to imagine what it would be like to be free of it all. If I imagine myself free of my dad’s memory, I want to vomit. So thank you very much, but I will keep that one. The rest, though? The guilt and the drama that don’t belong to me or that once belonged to me? Goodbye. I am putting you back with the cast iron skillet and the melons that aren’t mine. I did get a bunch of woks, though. But what I got more was the power of community. I saw how I was able to bring people together, not just at my retreat, but at my wedding, and on the internet. And I wanted more of it. Excerpted from On Being Human: A Memoir of Waking Up, Living Real, and Listening Hard by Jennifer Pastiloff, published by Dutton, an imprint of the Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Pastiloff.  LEARN MORE To find out what we learned at Jen’s On Being Human retreat, head to yogajournal.com/onbeinghuman .'

Why Isn’t Yoga Covered By Health Insurance?

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

We spoke with John Kepner, executive director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), and Courtney Butler-Robinson, stress management specialist and yoga therapist for the Dean Ornish Reversal Clinic at Saline Heart Group in
'The short answer is, it’s complicated. We spoke with John Kepner, executive director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) , and Courtney Butler-Robinson, stress management specialist and yoga therapist for the Dean Ornish Reversal Clinic at Saline Heart Group in Benton, Arkansas, to find out why yoga therapy is largely uncovered by health insurance companies. Dean Ornish, MD, made headlines in 2010 for convincing insurance companies that yoga and meditation , when combined with proper diet and exercise, could reverse heart disease. To date, yoga therapy is covered only under the Ornish Reversal Program for heart disease, but some affiliated clinics, such as Saline Heart Group, are beginning to offer cancer care. Yoga Journal: With all of its proven benefits, why is it so hard to get yoga covered by insurance? John Kepner: That’s the big question. IAYT is a self-regulated organization—it’s all voluntary. We have standards and an accrediting body, continued education, certification, and an enforceable code of ethics, but we don’t yet have a certification exam. All professional health fields have some kind of exam. IAYT has just launched that effort, and I expect it will take another two years to complete. Those are necessary but not sufficient pillars when you’re talking about insurance. In most cases, but not all, insurance coverage extends to licenced health care fields. Courtney Butler-Robinson: We are a wellness center and offer different programing. We recently extended into cancer care. The Ornish Reversal Program is the only program I know of where the whole thing, including yoga therapy, is covered by Medicare. Oftentimes, people who have cancer or have been given chemo will end up with heart problems, and in that case, we can often bill under that. JK: One of my personal goals is yoga therapy insurance coverage for people recovering from cancer care. Their bodies have been wrecked by chemo. They need something to bring body and mind back to well-being. There’s a lot of research showing yoga can help with that. IAYT is connected with the Society for Integrative Oncology, which is seriously exploring yoga now. See also   Why More Western Doctors Are Now Prescribing Yoga Therapy YJ: How do you see this goal coming to fruition? Will insurance-covered yoga therapy be siloed by illness or ailment, beginning with cancer and heart disease? JK: I just don’t know. We are feeling our way. As mentioned, the Society for Integrative Oncology has two committees looking to yoga. For now, they are working independently of us, although we communicate with them. We are also developing a way to have insurance cover yoga therapies by health condition. My personal thought is that cancer is a good disease to start with. There is a lot of research and general sympathy. Heart disease is already addressed by the Ornish program. CBR: I think Ornish will get prostate cancer covered in the next five years. We just need to prove to insurance that this therapy will save them money. JK: There are plenty of creative possibilities for financing yoga therapy in a health care setting beyond insurance. I wrote about it in 2005, but it’s still relative today. Anyone interested can look to my paper, \' Financial Support for Yoga Therapy: A Montage of Possibilities ,\' published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy .'

How to Practice Sama Vritti Pranayama (Box Breathing)

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

Sama Vritti Pranayama is a powerful relaxation tool that can help clear your mind, relax your body, and allow you to focus. The best part? You can do it anywhere. Just find a comfortable seat with your back supported and feet on the floor.   Close
'Try Sama Vritti Pranayama (Box Breathing) when you’re stressed, anxious, or upset. Sama Vritti Pranayama is a powerful relaxation tool that can help clear your mind, relax your body, and allow you to focus. The best part? You can do it anywhere. Just find a comfortable seat with your back supported and feet on the floor.   Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose, slowly counting to 4. Feel the air filling your lungs. Hold your breath here and slowly count to 4 again. Try not to clamp your airways shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 counts. Slowly exhale to the count of 4. Hold the exhale for another 4 counts. Repeat steps 1–4 for 4 minutes or until you feel calm and centered. Find other pranayama techniques here .'

Tantra 101: A Guided Visualization Practice to Open Your Heart

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

Want to invite more love and bliss into your life? Try tapping into the sacred source that emanates from your heart center. Here, Sally Kempton—who teaches YJ’s upcoming course, Tantra 101—guides you through a simple practice to deepen your divine
'Envision your heart cne as a blossoming flower in this beautiful meditation from Sally Kempton. Want to invite more love and bliss into your life? Try tapping into the sacred source that emanates from your heart center. Here, Sally Kempton—who teaches YJ’s upcoming course,  Tantra 101 —guides you through a simple practice to deepen your divine awareness: A beautiful visualization of your heart as a blossoming flower. Watch also How Tantra Makes Positive Thinking Actually \'Stick\' Want to learn how to tap into your innate power ? Join our new online course, Tantra 101: Awaken to Your Most Divine Life , led by meditation teacher Sally Kempton. In six weeks you'll discover Tantra's potent teachings and practices, so you can transform every breath, movement, and feeling into a pathway to greater insight and peace. Sign up today!'

How Yoga Is Helping Kids with Cancer

Yoga and Meditation Yoga journal

The cornflower-blue sleeper sofa. The formica closet. The tea cart clanking by. Jaymee Jiao will never forget the eight months she spent living in this hospital room with her son Savior-Makani Jiao as he underwent around-the-clock treatment for
'A volunteer yoga program at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego is bettering the lives of its oncology kids. Aimee DeLuna practice yoga in her hospital bed.  The cornflower-blue sleeper sofa. The formica closet. The tea cart clanking by. Jaymee Jiao will never forget the eight months she spent living in this hospital room with her son Savior-Makani Jiao as he underwent around-the-clock treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. But today, the rambunctious two-and-a-half-year-old is in remission, and he’s arrived at his former bedroom at San Diego’s Rady Children’s Hospital in a red plastic Radio Flyer. “I had to buckle him in because he was going crazy downstairs,” Jiao says when we meet, exhaling. It’s true: Right now, Savior’s energy could fuel a turbine. The familiar nurses who pass by gush over his vivacity and thick, wavy tuft of black hair. You’d never guess that just last year he was undergoing chemotherapy full time. Five months post-discharge, Jiao is settling into life back at home with her husband and four children, of whom Savior is the youngest. She is visibly tired, yet cheerful. Atop her left shoulder is a large, tight lump, and she points it out, pulling on it as if it might loosen and slip off. “I carry my stress physically,” she says with a shrug. Also in Savior’s old hospital room is volunteer yoga teacher Liz Fautsch, a smiling brunette who worked weekly with Jiao to ease tension and stress while she was holed up at Rady. “Your shoulder is looking better!” Fautsch encourages. Jiao nods. “Yoga helped relieve my shoulder and back pain ,” she tells me. “And,” she says, lowering her voice a little, “it would take my mind off things when we were having a bad day .” But between school drop-offs and shuttling her kids to sports practice and chasing Savior around the house, Jiao admittedly hasn’t kept up a regular yoga routine since she lived in this room. See also  Building a Strong Foundation for Cancer Healing JAYMEE undefined JIAO with her son, Savior-Makani Jiao in their former hospital room at Rady Children's in San Diego. The yoga program for cancer patients and their families here at Rady is powered by volunteers from the Sean O’Shea Foundation —a nonprofit organization that aims to empower youth through yoga, mindfulness, and optimistic teachings. It was founded by Gloria O’Shea to honor her late son Sean, a children’s yoga teacher who died in a fluke car crash in 2006. He was 32. While the foundation has been running programs for San Diego kids and teens since 2008, it partnered with Rady in 2011 to harness the research-backed benefits of yoga for kids undergoing cancer treatment and their families. Volunteer yoga teachers such as Fautsch, many of whom are health care professionals and specialize in yoga for cancer recovery, visit the hospital’s oncology unit three days a week, going bed to bed to offer individualized sessions to whoever’s in the room—be it patients, parents, or friendly visitors. Sessions typically last about 30 minutes and range from pranayama and meditation in bed to asana on colorful mats carried in on carts by volunteers. “When the yoga instructors would come by, my eyes would blink little hearts,” says Jessica Davidson, whose 10-year-old daughter, Julia Davidson, spent two years at Rady battling stage four neuroblastoma. Today, after undergoing surgical tumor removal and six rounds of frontline chemotherapy followed by immunotherapy—plus plenty of yoga and bedside dance parties (’80s and ’90s music were the jams)—Julia is precocious and thriving in remission. She still dances and practices yoga regularly, and tells me, “It’s really calming and good for the human body, so I recommend it.” Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments like radiation are notoriously volatile and can slow growth in children. The most common side effects apart from hair loss include nausea and vomiting, trouble breathing, nerve damage (neuropathy), and a weakened immune system. While a growing body of research from the past two decades supports yoga’s ability to reduce symptoms and stress and improve mood and overall quality of life in cancer patients, yoga and physical therapist Kelli Bethel, the director of yoga therapy at the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Integrative Medicine , says customized practices tailored to each patient, like those at Rady, work best in real-life scenarios. In a health-research setting, however, proving yoga’s absolute potential through standardized clinical trials is nearly impossible: “Everyone’s cancer journey is different and their needs and symptoms vary,” she says. “It’s one thing to understand which methods of yoga apply to cancer patients, but having everyone follow a script—this pose , this exercise—that will never accurately demonstrate the full benefits.” Pediatric research is also hard to come by, but according to a 2019 clinical feasibility study that examined the impact of yoga on pediatric outpatients receiving chemotherapy, the results of two recent pilot studies show that individualized yoga programs improved quality of life for adolescents receiving cancer treatment. Ultimately, the authors called for further investigation. To date, much of the evidence for yoga’s treatment benefits comes from breast cancer clinical trials, says Bethel. To that end, Julia Fukuhara was working as a nurse and volunteer yoga instructor at Rady in 2013 when she realized her unique potential as a data collector. “We have some research that shows how imperative integrative medicine is for adults and for kids, but to actually see it frontline was mind blowing,” she says. Kids could sleep better afterward. They were less anxious. Oftentimes they required less pain- or anti-nausea medication. When making their yoga rounds, Fukuhara and the other teachers on the ward kept detailed notebooks with dated entries describing patient conditions, applied yoga exercises, and outcomes. “We already had all this documentation in place, so we thought, let’s see if we can numerically capture this data with some kind of pain, anxiety, and quality-of-life measure,” she says. What ensued was a six-month study of 32 kids and their families who were surveyed before and after yoga sessions. The results will hopefully be published in the coming months, and Fukuhara is excited to report that she saw significant positive change. See also   This is How One Yogi Doctor Used Ayurveda to Treat His Own Cancer Ten-year-old  Julia Davidson keeps up with her yoga practice while in remission from neuroblastoma. Common chemo drugs are known to depress the nervous system, says Fukuhara. For the kids she worked with at Rady, this often manifested as trouble breathing, balancing, and focusing—and eventually irreversible neuropathy and numbness in fingers and toes. During her study, which she co-authored with pediatric oncology nurse practitioner Jeanie Spies, Fukuhara found that stimulating power poses such as Virabhadrasanas (Warrior Poses) and Vrksasana (Tree Pose) fired up her patients’ nerves, making them resistant to the negative side effects of their medications. “It’s like we were enhancing the nervous system,” she says. Spies is the founder of the integrative medicine program at Rady and coordinator of the yoga initiative. Her warm red hair feels like an extension of her personality: She geeks out over things like bone marrow biopsies and witnessing a patient’s first steps (she beamed recounting Savior’s as he bounced around the room). Spies says that what surprised her most was the profound effect the yoga sessions had on parents, like Jiao, who face sleepless nights marked by constant worry and interruptions from hospital staff. “We turn their lives upside down with the diagnosis of cancer,” Spies says. “The beauty of the yoga here is that it gives them a sense of relaxation and control, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.” Ping Cao has a petite, fragile-looking frame—but don’t be fooled. The lines on her soft, worn face, like the glossy black hair she wears in a tight pixie cut, are evidence of her perseverance. The Chinese immigrant is a volunteer yoga teacher with the O’Shea Foundation who recently finished treatment for breast cancer. Yoga and, in particular, Sama Vritti Pranayama—a technique in which you breath and hold to counts of four—helped Cao mitigate fatigue and nausea while she was undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. The strength she’s derived from the practice and from the support of other cancer survivors is what she says led her to start volunteering at Rady. See also   Dharma Talk: Yoga by the Throat AIMEE D E LUNA practices yoga with breast cancer survivor Ping Cao during treatment. Research shows that yogic exercises as simple as pranayama (controlled breathing) can stimulate the immune system, and Cao begins most of her sessions in the pediatric oncology unit this way. Today she sits in a little teal chair beside 17-year old Aimee De Luna’s hospital bed. Four weeks earlier, De Luna, a high school senior, was prom-dress shopping at the mall with her mom when she fainted in the checkout line. Her pediatrician suspected anemia, but blood tests revealed leukemia. As an outpatient, she and her parents make the 1.5-hour drive from their home most days so Aimee can get chemotherapy. Today she smiles, eyes closed, sitting up still in her hospital gown, a gray beanie atop her head, as Cao guides her through a bedside meditation and stretching exercise. They’ve been practicing together like this for about three weeks now. “The first time she asked me if I wanted to do it, I was a hard No,” De Luna laughs. “But by the third time, I was feeling a lot better and was up for the challenge.” She likes Cao’s “relaxing vibe” and calls their sessions “a fun little escape from chemotherapy and needles and all that bad stuff.” She’s come to look forward to it—it’s relaxing, the stretching feels good, and she enjoys spending time with Cao, who not too long ago was in De Luna’s shoes. “I’m in a unique position,” Cao says. “When I walk into a room, I can see it in the kids: They are in pain, or they are experiencing something uncomfortable from their treatment, or they are scared. And I can feel it in the parents, too. But I can say, ‘Here I am. I had the same experience. I felt all these difficulties physically, emotionally, too, and I did yoga. It helped. And today, I’m still surviving, and you will, too.’”'