‘Mindful yoga’ as therapy? Try it in 2012 for health’s sake

Just read a great article in Forest Grove News Times about how yoga can ‘help manage symptoms of chronic illness and restore functional capabilities’.  Authors Brant Rogers and Paul Salmon are experts in their field, and have been invited to present their work on mindful yoga for healthcare professionals and teachers at the Spring 2012 Annual Scientific Conference on mindfulness sponsored by the Center for Mindfulness, an affiliate of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

They write in today’s paper that a common refrain from students coming to class these days is “My doctor says I should practice yoga”. More and more practitioners are recognising how the ancient discipline of yoga can reduce stress, enhances recovery from injury and promotes overall wellness, and many are turning to adaptive forms of yoga as a complement to medical care and therapy.

They go on to relate how well-known surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose syndicated television show is watched by thousands each week, acknowledges that ‘while high-tech biomedical interventions are valuable, they can only do so much. He routinely recommends yoga to patients as a way to enhance recovery and promote wellness’.

What I particularly like about the article is the fact that it talks about more than just the physical dimension of yoga but refers to the many different dimensions that it encompasses, and has identified that those with the most value for professionals and patients alike are grouped under the term ‘mindful yoga’, which emphasizes connection with mindfulness, a meditation-based practice emphasizing moment-by-moment, non-judgmental awareness of life experiences.

They go on to discuss how practicing yoga mindfully can offer several benefits to patients, including ‘enhanced recovery, cultivating openness and curiosity about one’s capacity to heal, fostering awareness of the effects of movement (strength, balance etc.), and enabling better collaboration between patient and healthcare provider through greater awareness and interest’.

A lot more evidence is referenced, all of which show that this practice has the ability to affect our life as a whole. ‘It’s beneficial effects extend beyond fixing what is wrong to enhancing what is right in our inherent and global capacity for healing through heart, mind and body’.  Wow.  Even though I only have a little old yoga studio in Stellenbosch, this sort of article makes me feel part of a much bigger, and extremely powerful, community, and it feels good to read about how all these brainy people are endorsing something that to me has just felt so right all along!

For the full article, go to http://www.forestgrovenewstimes.com/news/story.php?story_id=132563319704985900.



Bah Humbug: onwards and upwards

Am I the only person who is utterly over the moon about the whole festive season being behind us – at long, loooooong last – and rapidly becoming a distant memory? Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the real meaning behind it and, religious stuff aside, the fact that it’s a reason for family and friends to get together etc etc etc, but oh my giddy aunt, am I glad that it’s done and dusted. The hype, the stress, the pressure, the overeating, the over-drinking, the small talk, the gaudy decorations, the frenetic socialising, the mess, the waste… I have sworn that next Christmas, I am NOT hosting The Main Meal in our house again (even though The Band was awesome in terms of actually getting the food on the table) and am instead going to be in a very small, private house somewhere in the Tankwa Karoo where there is no cell phone reception, preferably no real road (so that no-one can EVER pop in unannounced) and where the only flashing lights are those that are emanating from the Milky Way. I’m not sure who will be joining me as I was publicly labeled ‘weird’ by the extended family (The Band himself included! Et Tu, Brute) when I chose to go and sit with my feet in the pool and drink a quiet glass of red wine whilst star-gazing, after yet another braai (very, very pleasant at the time, but I do need my time out afterwards), rather than joining everyone else sitting inside and watching some inane TV program.

My stress levels were not helped by the fact that I had the in-laws staying in our house for 6 weeks (usually two weeks is my limit and the point at which I start getting twitchy but I thought I’d give it a bash and try to be the ‘hostess with the most-est’. That didn’t work out so well, I can assure you, and I am the first to admit it). And my father-in-law and my 3 year-old seemed to develop some kind of weird power struggle, leading to my FIL calling my son ‘a rather unpleasant little chap’ on more than one occasion which, as all the mothers out there can imagine, was enough to make me want to bop FIL repeatedly on the nose.  At the very least.

My biggest failing (and trust me, there were many over the past few weeks) is that I didn’t make the time to get on my mat more often. It sat there, forlornly rolled up in the corner of my bedroom, watching me getting more and more wound up and stressed out, and if it had words, I know it would have been calling out to me to do the right thing and to just take twenty, ten – even five minutes – every day, or even a few times a day, to just reconnect with myself and the quietness that I was so desperately craving. Because, of course, that quietness is within, even if one’s house is a veritable circus at the time. Yes, of course I did keep up my home practice to a certain extent, but not nearly enough. It is only now that my house is (finally) my own again that I have fallen in love with my mat and my practice again, and I have been absolutely embracing it. Each evening I have made a point of creating a truly restorative bedtime routine, encompassing a long, gentle yoga session, pranayama, an even longer yoga nidra or guided relaxation, all done in the peace of my bedroom with a flickering candle and my very special Nag Champa incense, a short entry into my journal before crawling into my beautiful clean bed and drifting off to sleep.

It is not very ‘ahimsa’ to want to kick myself on the butt for not having made this discovery about three weeks ago (when my wheels started coming off in quite a comprehensive fashion), but that’s pretty much how I feel. I teach this stuff, for heaven’s sake, yet somehow just could not give this beautiful gift to myself when I needed it most. I am taking this as a very timely lesson in how important the whole concept of ‘self-love’ is, and I can already feel how the time and effort that I am putting in now is redressing the balance, and I am feeling like a whole new person, recharged, and ready to embrace whatever the New Year holds for me.

PS. They say that being a good hostess is making your guests feel at home, even when you wish that they were. I hope that I at least did that to a certain extent. Next time I will be better.