Yoga & Meditation: Complementary Therapies for Chronic Pain & Inflammation

thepositivepear_meditation_yoga.pngOn November 11, 2016 at 11:11am, so 11-11-16 at 11:11am this blog will be four years old! All I can think is WOW!  In spite of my long hiatus from posting any updates, this blog continues to be a wonderful resources for “Spondys & Spoonies,” I still receive emails and FB messages from people thanking me for information that I’ve shared here, which is so very touching, quite amazing and extremely rewarding.  Anyone who continues to follow the blog, or checks back periodically to read posts, can probably gather that I’m a big advocate for holistic health and I’ve shared on a variety of topics relating to complementary therapies and alternative treatments and one of my absolute favorite posts, were those where I shared information on the wonderful benefits of yoga and meditation for Ankylosing Spondylitis, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I posted in those days as a lover of yoga and an avid practitioner, now I have the wonderful privilege of sharing information from the perspective of not only someone who practices yoga, but also as someone who teaches both yoga & meditation. Since starting this blog, I’ve become a Registered Yoga Teacher & Meditation Teacher. Though I’ve been in the Health, Wellness & Fitness industry for a very long time and have always helped people achieve their health, wellness and fitness goals in one capacity or another, I’m very excited to travel this new path. I’m even more excited to have the opportunity to work with “Spondys & Spoonies” in person as I help them to incorporate yoga & meditation as a means of helping to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. This a huge milestone towards the vision that I had for this project when starting it fours years ago.

I referred to yoga & meditation as complementary therapies, which speaks to the traction that yoga is gaining in the health industry, as providers incorporate “yoga as a therapy” into their practices.  While acupuncture, chiropractic treatment and nutritional counseling are some of the more common “complementary” therapies, yoga is quickly joining the ranks. Especially when considering the fact that Rehab Hospitals and clinics that provide occupational therapy, commonly incorporate Iyengar yoga into their patients health care regimens, as a means of helping them to build strength through proper alignment.  This is because yoga poses are isometric movements, which make it much easier for patients to achieve, in spite of inflamed tissues.  As opposed to the repetitive movements used in traditional physical therapy, that tend to exacerbate inflammation.  Iyengar and true Hatha yoga not only encourages proper alignment, but builds strength from holding the poses a lot longer than you would in a Vinyasa yoga and the use of breath helps patients to endure the temporary discomfort.  Incorporating yoga helps patients to achieve alignment awareness, which makes it easier for them practice the postures at home, thus contributing to a more successful recovery. 

Cancer Centers have been incorporating yoga into their cancer treatment programs for more than 10 years. Studies have shown that yoga helps to reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue and stress for some patients. Combined with meditation, the results have been improvements in sleep quality and a boost in patient mood and overall well-being.

Some medical centers are also incorporating yoga, along with other complementary therapies into their primary care. Doctors are actually referring patients to the on staff clinical yoga specialists, who works with patients to help develop a yoga sequence specifically for their particular ailment. This is exactly what I envisioned two years ago when posting an article on how yoga and alternative therapies were beginning to show up as elective courses at many medical schools across the country. This is so much better than a prescription for yoga that I spoke about in that post, because doctors and yoga therapists are now collaborating in medical centers to develop comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to healing. As someone living with chronic pain, who advocates for holistic health and appreciates the value of yoga as a practitioner and teacher, seeing western medicine incorporating so many aspects of eastern medicine and philosophy makes me very happy.

Always Rely On a Happy Mind Alone

“Always rely on a happy mind alone…. A controlled mind will remain calm and happy no matter what the conditions.”  This quote comes from the book Universal Happiness by Geche Kelsang Gyatso also known as Geshe Chekhawa

Always-rely-on-a-happy-mind-the-positive-pear

A portion of this quote came to me yesterday during a conversation with a sweet friend who not only sufferers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, but who is also a practicing Buddhist. She mentioned  that her Buddhist guru often repeated this quote “Always rely on a happy mind alone”  This quote stuck with me forcing me to investigate it a bit further and upon doing so I discovered the other half of the quote  “A controlled mind will remain calm and happy no matter what the conditions.”  This helped me to put the entire thought into better context. At first glance it can seem somewhat insipid, but I found myself holding on to it and truly working to determine if I’d grasped its full meaning and further, how I could incorporate this thought into my day and perhaps even my life.

These words really appealed to me as someone who practices mediation & yoga, as many Buddhist principles are intertwined. It reminded me of the importance of daily practice, which is one way that we can train our minds to withstand even the most difficult challenges in life, including physical and emotional pain.  Meditation would allow one to focus on the tools needed to work through our pain and yoga would allow us to release and let go of any mental, emotional or physical agony. Being happy doesn’t mean that we ignore our pain or turn our backs on suffering, but rather we embrace it with an open and loving heart. It’s not a denial of what is going on, but an embracing of our pain, sadness or fears and touching it with a loving hand and sending it on its way. This teaches us to better rely on the happiness that is cultivated from a heart of compassion.  This is incredibly powerful, as it teaches me that I have to work at letting go, so that I might better focus on the happiness that I’ve cultivated from compassion. I hope these words have just as much of a profound impact on your day as they did mine.  Be well! Peace, light & love to you.

Is There A Prescription for Yoga In Your Future?

There is now neuroscience research that support yoga’s positive effects on anxiety, stress and depression. As the medical community continues to embrace the healing benefits of yoga does this mean that one day your doctor just might prescribe yoga for what’s ailing you?

We’ve heard about the amazing healing effects of meditative techniques such as relaxation, meditation and yoga for many years, including how these reduce the activity of the autonomic nervous system, alleviating stress-related maladies, including migraines, anxiety and depression, among others.  Now there’s additional medical research available to back these claims. Dr. Chris C. Streeter Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at Boston University School of Medicine practices yoga and conducts research on its effects.

Dr. Streeter conducted a study with doctors of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, comparing two groups of exercisers (group 1) people doing yoga and (group 2) people walking.  After 12-weeks, those in the yoga group showed greater improvements in their mood and anxiety levels compared to the walkers, and there was a positive correlation between increased  Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA), a key neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA levels were measured through brain imaging, and improved mood. The results of her study latest study is published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicinein 2010.

There is an estimated 20 million Americans practicing yoga.  It’s no wonder that yoga and alternative therapies have shown up as elective courses at many medical schools across the country, including Boston University, Dr. Rob Saper of BU a former burned out medical student in the 80’s took a year off to study at Kripalu, the yoga retreat in western, Massachusetts, which he says, inspired him to “try to change medical education and medical care in a way that’s more wholistic” with an emphasis on self-care.  Medical students at BU learn of  yoga’s research-based benefits, in hopes that these future doctors will be able to exploit their knowledge to help patients as they become comfortable enough to include this alternative therapy in their evidence-based practice (EBP), perhaps one day prescribing yoga as they would Prozac or even pain killers.

Thanks to much research, the medical community continues to embrace the healing benefits of yoga among other natural and alternative healing methods, this is a wonderful news for those of us with who live with invisible chronic illnesses, and their multitude of symptoms, and many of which we might choose to manage naturally.  Yoga is also great for chronic pain, it also lowers levels of inflammatory proteins, and helps with many other ailments.  As an avid yogi and sufferer of Ankylosing Spodylitis, Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue & Immune Dysfunction, I for one look forward to seeing yoga or even acupuncture appear on doctor’s electronic prescription pads. Perhaps doing so will garner even more support from insurance companies, hopefully making alternative treatments affordable and accessible to everyone.

Natural Stress Management Techniques

Natural Pain Management

The Positive Pear Nominated For Wego Health Activist Award!

How exciting! Wego Health is offering their first ever Health Activist Awards and “The Positive Pear” has been nominated. It’s touching that in such a short time, we’ve made such an a positive impact on one or more of our followers, to have received a few nominations in several categories.  I’m both excited & humbled to be among the many health activist and nominees. Thank you so much!

Nominated in four categories: Paperboy, Rookie of the Year, Health Activist Hero & Best Kept Secret Awards. The Positive Pear Blog is also the WEGO Health Featured Health Activist Blog for January 2012

PAPERBOY AWARD: The Health Activist who always brings you the latest and greatest news and research.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: The Health Activist who came on the scene in 2011 but has inspired the entire community.
HEALTH ACTIVIST HERO: Who has changed your life? Recognize the Health Activist who has made a significant impact on you.
BEST KEPT SECRET: Help us find the hidden gem of the Health Activist world – and share them.