Ever-increasing numbers of physicians and research studies tout the benefits of yoga, but is it truly being integrated into healthcare? A recent article in Yoga Journal notes that physicians are prescribing yoga in greater numbers than ever, and there are now more than 130 yoga therapy training programs worldwide. But what kind of access do patients have to classes or therapists that can meet their needs? Can those recovering from illness or struggling with depression find a class that feels welcoming and appropriate for their needs?
Discipline is defined as a branch of knowledge or the practice of training people. I find this interesting as a yoga “teacher,” for a few reasons. One is that that while I am a teacher, I am also only a student. And honestly, the only person I am ever really training is myself.
When it comes to our bodies, we as women tend to place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to achieve certain results. We deprive ourselves and push ourselves in order to whittle down, tighten up, drop dress sizes, and increase our level of attractiveness. We exalt uber-thin (sometimes, dangerously thin) bodies through images of “thinspiration.” We put these images out on social media and tell the world, “This is what I’m striving for.”
When I became a yoga teacher 13 years ago, I was keenly interested in introducing yoga into hospitals and mental health centers. I began my own practice right after my father died, and experienced such grounding within my grief that I longed to share the benefits of yoga with people who’d experienced illness or trauma. I taught in hospitals, but it was five years later, in county drug court, that I found my true niche working with teens.
A guest post from Two Fit Moms.
Four years ago, we began sharing our love of yoga on Instagram by posting snapshots and picture tutorials of some of our favorite poses. With young kids at home, we rarely made it out to attend classes at yoga studios, but we loved to practice at home. We had a passion for connecting with others and sharing whatever we learned on our mats, so we posted photos often and helped build a virtual yoga community. We hoped to be able to reach a larger audience one day, and seeing that dream come true through our relationship with Gaiam has been a surreal experience.
The other day I attended a new yoga class. Though I entered the studio with ten minutes to spare, the entire floor was covered with bodies. For a gentle yoga class? In my experience the gentle classes usually provide plenty of room to find a private space.
The very first yoga class I ever attended was Iyengar-based. This was some fifteen years ago, when I was totally into Tai Bo, Spin and Step Aerobics. Kind of an unusual transition, really. Truth be told, I hated it. I could hear the clock ticking, I did not sweat, and there was no music. It felt like such a waste of time to me. It took me a good month to go back. Honestly, it was like pulling teeth, but something kept me going back once a week.
Seven years ago I found a copy of yoga teacher Matthew Sanford’s book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, in the local used bookstore. The book lit me on fire: Not only did Sanford’s story of loss and healing profoundly move me, his deep and unique experience with yoga’s ability to transform touched into my own and inspired me to teach to people with disabilities.
How long have you been coming to your yoga mat? When you think about your yoga practice, can you remember what brought you to yoga and how you felt during your first class? It’s been over 15 years since I first stepped on my yoga mat and I remember exactly how I felt. Excited and terrified.