Hello! My name is Christine and I am a Hatha Yoga instructor at Yoga Land. I recently had the privilege of attending the Yoga and Physiotherapy Congress in Skokie. It was an awesome experience hearing from experts in the fields of both Yoga and Physical Therapy. I know that many of the points that were discussed at the conference are worthy to note and share as I am a medical professional myself with over 30 years of experience. There was so much great information, but I will try my best to break it down by introducing the speakers and highlighting some of the great information that they presented.
James M. McKivigan is a retired United States Navy Physical Therapist and Chiropractor who is a professor at Touro University in Henderson, Nevada. He spoke specifically about the benefits Yoga provides to women who have undergone surgery for breast cancer. His sister was his inspiration as she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Mr. McKivigan addressed the fact that patients who undergo surgery for breast cancer typically suffer from lymphedema because of the removal of lymph nodes. Lymphedema is the condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by the compromised lymphatic system. A patient who has undergone surgery for cancer of the left breast, for example, will then be at risk for swelling and fluid retention in the left arm. Yoga has been proven to decrease swelling, increase range of motion to the affected extremity and manage pain. Other benefits include improved sleep, better immune system, increased strength and balance, and lower blood pressure. But that is only the physical benefits. Psychological benefits include decreased anxiety and depression, increased self acceptance, decreased aggression and improved impulse control. It was encouraging to hear that many hospitals are now adding Yoga as part of their treatment programs!
Sudhanva Char teaches Biostatistics. He has been on the Faculty of Life University for over two decades. Many of his research papers have been published in peer-reviewed journals. He is a Certified Yoga Teacher and over the past thirty years has enabled hundreds to obtain physical and mental health and wellbeing. According to Sudhanva Char, Yoga holds out hope for people suffering from anxiety, sciatica, dyspnea (shortness of breath), menopause, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, childhood asthma, hypertension, pain, cancer and a host of other diseases. He said that the list is endless! He invites people from every area of healthcare to develop a Best Practice model to treat the vast array of diseases. Best Practice approaches should include Yoga (of course), lowering the BMI to under 25, and most importantly, incorporating deep abdominal breathing. Deep breathing is essential to our healthy life style, however, most people do not even use their full lung capacity! (I’ve learned that deep breathing increases lung capacity, strengthens the immune system, increases metabolism, helps emotional equilibrium and removes waste products such as carbon dioxide and other toxins that we inhale each day.) Not only did Sudhanva Char stress the importance of deep breathing, but he also spoke about the psychological benefits of Yoga. He stated concern that there are so many people addicted to drugs or alcohol. There have been so many deaths due to opioids. What are these people looking for? An escape? Decreased stress and tension? Happiness? How can Yoga help? How is Yoga unique? Yoga has tested the span of time. It is ancient. It has helped sizable segments of the world’s population overcome sickness and enjoy full bodied health. Specifically, Yoga designates the subcortical regions of the brain to handle root cause of stress and usher in a relaxation response through the sympathetic nervous system. It normalizes muscle tone by releasing muscle tension. It helps us avoid “mental chatter,” increasing our potential to be happy! Instead of causing fatigue, Yoga is an energizing activity. Sudhanva Char said, the two most powerful techniques to decrease tension and stress are abdominal breath and deep relaxation in Corpse Pose. How many people take time to deeply relax? He said, “Imagine what a happy, positive and affirmative narrative it would be if all of them (people struggling with addictions) were addicted to Yoga?” Lastly, I want to mention that Sudhanva Char spoke about the “Happiness Formula.” We equate happiness with material consumption divided by desire. The secret lies in the ability to decrease our desires. Be happy with what you have. This will minimize material consumption and increase happiness! Also, he urged everyone to have a critical mind. Be rational! One can not accept everything in life. We have a critical and scientific mind and we can avoid irrational ideas or notions.
Dutch Martin is a Certified Yoga Teacher from Dancing Mind Yoga in Falls Church, Virginia. He is currently studying to become a certified speaker, trainer and coach with the Les Brown Institute and the John Maxwell Team. Dutch Martin’s speech was very inspirational. He has overcome much adversity in his life through his Yoga practice. It was on his yoga mat when he was able to break down so that he could break through, becoming the best version of himself. He said, “When you step on your yoga mat and link your breath with movement, it is then that you can reach into your subconscious self.” He said that there is a three step process. 1. Accept your story. You can not change your past. 2. Own your story. You are more than enough. Do not have any shame or guilt. You are no longer a slave to your past. 3. Rewrite your story. You are not stuck. You can work towards your dreams and obtain them. He stressed the importance of releasing whatever doesn’t make you the best person you can be.
Dattatraya Devarao Kulkarni area of research encompasses psychophysics, neurophysiology and neuropsychology in the context of yoga practice. He has authored more than thirty research articles and co-authored a book on Scientific Expositions of Pranayama. He spoke specifically about how Patanjali School of Yoga addresses psycho-somatic aspects of brain behavior (psyche) function, while hatha focuses on relaxation from somatic (body) to the psyche plane. This was an extremely scientific lecture as he broke the physiology down to the cellular level! Just like Sudhanva Char, he stressed the importance of Yoga and Breath function. The control of breath is vital in regulating all bodily functions. He broke down breathing into four parts, Inhalation (air enters), inspiration (the oxygen enters into the blood stream from the lungs), expiration (waste leaves the blood stream in the form of CO2 and toxins and enters the lungs), and finally, exhalation where the toxins are breathed out. He stressed that abdominal breathing is so beneficial and stated that using a double exhalation would bring added benefit in getting the waste out!
Cat Levine teaches Yoga at Be Yoga Andersonville and has been practicing for 13 years. She is the 2017 Illinois and Midwest Yoga Asana Champion in the Women’s Division and represented our region at the 2017 USA Yoga National Asana Championships. She spoke about the health benefits of a routine yoga practice and cited examples of students that had various illnesses and diseases. A student with a diagnosis of osteoporosis increased her bone density by 26%. A student with MS improved significantly and was able to decrease her medications from 5 medications to two. Another student with sciatica practiced five to six times per week for approximately two months with marked improvement of her curvature as noted on x-ray. Cat shared before and after photos of students who gained tremendous strength and flexibility. It was amazing!
Nicole Superits is certified in Yin Yoga. She has studied the principles of Yin Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tibetan Buddhism and anatomy of Yoga. She spoke about the three principles of Yin Yoga. 1. The asanas are held for 3 to 5 minutes or longer. 2. Practitioners consciously relax all the muscles instead of engaging muscles. 3. There is stillness of body and mind. These principles allow for deep relaxation and body presence. Holding the asana for a longer period of time allows you to reach the deeper connective tissue and fascia.Yin is based on Hatha Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism and traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a mindfulness practice. The focus is on the present moment and practicing detachment. letting go of the mental chatter and realizing that you are not your thoughts, feelings or sensations. Instead, we learn that we just observe these thoughts and then let them go. When we attach our emotions to a thought a physical reaction takes place. An example would be the thought of public speaking leads to the emotion of fear which leads to the body’s reaction of increased heart rate and sweaty palms. The practice of Yin Yoga helps us to realize that our body reacts to our thoughts. We can choose to believe a thought, hold on or let it go. Yin Yoga also incorporates the Chinese 5 elements which are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood which correlate to our body systems. For example, the Chinese element Metal correlates with our lung and large intestines. When we practice asanas incorporating this element we focus on change. Emotions attached to this element are that of letting go and grief.
Lastly, I was able to practice a little Yoga with Julia Chung. She is the Owner and Head Instructor at Body & Brain Yoga. She spoke about Tongchun Living which is connecting with yourself for one minute every hour. The belief is if you allow yourself to connect by purposefully moving your body for one minute every hour, you can change your habitual patterns and learn to care about your body and yourself. Why should we do this? The answer, according to Julia, is simply that we take too many pills! She led us in a very short mind /body practice that left the participants feeling relaxed and rejuvenated!