We all live busy lives that can be rife with many stressors. While some amount of stress can help us to be productive, elevated levels of stress can become disruptive to our lives and to our health. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. It's important for helping your body deal with stressful situations, as your brain triggers its release in response to many different kinds of stress. However, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps. In fact new studies now correlate excessive cortisol levels with inflammation, the main cause of many different diseases. It is estimated an 80 to 90% of doctor visits is related to stress levels, yet many medical professionals have a difficult time discussing how to help their patients manage stress. In a national survey, over 85% of people who did yoga reported that it helped them relieve stress. Exercise is a very useful way to relieve stress, but yoga is different from spinning class or weight-lifting in that it powerfully combines both physical fitness with an underlying philosophy of self-compassion and awareness.
One of the main concepts in yoga is being non-judgmental toward both yourself and others, which is a powerful tool for stress relief since much of our stress comes from us being hard on ourselves or frustrated with others. A fundamental principle of yoga is that your body and mind are one and connected. Stress in one domain will affect the other and vice versa. Many of us live primarily in either our mind or our body, which creates imbalance and even a lack of awareness, but through a yoga practice we come to understand that connection better to create more balance in how we live. Yoga also trains your counter-stress response system called the parasympathetic nervous system. With regular yoga practice, your chronic daytime stress hormone levels drop and your heart rate variability increases, which is measure of your ability to tolerate stress. This has been shown to improve even after a few sessions.
Yoga therapeutics uses the many beneficial modalities of yoga like Asana, Pranayama, and Mindfulness practices, providing the individual client with a set of tools to manage their daily stress. As the client learns to down regulate their nervous system, achieving homeostasis, they will come to appreciate their own power in maintaining their health overall.
Cardiac Care--- Utilizing gentle or chair yoga, mindfulness practices, and stress management, therapeutic yoga can be a powerful complementary treatment for those who have suffered a cardiac episode or has been diagnosed with a cardiac issue. Sonja and Yuliana had the privilege of teaching women cardiac patients in various stages of their recovery at Lennox Hill Hospital, witnessing first-hand the profound help of the weekly classes to the recovering patients.
Trauma Recovery---Yoga’s ability to touch people on every level of their being—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual (whatever that means to each individual) makes it a powerful and effective modality for trauma survivors. A three-year NIH funded research on yoga and trauma study at the Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts, with women with treatment resistant PTSD has shown promising results. The study showed a 30% reduction in PTSD symptoms, including less intrusive thoughts and disassociation with their bodies. Whether it is childhood trauma, work place trauma for EMT, fire fighters, law enforcement, or veterans, most agree that all traumas live within in the bodies, which is why yoga’s ability to aid in a person’s recovery has been shown to be invaluable.
Cancer Recovery---For cancer patients and survivors, mental and emotional stress and anxiety is as much a part of their treatment process. Yoga, whether through gentle movement, or through mindfulness practices provides a patient with tools to manage their stress and anxiety during this incredibly stressful time. Through the various modalities, yoga has been shown to help cancer patients manage their stress and anxiety to achieve better sleep, to help with their fatigue from treatments, to help create a social circle where they can address their concerns and anxieties in a positive proactive way, and to stay focused on the present through breathing exercises.
Back Care---Chronic back pain contributes to 264 million days of missed work in one year. Experts predict 80% of people will experience back pain in their lives. Back pain is the third most reason for doctor visits next to skin disorders and osteoporosis or join disorders. Low back pain costs Americans 50 billion in healthcare costs each year. With such alarming statistics, yoga is being recommended by doctors to patients with chronic back pain more and more. Understanding all of the statistics and needs for yoga to treat chronic back pain, Sonja and Yuliana studied under Dr. Loren Fishman, a leading physician who has recommended yoga therapy to treat chronic back pain. Under this tutelage and study, they understand treating back pain is not a one size fits all remedy. Whether it is treating a patient suffering from a herniation, stenosis, scoliosis, priformis syndrome, or sciatica, they are able to tailor a yoga program to help combat these specific issues to provide their clients with the ability to, hopefully, be pain free and to be more mobile in their everyday lives.
Osteoporosis---With an aging boomer population, more and more attention is being focused on the physical issues related to aging. Osteoporosis affects more than 200 million people with that number ballooning as the baby boomer generation ages. Weight bearing exercise is recommended to help bone density, but not all weight bearing exercise is ideal for those prone to fractures. Recent studies using yoga has shown promising results for maintaining bone density, although not yet shown that yoga promotes bone density. Under the guide of a trained therapist, a patient diagnosed with osteoporosis can practice in a safe way to guard against fractures and other side effects of osteoporosis.
Ayurveda---Ayurveda medicine is one of the oldest holistic “whole body” healing systems, developed in India 3,000 years ago. It is based on a belief that health and wellness depend on delicate balance between body, mind, and spirit. It’s main goal is to promote good health, not fight specific disease. But treatments may be geared toward specific health problems. As yoga therapists, Sonja and Yuliana may utilize this holistic practice as one of the lens through which to create a holistic treatment protocol for their each individual client.
Mood Disorders---Whether it is depression or anxiety disorder, since the 1970’s mindfulness practices have been recommended to those suffering from these two most common mood disorders. However recent studies have shown that yoga is now being considered as another complementary tool. Yoga’s ability to help control stress response, or to help down regulate a person’s nervous system is widely accepted as a beneficial side effect of the practice. For a patient suffering a mood disorder, this ability to help regulate their stress response is paramount to their ability to help manage their illness. For Yuliana this has been a particularly personal journey after she was diagnosed with depression. She experienced first-hand how much impact her practice and all the modalities of yoga helped her to manage her disease, something she continues to face to this day.
Sleep Management- 50-70 million adults suffer from some form of sleep disorder. While sleepiness and tiredness are the most obvious side effects from lack of sleep, the other, less obvious side effects are the ways in which our brains are altered, sometimes detrimentally if insomnia is prolonged. More and more studies are showing how a lack of sleep releases a chemical in the brain that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. In an ever-quickening world, lack of sleep will not get better, but most predict will get worse. Yoga has been shown to help in the aid of sleep:
-reviving the body through the asana
-helping to down regulate a person’s nervous system through the asana, but also other modalities like yoga nidra and other mindfulness practices
-regular practice can change the quality of one’s sleep
-yoga evokes peace and calm.
Integrated Athletic Performance Techniques - Elite athletes endeavour to train and compete even when ill or injured. Their motivation may be intrinsic or due to coach and team pressures. Integrative Yoga Therapy can be an important role to risk-manage the health of the competing athlete in partnership with the coach and other members of the support team. The Yoga Therapist can help navigate the right ethical and operational balance between health management and encouraging optimum performance. Yoga Therapy may improve an athlete's focus, concentration and ability to stay calm and steady before competitions. The approach encourages the cultivation of balance and empowerment in the athlete's lifestyle.