By Kim McNeil, B.Sc., CYI
There is something to this thing called yoga. I am not referring to the superficial ‘love yourself, love everyone’, touch-your-toes-and-be-saved propaganda in the media. I’m also not talking about the seeming trend of 1 out of every 1.5 woman aged between 6 and 60 flocking to teacher training programs. I am talking about true science. Now, brace yourself because here comes some of that science: a recent meta-analysis published in early 2013 is the newest piece of evidence to come out of the literature to support the benefits of yoga in the treatment of various medical conditions (Ward, L. et.al, 2013). You cannot argue there is something to be said about yoga as a genuine treatment option for chronic pain.
So dawns the age of yoga therapy. Although yoga therapy in itself is not new, the idea that someone could make a legitimate career out of being a yoga therapist is one we are only now beginning to wrap our meditated heads around. The discipline of combining modified yoga poses, exercises adapted by physical therapy and exercise physiology, breath work, and meditation make for a perfect storm when it comes to the treatment of stubborn pain.
Take arthritis for example. The M.O. of an arthritis sufferer often goes something like this: they feel pain, they stop moving, their joints are done a disservice by not being used, they become weaker, their pain increases, they start drug therapy, the drugs work but all too often not forever, they feel older than they are, and depression can set in. They end up on the couch, curled up like a dead spider, watching Honey Boo Boo because they can’t move far enough without pain to get the remote.
Those living with arthritis have specific needs, which are not always met by attending many traditional yoga classes. Instead of finishing a class with the usual euphoric feeling that everyone is your best friend even if they rear-end your Mini coming out of a studio parking lot, those with arthritis often leave feeling like they were left behind somewhere between Monkey Pose and Savasana. The pace, size, and style of many classes often don’t do enough to serve those with inflammation and joint issues, even when the teacher is well trained. Arthritic students feel a sense of not being able to keep up during class, have to sit out during certain poses, or come to believe their attendance in class was a waste of time.
What if we could break the cycle? What if arthritic clients could receive personalized attention instead of the usual script offered by traditional yoga classes? Therapy-based yoga involves designing a plan tailored to an individual’s specific needs. This type of program uses a ‘less is more’ approach where the therapist teaches the client safe movement patterns, how to avoid compensation, how to rebuild their body awareness, and how to eventually introduce strength building into their routine. The best instructors promote a collaborative approach involving other conventional therapists such as massage therapy, active release, and physiotherapy. What you end up with then are a Terminator-sized arsenal of holistic practitioners working together for the benefit of the client. The result is the individual in question improves faster with their strength, mobility, and pain management, feels a decrease in their pain levels, and experiences an overall improvement in their quality of life. What could be better than that?
Do you know someone living with arthritis? Are you that someone? On March 3, 2013 the 6th Annual Power of Movement Calgary is happening at Eau Claire Market from 11 am-12:30 pm. Join me and hundreds of others for an all-levels, joint-friendly mega yoga class benefiting the Arthritis Research Foundation. For more information, to register, or form your own team, head to: http://beatarthritis.akaraisin.com/POM2013Calgary
Here’s to helping those living with arthritis feel better and live happier.
Kim McNeil is a Certified Yoga Instructor and Yoga Therapist based out of Calgary, AB. She specializes in working with those with arthritis, pain, and stress. She passion for working with creaky joints comes from seeing first-hand how arthritis has negatively affected the lives of her family and friends. She is in the midst of writing a book called ‘The Yoga for Arthritis Handbook’ slated for release in late 2013. Oh, and she can stand on her head.