Yoga therapy. So, whats that all about.

As I begin another series of trainings in yoga therapy I have people asking me ‘what is yoga therapy’ or ‘what does a yoga therapist do’.

In the west when we think of yoga, we think of it primarily as a physical practice, as exercise. But yoga is a multi-dimensional practice, and along with its sister science, Ayurveda medicine, has been used as medical treatment and prevention for thousands of years. Yoga therapy has many applications such as managing high blood pressure, coping with the effects of cancer treatments, or treating mental and emotional disorders like depression or anxiety. It is especially helpful for treatments of musculoskeletal issues like low back pain, knee and shoulder issues, just to name a few. In an article for Gaiam Life Janice Gates, then president of the International Association of Yoga Therapists stated “Yoga therapy is very much about the whole person. It is complementary to physical therapy, but we take into account that back pain may be related to an emotional element, or it may be from lifestyle, some pattern that is not serving them, physical movement patterns or other patterns.”

Yoga therapy integrates traditional yogic concepts and techniques, with western medicine and modern psychology to become a complementary health & wellness practice. The Yoga Therapist creates a safe place for healing and growth to happen, by combining these elements and treating their client as a whole person, not just a disease.

Yoga therapy has been making inroads into the healthcare industry for quite some time; the ideas, concepts and deeper understanding of all that yoga has to offer are slowly making their way into main stream medical offices. Many doctors are now recommending yoga therapy to their patients primarily as a way to combat the effects of stress. But there is so much more that yoga therapy can do and while physicians are now beginning to understand how yoga therapy can complement modern medicine many doctors recommendations stop at stress relief. Maybe they don’t know how yoga works or perhaps they don’t have any personal experience with yoga, but without the information about how yoga works and how to best prescribe it they will simply continue to tell their patients to “go do yoga”. Since most patients won’t (or perhaps shouldn’t) seek yoga on their own, doctors need a resource, someone they can refer their patients to, someone with the knowledge of the right poses, or what breathing and meditation techniques would work for them. The yoga therapist can bridge the gap as  the patient begins to transition from dis-ease to a life more functional.


Surely everyone knows how great yoga is for stress reduction, isn’t that a ‘given’ anymore? But yoga is also beneficial for people getting back to the business of life after major surgery, illness or injury. And yoga is for everyone; young children are being taught yoga & meditation in schools to help them study and elderly residents in nursing homes do yoga in chairs to help alleviate the effects of aging and to help them stay active. Yoga is for people looking to slow down the aging process but also the injured athlete wanting to get back in the game. Yoga therapies are for the obese client and those battling eating disorders; for someone healing from trauma to another person making their way back from addictions.

Yoga therapy offers holistic healthcare solutions for everyone.

If you think yoga is just about stretching or being flexible you limit what yoga can do, how yoga can help you.  Yoga contributes to your overall health and well-being in so many ways. Yoga teaches healthier breathing habits that help the body with superior oxygenation providing many benefits on a cellular level, giving you bright, healthy, youthful skin; increased energy; reduced mental and physical fatigue; increase mental clarity and yoga gives your body’s immune system a big boost. All that healthy breathing combined with the yoga postures can benefit your metabolism without the stress that hard cardio workouts can put on the body. And some studies are now showing that ‘less is more’ when it comes to heart health and exercise. Beyond the physical benefits, yoga contributes to a sense of well-being and self-awareness. Yoga can enliven our senses, helps us be aware of the world around us and allows us to move through that world in a way that serves us on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level. Modern medicine simply does not address all of those components.

Yoga therapy concepts are an important component of preventative medicine too. If we expect to age well, to live productive lives, to remain active in our communities then we need to add yoga to our lives to allow us to get healthy, be healthy and to remain healthy. As yoga therapy continues to grow into the medical fields, yoga therapists will have the responsibility help physicians understand the benefits of prescribing yoga to their patients. We need to work together, physicians and yoga therapists, along with other complimentary and holistic treatments to empower people to live healthy lives.

At its heart yoga is about living life without fear. Whether that fear manifests as physical pain, emotional turmoil or mental distress, Yoga therapy is another tool that you can use to live healthy and well.

Roger Cole demonstrating an adjustment for the SI joint on yours truly, at a recent training event.

Whats your WD40 when you get stuck?

 When we get stuck in patterns of behavior or in the same old routine, what do you do to get un-stuck? How do you move forward? Dont get me wrong ‘routine’ can be a good thing, it keeps our teeth brushed and the dog fed. But what can you do to free yourself from the patterns that hold you back, that keep you from your successes? I tell my students, especially the new ones, that when they show up, they have already done the hard part. There isn’t an abdominal sequence or pretzel move that’s harder than showing up.

We have to break the cycle of behavior that allows us to talk ourselves out of or into circumstances that hold us back. When the notions or ideas come into your mind that you ‘cant’ or ‘your too tired’ or ‘why try, you’ve failed before’, STOP!

Slow down. Start a conversation with yourself. Tell yourself, “don’t go down that road” and if your already headed in the direction of negativity, back up and start over.

Think a new thought. Look at the Idea or thought that was negative and spin it in another direction, ‘I’m too tired’ becomes, ‘ well I’ll just get started and see how far my energy takes me’. ‘I’ve failed before’ becomes ‘I’m going to keep trying, the outcome will be different’. Be open to changes in your thoughts.

Open your heart. When we open our hearts we move in a direction that is positive. Moving towards others with open hearts is often times easier than doing something for ourselves, and helping others give us courage to face and accept challenges, to embrace the changes they bring.

Position yourself for change. Put yourself in a position that not only allows change but welcomes it. Make small changes that give you the opportunity to step outside the box, to test the waters.  If your trying to get to yoga class and everything gets in the way, position yourself for change, keep your mat in your car, find a class that’s easy to get to. Change the idea ‘you cant’ to ‘I will” and keep it simple.

So, what gets you to the mat when you just dont want to. What gets you out the door when sitting on the couch seems a lot easier. How do you break free from the old patterns that keep you from trying something new. How can you STOP the old routine and become open to change.

Om Shanti


From the Pen of Roamaboutmike

This is a great post, that’s why it made fresh pressed. And it made me think of my friend Jules. She Loves Coffe as much as I do 🙂

And this is what I wrote to Roamaboutmike in response….

Nope, never even tried. In the name of all things Yogi I gave up meat…mostly. Because of yoga teachers training I gave up alcohol…sorta. And for financial reasons I gave up smoking, 27 years ago, seriously I was not going to pay a $1 a pack for something that was going to kill me and made kissing me taste like kissing an ashtray. At least thats what Boyfriend said.
But give up, coffee! Java, cup-a-joe, cup-a-mud what were you thinking. Look there are only 2 kinds of people in the world…just 2! They come in all colors, all genders, all races and all nationalities. They are Leapers… and …Creepers. Leapers get up in the morning, walk the dog, pick fresh spinach for their egg white omelets and start a load of laundry, before they pee and brush their teeth. We hate them. We who require 2 cups of hot love just to get through Good Morning America, while still in our jammies. We Creepers of the world Unite! Embrace your love of Coffee and bow low to the sacred bean that brings productivity to our existence. SO GO, Go all Gillmore Girls on the leapers of this world. Take back your mornings!
Oh and BTW cola & tea dont count. It must be hot, thick, strong and able to leap tall buildings. Hail to thee! Coffee Coffee Coffee.


My proclivity for drinking coffee stems from an innate hatred of mornings. I like the nightlife; I like to boogie – so while most people are bounding out of bed yipping about sunshine and lollipops in  super-chipper voices, I’m calling the alarm clock a filthy name, hoping I don’t break yet another snooze button. 

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Great workshop with Roger Cole or ‘You want me to do ‘what’ with a chair?

  ….Salamba Sarvangasana supported Shoulderstand

I had a fantastic weekend! What about you? I am in another Yoga training (yea I know that’s hard to believe) for yoga therapy and this weekend we had the privilege of studying with Roger Cole, those of you outside of the Yoga world, you tilt your head and say ‘who’, while we yogis clap our hands and go ‘Ohhhh, cool’. Roger is one of the preeminent yoga teachers on the planet. He is a certified Iyengar yoga teacher and has been teaching since about 1980. If you read his bio, you think that he might be stuffy or very academic, at the very least a whole hellova lot smarter than me. But he was nothing of the sort, ok he is smarter than me (dude has a Phd for heaven’s sake) but his teaching style was very down to earth he didnt talk down to anyone or making you feel stupid. He was precise and to the point and didnt waste anytime. And he never hesitated to answer anyones question. He was a gracious teacher.

He is a Yoga Rock star! And getting to learn from him was amazing; my head is still swimming from all the great information. But better still was getting to learn hands-on Iyengar techniques.

….supported Viparita Karani on 4 long fold blankets…..

Training this weekend with Roger, my fellow students and several other well-known Iyengar teachers, reignited my love of Iyengar yoga. Years ago when I started taking yoga classes and then began studying yoga, the Iyengar style with its precision and its attention to alignment, taught in a way that makes yoga so accessible to everyone, was the one that I was always drawn to. And Iyengar yoga therapeutic applications are almost endless. Iyengar yoga was the basis for all my early trainings. But over the years as I grew as a teacher, and my students changed too, I studied many other kinds of yoga and created a blend of styles that seems to work best for my students and clients. But this weekend it became clear that Iyengar Yoga will always be my base. It is the yoga style I most gravitate towards. And having the opportunity to study with Roger reaffirmed my commitment to the direction that my life is going. If you have a love of anatomy or teach or train in Iyengar Yoga then you must make it a point to study with Roger Cole. You will not be disappointed.

Om Shanti


Roger demonstrating an adjustment for the SI joint, yea that’s me. And yea, it felt really good.

A special Thank You to Missi, my friend and fellow yogi for takeing these pictures.

What did Yoga teach me this week? ..Flexibility of course or “If the boot fits, but is broken, do I still have to wear it?”

I’m not talking about the physical flexibility, but the mental, emotional and situational flexibility, that’s what I’m talking about. Mostly the situational, to be able to change your plans as quickly as life will change them for you, just another place where yoga can come in handy.

My Hubby and I had planned a backpacking trip for months, seriously, months! There are whole sections of the AT, locally, that we have never been on, and we want to get them off our bucket lists.  We had never done the leg from the Terminus of the Appalachian Trail at Springers MT in GA to Woody Gap. Now I don’t have as many vacation days as Mike, so we were planning to start the trip together then I was coming out on day 3, heading home and he was going on for 5 more days (lucky Bas***d). A lot of planning went into this trip, we mapped it all out, Mike got a new pack and we planned all the meals, then bought the food and packaged it up in a way that reduces the weight you have to carry. We inspected all our equipment, re stocked the first aid kit and I dusted off my wonderful boots, Lowa’s, made in Germany. I love these boots. Hands down the best boot I have ever owned. Admittedly they have a little age on them and I do not throw something out just cause it’s starting to show a little wear (at my age who am I to judge). So with new insoles (Super Feet Rock!) in my boots, we packed up the trucks, no that’s not a typo ‘truckS’, 2 trucks, more than one. With me coming out of the woods after 3 days we needed a way for Mike to get home when he reached North Carolina, (lucky Bas***d). So the plan was to park my truck at Woody Gap trail head and leave his truck at Springers mt. There are some great folks who make their living on servicing all the hikers who come to the AT, from picking the hikers up and dropping them off or like in our case picking up Mike’s truck, storing it for a week, then delivering it to his take out point. I want that job when I retire! Spend my golden years, living in the mountains, teaching yoga & ferrying ‘thru hikers’ around. Oh yea, I could live like that.

So Friday morning we headed out. We drove about 3 hours; deep into the mountains of North Georgia, to a little town called Suches and from there drove up an old forest service road for another hour and a half, until we reach the parking area for the southern most point on the AT. We were so excited. From the parking area it only was only 1 mile to the top of the mountain, then back down and the trail continues on to Wood Gap, A two-day hike covering about 20 miles.

Where’s the yoga you ask? Patience Grasshoppers.

We get our boots and water bottles out of the truck, I sit down, started to put on my lovely, wonderful 11-year-old boots, the boots that I had on every day for a week, the boots that 2 days before were perfect! Maybe not ‘perfect’ but fine! When I noticed that the heel was starting to come lose! Not just a little bit, but the whole heel was separating from the boot.

Thinking this was a fluke, that this would be the last trip on my old boots and  it would be OK for only 2 days, we applied a little duct tape (duct tape is mandatory for all hikers) and start walking. I only get about 1/2 a mile when the other heel starts to come lose too! More duck tape! I get to the top and realize I can’t carry a 25 lb pack for 2 full days over 20 miles in boots that are falling apart. By the time we get back to the truck, 2 miles total, the soles are almost completely off the boot, in a matter of just a few minutes they had disintegrated! I have never heard of such a thing and certainly have never seen anything like it. Just crazy!

I had decided that the universe was trying to tell me something, you know how Oprah talks about the universe trying to get your attention (yes I watch Oprah, don’t make a big thing out of it) by giving you a little slap on the back, if that doesn’t work then a thump on your head, then a brick to the head?  Well I figured this was my brick to the head (I must have missed the thump and slap completely) saying “oh no you don’t really want to go in the woods, there’s a bear/fire/fall off a cliff going to happen, if you do.

When we got back to the parking area, the lady was there to pick up mikes truck, so we rode back to Woody Gap with her and we put all our stuff in my truck and she drove Mikes vehicle to storage, just because I couldn’t go does not mean Mikes can’t go (lucky Bas***d). I was all prepared to leave him in the woods and sighhhh drive home. But then Mike says “call Richard”.

Oh yea! Richard! My friend Richard, fellow gym rat and a great spin instructor, he owns a cabin in Suches GA!

A cabin that he rents out!

Cell phone service is ‘iffy’ at best up here in the mountains but the universe was on our side and the call goes through, “Richard, ol’ buddy ol’ pal O’mine is anyone staying at the cabin tonight? We need a place to crash” and I told him why, he says no one is expected until Monday and that the cabin had just been cleaned from the folks that left that morning! So with directions to the cabin and a new plan in hand we head out. We’re going to rough it….. by staying at Richies beautiful cabin, sitting on the porch swing and drinking wine! Richard, all you need is a hot tub, I’m just sayin’.

And that is how Yoga keeps me flexible. The Universe is always going to try to throw ‘wrenches’ in your works’. Baby, that’s just life. I could have gotten upset that the plans went awry or even angry. I could have felt like all that time spent planning and prepping had been wasted. Instead, you breathe, you take a moment to reassess the situation and make a conscious shift in your thinking; you choose to move in another direction. You make a choice, to move in a positive direction, with equally pleasant results, just different results. No matter what comes at us, from people or circumstances, it’s how we choose to re-act that matters. Everything in life is our choice. How we choose,  is how move, how we live. When we live a yogic life, beyond just the asana practice we realize that the peace we find on the mat will follow us into the world, if we let it. If we choose it.

So instead of sleeping on the ground, under the stars, breathing fresh air in surroundings so quiet you can hear your own heart, we ended up drinking wine, holding hands and swinging on the porch of a beautiful cabin, deep in the woods.

Equally pleasant, just different.

Om Shanti


I  wrote a few Haikus about our trip, they are here.

Maurice Sendaks passing on to the land of the Wild Things

Samuel Snoek-Brown wrote a great post,  about The passing of Maurice Sendak, between his post and the terrific comments about it, it generated some nostalgia for me, about how wonderful it was growing up with a book in my hand.  I always had a book, always. My parents were typical suburban parents of the 60’s / 70’s and of all that they gave us, what I remember most was the gift of reading. I simply do not remember “not”  being able to read. Do you? I know people who didn’t read until they got to grade school. But I remember reading before I got to kindergarten.  I was the proverbial kid with the flashlight under the covers reading till the wee hours (probably only till 10pm but with an 8 o’clock bedtime 10 was pushing the envelope). I had very special places where I would hide and read. some of my fave’s were behind the green sofa, I was a long skinny girl and I could lay back there with a pillow for my head and if I positioned myself  juuust right, I could read by the light of the table lamp. Sometimes our poodle, Pepe, would join me. Another place I could be found (after I got bigger) was in the linen closet. Mom didn’t store anything in the bottom of the closet, so in I would crawl, with a pillow and a flashlight and read the day away. I remember when I was about 8 or so my Uncle Frank must have heard me reading out loud, and he gently knocked on the linen closet door and when he opened the door he didn’t look surprised or say “get out of there,  go outside and play” he just asked “what are you reading'” I don’t remember what it was but I told him and he sat down in the floor and let me read to him.

Probably my most wonderful place to read was up in the big oak tree in the back yard. I could reach the bottom limb by the age of 11 or 12 and after that, that’s where you would find me. I would take an old basket, put my book, a snack and a flashlight in it, in case it got dark, tie a rope to it and climb up to this magical place. There were 3 limbs perfect to reading, one to sit on, one to lean against and one to prop my feet on. Then I’d hoist up the basket.

Reading was not only a way to escape the tough times that childhood can be, but it feeds the imagination, it provides knowledge and understanding. It brings in light where there is darkness and dims the spotlight when you feel over exposed. It allows you to travel beyond your own back yard, to places both wild and exciting to scary and inviting. You can set sail, or ride bare back, you can fight monsters or hunt for treasure. You can join in the fight whether it be for Love or War. Reading allows children to soar when they haven’t yet grown wings.


Peace and light go with you Mr Sendak.

“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”

Om Shanti


Sunday Haiku….. April 29, 2012 and May 6th 2012

Mike and I went backpacking (well sorta, it’s an interesting tale, I’ll  post about it in a day or two), he went for 7 days and I went for 3. He has way more vacation days than I do. Anyway, since he kept the camera with him I couldn’t post any of the pictures till he came back and several of them inspired the following haiku’s, so I wrote last weeks haiku,  but waited until I had the pictures to go along with them to actually post them. I wrote the first one on the trail as we headed up Blood Mountain in Georgia.

They are called the Smoky Mountains for a reason.

Enjoy the pictures, it was a beautiful place.

Om Shanti


April 29th

things all green and grey
spring fog in the air is sweet
today a new path
early morning,headed up "Blood Mountain. GA" 
 May 6th 2012
moma’s got new shoes
these boots were made for walkin’
trillium lined trails

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Developing your Home Practice……Cobra and Upward facing Dog, We’re in the home stretch now!

 (cobra) &  (Up-Dog) carry most of the same benefits; they are both heart openers, create a sense of expansion throughout the front body, stretching the chest and expanding lung capacity. They open, lengthen and stretch the abdomen aiding in digestion. They stimulate the  heart & throat chakras along with the thyroid. They strengthen the wrists, arms, shoulders and back. Back bends are known for helping with depression, anxiety and stimulating the nervous system helping to alleviate fatigue.

Both Cobra and/or Up Dog are the next pose(s) in the sun salutation series, which is the basis for the home practice we’ve been talking about. From Chaturanga we lift the chest up drawing the heart center forward between the arms, bringing the shoulders on to the upper back. The main difference between Up Dog and Cobra is that in cobra the pelvis, thighs, knees & the tops of the feet remain connected to the mat, while in Up Dog the only thing touching the floor are the hands and feet.

The most important thing to remember in either pose is to avoid compressing and crunching the low back. To do this, lengthen the spine, reaching the tail bone towards your heels, then bring the ribs and chest forward. Try not to ‘tuck’ the tail bone (I know, I know, I keep saying ‘”tucking is a whole post all to its self” and someday I will remember to write it).

Lets look at the details of Cobra; press into the hands to create the lift in the chest, lengthen your rib cage towards the front of your mat, lift the ‘girls up‘ (unless your a guy then keep lifting that chest!) as you draw the tail bone towards the feet, draw the shoulder blades in towards each other, this is a low cobra. To deepen the pose, press a bit more into the hands and begin to use more of the musculature in the upper and middle back to avoid crunching the low back. There is no need to straighten the arms, especially if is causes you to ‘scrunch‘ your shoulders up into your ears. Emphasize the length in your neck by drawing up through the crown of your head. Internally rotate the thighs to broaden the sacrum, and press them firmly into the mat.

Many of the details in Up Dog are the same; create space in your front body, by lengthening out through your tailbone and up through the crown of your head. Let your heart float forward; keep the shoulders away from your ears. The differences are that in Up Dog you ‘do’ want to straighten the arms. Just don’t lock the elbows and don’t press the inside of the elbow forward, that creates hyper-extension. Avoid hanging your body on the shoulders, like a shirt on a clothes hanger. Lift the belly, engaging the Bandhas, wrap the shoulders around and on to the back. Utilize the strength of the back, belly and bandhas to carry the weight of the body. Hug the inner thighs in, engage the hamstrings and press down through the tops of the feet.

If you feel any tension or anxiety building, or if your breath gets shallow back out of the pose a bit. Backbending poses can ‘stir things up’ emotionally, so, as with any pose or sequence, practice Ahimsa along with your asanas.

From your Cobra or Up Dog you can roll to the balls of your feet, deeply engage your belly and begin to lift through the navel, coming to plank (full or modified) then allow the hips to float up to full Down Dog.

From Down Dog slowly lower knees to your mat and sit back in Childs Pose. There you have it! A simple, basic home practice that almost anyone can do.  Take your time, start with 1 or 2 poses and work up to the full sequence. Remember to allow your breath to take center stage in your asana practice. Let the breath lead. Imagine your breath as your dance partner, let it lead you through the ‘dance’ that is your practise.

I guess it’s time to put it all together, thats the sound of me setting up the video camera….I wonder who I can get to be my victim…I mean Yoga model. Oh wait I know, Oh Cherie  ….

Om Shanti