Isn’t summer glorious-all those fresh vegetables and fruits, and taking time to be with friends and do the things we love? If you haven’t taken time off to do something you love this summer, take a few minutes to imagine it now, and then contemplate how you can make it happen.
I’m on Amtrak riding up the East Coast after a brief visit to New York City that included a visit with my daughter and a video recording session for the Learning Annex. I’m on my way to my final assignment of the summer–my time at the Cape Cod Institute, teaching “LifeForce Yoga for You and your Clients-No Mat Required.” I’m passing rivers, bays, and marinas on this beautiful summer day and dreaming of settling down for three weeks in my old hometown of Newport, RI, after the teaching is done. I’ll be working on the final edits for the book I am writing for W.W. Norton, called Yoga Skills for You and Your Clients that will be published in the spring of 2012. Here’s a sneak preview of the cover!
I’m in summer mode, and want it to go on forever, just as I know that “it’s the clinging that is the source of our suffering.” All things pass, and as the leaves begin to turn and fall, I’ll be on the road again with visits in September to the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research in Monterey, CA September 1 – 4th, 8 Limbs Yoga in Seattle, Sept 9th – 11th, Savannah Yoga Center in Georgia GA, and Innerlight Yoga in Middletown, Rhode Island. I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones at all these beautiful locations. In October, I’m back at the New York Open Center on Sunday, the 2nd. I haven’t taught in the city in years, and I’m looking forward to it.
I am excited to have James Gordon, M.D. guest teaching with me at Kripalu over the Columbus Day Weekend. Dr. Gordon wrote my favorite book about depression–Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression. Please read the review below that originally appeared in an earlier issue of this newsletter. Like me, I think you’ll want to meet him! I wasn’t disappointed when I did. He is as kind and welcoming as his writing voice.
October finishes with visits to Boston for the Internal Family Systems Conference, October 13 – 16th, then Sunday afternoon, on the 16th, at the Arlington Center. I wrap up my travels during leaf season in Buckingham, Virginia at Yogaville, October 21 – 23rd.
Give yourself permission to have fun!
A Warm Namasté,
RESEARCH: Sustaining Mood with Yoga in High School
Researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Institute for Extraordinary Living (IEL) at Kripalu have been studying the potential mental health benefits of a yoga 30 – 40 minute yoga intervention as compared to a regular physical education class at several Massachusetts high schools. In the first study to be published, yoga participants showed statistically significant differences over time relative to controls on measures of anger control and fatigue/inertia. Other outcomes did not show significant gains, possibly, according to the authors, because the end of the semester included the added stress of final exams.The control group who attended regular gym classes actually saw a significant decline in overall mood scores, including anxiety and depression. What this means is that from the beginning of the semester to the end, students in the control group felt worse by the end of the semester, whereas students in the yoga group felt the same as they did when school started or a little bit better.
The yoga protocol adapted a Yoga Ed format for high school students into the thirty-minute, twice weekly sessions.There was an initial five minute relaxation that included a focus on the breath, five minutes of warm ups, fifteen minutes of yoga poses and a five minute closing relaxation.The teachers who delivered the protocol were trained by Kripalu and Yoga Ed. Each yoga session included a talking point grounded in yoga philosophy. On-going and future studies in secondary education conducted by this same research team are using a Kripalu-based yoga protocol.
- Evaluation of the Mental Health Benefits of Yoga in a Secondary School: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial
- Khalsa SB, Hickey-Schultz L, Cohen D, Steiner N, Cope S.
- J Behav Health Serv Res. 2011 Jun 7.[Epub ahead of print]
RESEARCH: Yoga Lessens Symptoms of Schizophrenia
In the first randomized controlled trail (RCT) done in the United States, yoga not only reduced symptoms of paranoia and suicide ideation in a population of clinically stable institutionalized patients diagnosed with schizophrenia, but, according to the study’s authors, “hospital physicians reported that several ‘difficult’ patients were markedly calmer, less aggressive, and functioning better overall,” and the patients enjoyed the experience. The pilot study included eighteen patients (12 men and 6 women) with schizophrenia (mean age = 42 ± 13.5) who were randomized to an eight-week Yoga Therapy program (YT) and a Waitlist group (WL).
Dr. Elizabeth Visceglia, a yoga teacher and a psychiatrist in private practice in Brooklyn, conducted this study at Bronx Psychiatric Center where she led the classes, held twice a week for forty-five minutes with five students in each class. The Yoga intervention included, “in varying amounts and with different particular examples of each: pranayama (breathing exercises), warm-ups (gentle movements of major muscle groups and joint rotations), asana (yoga postures that always included at least one of each the following types of postures: forward bends, back bends, twists, inversions, standing, and balancing postures), and yoga nidra (deep relaxation).”
The study’s authors did not standardize the yoga protocol at each session, despite the fact that doing so can strengthen the reliability and reproducibility of their findings. Instead, the authors “maintain that yoga therapy is, by definition, to be tailored to the individual.” So Dr. Visceglia offered “yoga classes that matched the energy level, attentional ability, and mood state of the group members on any given day resulting in some natural variation in each class throughout the eight-week course.”
I asked Dr. Visceglia about the study design and learned that she is a student of Prakash Shankar Vyas, a Kriya yogi from Varanasi where she lived and studied. The emphais of the practice she led was on gentle movement, coordinated with breath, and long
exhalations as a way to quiet the mind, soothe the nervous system, and activate the parasympathetic She avoided most activating breaths like kapalabhati, but occasionally when energy was low, she led breath of joy (see chapter six, Yoga for Depression, and LifeForce Yoga to Beat the Blues – Level 1 DVD)
She says she taught intuitively, choosing postures that seemed appropriate (while including at least one asana from each
class) based on how the students were feeling that day.
Dr. Visceglia incorporated tones that were grounding, such as “om” and “sa ta na ma,”as well as sounds associated with the chakras, primarily the lowere, more grounding tones and chakras. She was also receptive to incorporating sounds suggested by students, who, she says, “often have a great sense of what they need.”
During asana, eyers were typically open. During yoga nidra, Dr. Viscelgia invited the participants to close their eyes, or leave them softly open, with a gentle gaze at a soothing object.
This study gives hope to those who suffer from schizophrenia and to the families whose loved ones suffer. It provides evidence of a soothing, self-regulating treatment option that can make living with schizophrenia or a loved one carrying that diagnosis, more comfortable.
Not only did the yoga group obtain significant improvements in positive and negative symptoms of schizophrenia, but the authors state that “there was not a single physical or psychological adverse effect noted by the investigators or the physicians responsible for the participants during the intervention.”
Upon completion of the eight-week program, many participants did not want it to end. One participant who had been a reluctant student at first said, “I thought it would require a lot from me, but instead it has given me so much.”
Yoga Therapy as an adjunctive treatment for schizophrenia: a randomized, controlled pilot study.
Visceglia E, Lewis S.,
J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Jul;17(7):601-7.
REVIEW: Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression
by James S Gordon, MD
UnstuckJames Gordon is a psychiatrist who partners with his patients, empowering them to manage their moods and discover ways that support their optimum mental health. He’s that sort of author, too. Just take a look at the “Your” in the title. In the voice of a trusted intimate, Dr. Gordon addresses the reader directly. Early in the book, he makes a promise he keeps: “As you read Unstuck, I’ll be by your side, explaining and guiding you through every stage of your healing journey, leading you in exercises and experiments that you can use to explore and resolve the difficulties that trouble you.” Each chapter includes practical tools for both self-inquiry and self-care, guided by the doctor’s compassionate voice. He generously offers guidance in complementary and alternative treatments that could put traditional psychiatry out of business.
Dr. Gordon received his medical education at Harvard and extended his understanding of mental health treatment through his studies with master teachers in ancient healing traditions that include Yoga, meditation, herbs and supplements, and Chinese Medicine.
His educational background combined with his passion for exploring what works from all cultures and traditions set him in good stead when he founded the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C. where he and his staff have treated tens of thousands of patients since 1991.
From his forty years of clinical experience, Gordon is able to say what a yoga teacher, even with the backing of scientific evidence cannot: antidepressant drugs are “last resort rather than a first choice.”
If you have mood issues and you want a non-drug approach to treating them; if you’re willing to commit to a program that demands your daily participation, then this book is for you.
Meet and study with Dr. Gordon at Kripalu with Amy during “LifeForce Yoga to Manage Your Mood,” Oct 7 – 10th.
MEDIA MENTION: The Tenth Door, reviewed by Amy earlier this year
The Tenth DoorThe multi-award winning book Tenth Door: An Adventure Through the Jungles of Enlightenment by Michele Hébert is “in part ‘Autobiography of a Yogini’ with a touch of Eat, Pray, Love.”-Amy Weintraub.
Yoga Journal says “”Hébert’s memoir is a colorful eyewitness account of a transformation time in American history and an up-close look at a seminal figure in the history of yoga in the West.”
This is one of the first yoga-inspired books to win four important book awards:
- 2011 Nautilus Book Award. Personal Journey/ Memoir. This prestigious award is given to books that are changing the world!
- 2011 Nautilus Book Award Small Press Honors
- 2011 National Indie Excellence Award. Spirituality
- 2010 San Diego Book Award. Spirituality
MEDIA MENTION: Stories from the Yogic Heart
Stories from the Yogic HeartIf you’re going to Kripalu this summer and want a great summer read, visit the Kripalu Shop and look for the new anthology Stories from the Yogic Heart. This fascinating read features stories from yoga adepts about how yoga transformed our lives. There are 27 inspiring stories, including mine, to motivate your own yoga practice every day! And, half the net sales go to charities of the writers’ choice. www.yogicheart.com