Tag: Yoga

Are You in Love or at War with Your Body?

Eoin finn in love or at war

I am practicing to a routine on Cody App. I always enjoy what the next generation of yogis are bringing to the practice. I love the “new school” moves and the creativity these Instagram stars bring to the table.

The warmups are vigorous right out of the start.  We do what seems like a trillion chaturangas, plank with the knee and forehead touching, chaturanga to dolphin.  I thought I was pretty fit by my arms are shaking.

“Wow, I must not be pushing myself a lot in my personal practice,” I think to myself “because this is damn hard.”

I love the challenge, I love getting strong and I love the heat it brings.  At one point we hit a pose that is about stretching and not strengthening and we are told that is the way it works for this teacher. We must work hard and then earn a rest.

The thing is, when the time comes for poses that are emphasize stretching as opposed to conditioning my body for fitness, I find myself not as open and flexible as I normally am for these poses.  It’s not that I haven’t been working.  My muscles are warm, I’ve physically exerted myself and my sweatshirt came off long ago.  I’m warm.

The thing is, I am just not “embodied” – with the fast pace and the performance-oriented practice I haven’t had time to let my mind penetrate my body and untie the knots from the inside out.  Rather, the emphasis has been on the outer body movements of muscles and bones and perfecting the shapes of the asana.

I’ve been doing yoga but haven’t had time to feel the yoga. My mind is still trying to submit my body into a flexible and toned person, but it’s a one-way conversation.  It’s a boss, rather than an equal participant in the process; it’s running a dictatorship of mind controlling my body rather than a democracy where the mind and body work together in synergy.

This approach is endemic to our modern culture and frankly a lot of the early yoga I was exposed to. Mind over matter and not mind within matter.  It’s a feeling of control rather than harmony.

I’ve been writing about embodiment for our Blissology Teacher’s Training manual.  I am committing this year to creating incredible teachers who can impact their communities through yoga, mindfulness and love; Our Bliss Army.

I have been thinking the whole time during the practice, “wow, I should get our Blissology Teachers together so we should all do this class as a group so I can point out the difference between doing and feeling yoga.”

Then it comes: the instructor says a phrase that explains exactly what I feel behind this approach:

During a long, two-minute hold of warrior two the instructor says in his sermon:

Don’t let your body control your mind, let your mind control your body.”

It’s as if there is a battle between team body and team mind.

Plank Pose Eoin Finn

In plank pose, can you somatically regulate your body and keep yourself calm or do you want to mentally conquer your body?

I used to think and teach like this before it became clear what embodiment and specifically what “embodied peace” was.

The “Power Yoga” process was like this.  Hold people in an impossibly long plank pose.  As their arms were shaking and they were about to break, the soliloquy was:

“Life is full of hardships, there are going to be so many challenges we face in life; relationships, arguments, traffic…. The only thing we can control is our reactions to things so develop a resilient mind now.”

It seemed like good enough advice but the problem was it was a mental game that involved cutting off feedback from circuitry to the body and over-riding it with strength of my mind.

I’ve learned that a better way for me to deal with those scenarios is to use bodily sensations and not numb myself to them.  For example, while holding plank pose, I would notice that my throat and jaw would tighten, my breath would constrict and become short and my butt would clench.

What I needed to do was to literally, relax the jaw, loosen the butt from clenching, and keep the breath L.S.D. (Long, Slow and Deep.) I could take the lid off of the pressure cooker and remain calm in a challenge not by cutting myself off of bodily feedback, but by using it to my advantage.

Suddenly even these hard poses became no sweat. Literally.  I stopped sweating buckets when before I used to be one of those sweaty yoga guys nobody wanted to put their mats beside they were dripping bodily fluids onto their neighbor’s mats.

My physical toolbox of mind-body integration to maintain calmness under pressure became indispensable to me.  The incredible thing is that this has huge implications for life: whether dropping into a scary wave on my surfboard, in a situation of confrontation, I can control my reactions physically and maintain my setting of calm and clarity.

I can use my body to find mental flow states. I can somatically self-regulate towards peace.

How about You?

How to Find Peace in an Over-Stimulated World.

eoin finn blissology commit to bliss course

How to find peace in an over stimulated world Do you agree that we are becoming more busy and scrambled with each passing year?

In our Commit to Bliss Course starting Nov 14 we have different Blissology Discussion topics

One of them is: “What is different about the world now then your parent’s generation?”

One obvious answer is that we are always on. We have so much stimulation, data and pressure to respond immediately to an overwhelming number of messages. This is what the Yogis called “Rajasic “ energy. In such an overwhelming, rajasic world, what happens to us if we don’t take the time to find peace?

Obviously, our minds suffer and our bodies can become sick.

You know that meditation is an important tool to counter this. But, as I pose in a question in this video, “how do you truly feel about mediation?” It’s like dieting. We do it because we HAVE TO but it’s not enjoyable. Many of us meditate because it’s something we have to do on our “spiritual to-do” list.

This is hard for me to watch because I feel like meditation is like a “breath massage.” I have found ways to make it enjoyable that I want to share. Have a listen – there are some important ideas here facing our modern era and the world our children and grandchildren will inherit

Let me know your thoughts

Find Peace, Everyone. Commit to Bliss.

#blissology #blissarmy #committobliss

 

Buyer Beware: Not All Breathwork is Relaxing

Eoin Chakra Physiology and Hormones
In a world of extremes we love to push the boundaries of

Commit to Bliss is Unique and Powerful course to learn the tools of Somatic Breathing and Embodied Physiology so we can self regulate back to peace in any life situation.

 

Imagine being brand new to snow-skiing and on your first run you ended up taking the wrong chair lift. Instead of going to the manageable bunny slope, you got thrust off the chair lift straight into a double diamond run. How would you feel looking down that steep pitch? To many experienced skiers, this is the dream. However, to the new skier most likely provokes sheer terror.

I had a blind spot when it came to how I taught yogic breathing techniques. I now see this blind spot everywhere as people quickly jump on the bandwagons of Wim Hof, the “IceMan.”

This is why I want to share this post now as a “Buyer Beware” PSA. I believe that if breathing techniques were packaged goods they should come with a label. “Warning, not all techniques are good for all people.”

With one in five people in US has an anxiety disorder, I see many yogic breathing techniques or Wim Hof Breathing techniques being described as relaxing antidotes to stress and anxiety. I want the word to get out that breathwork is not a “one size fits all shop.”

Let me circle back to the skiing analogy and my blind spot. I had been sharing these techniques in my classes up until 15 years ago. I loved the “double diamond” runs of long breath holds (Kumbhaka) and rapid breathing (Khapalabhati,) the same way I love big waves or double black diamond ski runs.

 

 

I spent many years practicing Kumbaka (long breath holds) and Kapalabhati (Rapid Breathing) by my teacher Gioia Irwin who’s lineage goes back to B.K.S. Iyengar.

As I prepare for an upcoming book and course on the Yoga Sutras, even Patanjali describes the serenity of the breath holds as the pinnacle of the yogic Pranayama experience (Check out Sutra 2.50.) How could people not like these techniques?

However, when I would teach them to students, many of them came to me afterwards saying that they were not experiencing peace at all, but they were going through traumatic experiences.

They were not seeing chakras, angelic auras or the light of divine consciousness. Not at all. What they were describing to me was panic flashbacks. Some described it to the claustrophobic experience of being put into MRI machines after being injected with purple die to check for tumors.

It made me seek feedback from other students on these techniques. What I found was that during these breathing techniques, many of them were secretly feeling claustrophobic, light-headed, dizzy and full of panic.

You may have seen some of my Instagram memes (Eoinisms) like the popular “Less Drama, More Pranayama.” What is fully clear to me now is that for about 1 in 6 people, I was causing “More Drama, through Pranayama!”

It’s no wonder they felt agitated because in these rapid breathing techniques, we are actually hyperventilating. Those rapid exhalations lower carbon dioxide levels which in turn lead to narrowing of the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain!

When our blood supply to the brain is decreased, we will experience symptoms like lightheadedness and tingling in the fingers.

It’s actually crazy to consider that people who were already feeling anxious or trauma were now trying to fight off lightheadedness and numb fingers! And they had no tools to deal with this. And they were told this is “stress-reducing response. It wasn’t stress-reducing, it was stress-inducing!

On the other side of the coin, holding your breath too long can lower heart rate from a lack of oxygen. This causes CO₂ buildup in your bloodstream. This is called “nitrogen narcosis,” a dangerous buildup of nitrogen gases in your blood that can make you feel disoriented or inebriated.

Again, for people who are already suffering from stress and anxiety, why would we ever push them off the chair lift into the double diamond run of feeling disoriented or inebriated? Of course, you may have the tools stay grounded in this disorientated state so this may be your cup of tea, and that’s fine. My point is we cannot keep pushing people into these experiences under the label of “reduce stress with pranayama or Wim Hof breathing techniques.

To be fair, what I found is that if I worked one on one with these students, we had a lot of success to make the experience slowly more enjoyable. They gradually learned the somatic tools to stay calm in the experience to not allow the sympathetic nervous system or panic response to overtake them.

However, in large group classes, I couldn’t work one on one with people the way these pranayama breathing techniques should be taught. As a result, I stopped sharing these breathing techniques in my classes for that reason. (Again, it’s not that I don’t think they are great in some circumstances, but we have to walk before we run.)

About 15 years ago, I decided to change tacks altogether.

I set out a mission to explore ways of helping people regulate towards peace. What if we could make a goal of getting people onto the green slopes first before launching them of the chair lift into a double diamond slope that can cause the panic response?

I can’t go into the details of all the techniques here, but I am so overjoyed to share the ones that have evolved in our Blissology school.

I want to share these as a more widely accessible alternative to more stimulating breathing techniques. By analogy, I want people to enjoy the effects of a mellow “Cush” strain of marijuana before they launch into the world of Ayahuasca trip intensity. In a world where many of us with life stresses are already in the extremes of stress, I just don’t think that we need to rush to extremes.

I will be sharing many of these techniques in the upcoming Commit to Bliss course Nov 14 and my new Yoga book due out this winter.

The course is primarily about finding “Embodied Peace.” It’s about learning Somatic regulation and what I called “Embodied Physiology.” My goal is to share tools, conversations and science about how to steer our bodies back to peace when we feel anxious, angry or overly stressed.

 

Eoin Chakra Physiology and Hormones

Commit to Bliss is a coursed designed to teach you Embodied Physiology to help regulate your body and mind back to Peace.

 

In the meantime, here is a small an excerpt from page 156 of the upcoming Commit to Bliss Book under the Embodied Breath section.

The general process is to go slow and feel the breath.
Open your senses and notice the body as you breathe.

Reduce the tendency of the human mind to analyze of rush.
Simply enjoy the feeling of peace that comes when we slow down our breath.

Breathe fully into your belly noticing that when the breath becomes more enjoyable your mind feels more spacious and free.

Even as you read the sentences below, make plenty of space to pause and a savor the experience. Soften your eyes and keep the spine long.  Enjoy the slow.

See your breathing process through the lens of tightness and flow.

Feel a place that’s tight: some common places are the lower back, the upper shoulders, the lower jaw, the forehead and belly. Let them release. Breath that tightness out, as your brain sinks into a hammock with ease.

Feel the fullness and the peace in your breath as we shift into a state of mind, we call flow.

Calm is your superpower. You have the controls. Enjoy each deep and full breath

 

The Skill of Chill: Is your mind pulling you by the leash?

Dog and Boy walking - meditation analogy
Dog and Boy walking - meditation analogy

This is Cloud when Lion was walking him

Last winter our son, Lion took a friend’s dog 🐶 for a walk in Seattle.

The dog, named Cloud, outweighed Lion by about 40 pounds.

Lion loved walking the dog when a squirrel came running by, Cloud chased it. He soon discovered what it’s like to be WALKED BY A DOG rather than the other way around.

When I saw this, it hit me that this is what our emotions do to us. They are big dogs that we should be walking, but instead they are pulling us as they chase squirrels.

Our normal strategy for these out-of-control emotions is denial, ignoring, “stuffing down” or drowning them with distraction many times in the form of red wine.

What we call Chill is usually about unplugging. The yogis call this Tamas.

Most times we don’t realize it, but what we are actually unplugging from is a connection to our Inner Light.

Yoga teaches us that there is a different type of relaxation that is still connected to Light. It’s called Sattva.

It is a calm and peaceful state. It opens the door to the deepest essence of our being.

But finding Sattva in a busy, frenetic world is not easy. Culturally, we are focused on external circumstances like accumulating material things or winning over the approval of others. This makes Sattvic inner peace harder to find and we become like a dog walker getting pulled by the dog. Our minds are pulling us, and it feels like we have no control.

What I’ve learned is that there is a Skill to Chill.

This is what our Commit to Bliss course is all about Nov 14. By strengthening our tools of yoga, meditation, philosophy (perspective,) and embodied physiology, we can step outside of the prison of the mind. We can relax into our greatness.

In case you can’t do the course, my top tip for the SKILL OF CHILL is to focus on the FULLNESS of breath.

Breathing is easy but BREATHING FULLY IS A SKILL. To feel our ribs moving so we can breathe into our potential means that we need to find what is restricting the movement of our breathing muscles.

We breathe fully, we will make peace with thought loops that manifest as holding patterns in our bodies.

Luckily, when we can unblock these places, the breath becomes more enjoyable and we tame the squirrel-chasing dog of our minds.

You’ve got the leash, so guide your mind. 🐕

Breathe out your tightness, breathe into your lightness.

Chill is a Skill.

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Goodbye Anxiety: Adrenal Draining in 6 Minutes

Adrenal Draining is a 6-minute technique based on Embodied Physiology and Eoin’s work with the ancient Chakra system. We spend a few minutes on our back experiencing a deep reset of our nervous system and self-regulating towards peace.

We will then do some luxurious supine yoga twists to unwind the body, let go of holding patterns and to restore calm in our belly.

We will breathe in expansively and breath out worries, fear and tension. If we don’t move these out of the body, we become tenser and interfere with our body’s natural immune responses.

This technique is one of many you will learn in our Commit to Bliss course (http://www.blissology.teachable.com) – the goal of this yoga, meditation, philosophy and physiology course is to learn how to make Embodied Peace your SetPoint.

One question we explore in this groundbreaking course is, “what has changed in modern living compared to life 30 years ago?” When we think about it, our pace is accelerating, we are always on and available, we want everything in a hurry and we are multi-tasking more.

This leaves us scattered and drained.

This practice is about countering this “Rajasic,” fast-paced energy.

We recommend this practice anytime during the day when you need to reset or before bedtime.

Make Embodied Peace Your set point.
Drain Your adrenals.
Commit to Bliss!

Check out this next Commit to Bliss Course.

Namaste

 

4-Minute Yoga Stretch for Your Day

Enjoy this short, 4-minute yoga stretch designed to get the stress out of your body. We pay particular attention to long, deep mindful breaths and stretching the neck and back body.

Because working on laptops makes us slouch, we want to not just stretch your hamstrings but elongate your spine. You will feel energized and centered after the program.

Do this program every day and see what happens!

Subscribe to this channel. Like and share this video with those who could use a good vibe tune-up during their workday.

Let’s pour love on all we do.

Kindness = Happiness

 

The Gunas: The Yogic Energy Map

This fresh and insightful interpretation of a concept that comes from Yogic Philosophy and Ayurveda will offer you an incredibly intelligent and intuitive guide to living your life to its fullest capacity.

The word Guna comes from the word “strand.” Just like a rope is made of several strands there are three strands of life’s energy. That is to say, there are three main qualities of life.

Not knowing the Gunas is like going through life not knowing North, South, East and West. Eoin calls it an “energy map” that helps us master our energy in life.

There are so many energies we could feel, but the Gunas let’s us categorize them at the meta level so we can see the overarching patterns to how life interacts. Like you would file receipts in a file folder, the Gunas are like a filing system for energy.

This talk is just the tip of the iceberg and if you’re interested in these types of conversations, look into our self-study or interactive courses on Teachable.

How to choose the right yoga teacher training for YOU

Having just emerged from our annual Bali Blissology Yoga Teacher Training, I was humbled by the trust our students put in us to lead them deep onto a journey than is not just personally transformative, but one that will profoundly shift the course of their life.

Today Yoga is a full-blown movement, with more than 300 million practitioners globally. And if, like me, you were lulled by a teacher’s mellifluous tones during savasana and experienced a little voice inside you crying out, “I want to teach, in fact I know I can,” know that you are not alone.

Yoga teacher training courses are some of the most popular offerings at yoga studios and retreat centers globally (the Yoga Alliance lists over 8000 yoga teacher training schools on its website as of 2020) and hundreds of yoga students line up each year to sign up.

However, before committing to a Yoga Teacher Training, here are our top 6 things to consider. We’ve created this list after 17 years of offering our Blissology Yoga teacher trainings, a training that continues to evolve and has graduated some incredible yoga teachers year after year.

  1. Be clear of your intention Yoga as a practice forces us to unmask our intentions. Be honest with yourself. Do you want to teach? Why do you want to teach? If teaching is simply a way for you to deepen your practice, a yoga teacher training course may not be the best option for you. Many studios as well as independent teachers offer programs for advanced / intermediate practitioners, e.g. Blissology offers an Align your Yoga Align your Life course that we think is ideal for practitioners who want to take their yoga deeper but may not want to teach.  These usually cost way less than a yoga training. If you  are clear however that you want to teach and are passionate about studying further, pursuing a YTT may be the right path for you.
  2. Find your Teacher: the one you want to spend 200 hours with. Whenever students ask me who they should do a training with, I tell them, what do you like to practice? And who do you like to practice with? Is there a teacher you connect with? Do you like how they teach? Do you like how they explain the poses, the alignment, do you connect with their teaching? If the answers are yes, ask them who they studied with? Or go to their training, if that is on offer.
  3. Teaching Yoga can be competitive – create a focus. NAMASTA, an independent health professional alliance in the US recently numbered yoga instructors in the US alone at 70,000 and counting. What differentiates you? Yes, you are and always will be a unique individual, but as yoga business coach Kelly McHugh says, “It is essential to have a focus, and to know who your students are and why they are coming to your classes.”Do you have a special interest in your life that you could bring yoga to? Many successful yoga teachers align their existing interests with yoga and in doing so, can bring yoga to various other populations. For example, professional mountain biker Ryan Leech is a student of Blissology Yoga founder Eoin Finn. After completing Finn’s 200-hour training, he began running yoga and mountain bike retreats and often teaches yoga at bike festivals around the world. If you don’t already have a focus for your teaching goals, or a ready audience, allow one to emerge. At the Blissology Yoga teacher trainings, Finn spends time with his students to help them to uncover what he calls their “life mission.””Your life mission is the deep desire you want to share in the world and it touches all aspects of your life. It will allow you to translate what you want to bring to your community. It will allow you to channel your energies and commit toward a path.”Perhaps you want to teach children, athletes, or practitioners with physical disabilities. Ask yourself what is important to you.

  4. Yoga Teaching is not chai and kombucha drinking all day.  While teaching yoga may seem like it involves drinking many cups of tea, green juice, meditating and enjoying a leisurely yoga practice each day, the reality is quite different. As a yoga teacher starting out, making an impact takes time, passion, persistence and hard work. A genuine love of people and a desire to help others are key. After all, if you are teaching yoga, you are building relationships with people, with a community and with all the enmeshed, inter-twinings of their lives.
  5. Yoga Teaching is a Lifelong Study. The global standard for a qualified yoga teacher is 200 hours, as defined by  Yoga Alliance, an independent accreditation body in the US, whose goal is to continue to make yoga more professional. Yoga Alliance does this by creating strict guidelines by which they attempt to regulate the teaching programs on offer. However, as many a yoga teacher will tell you, a 200-hour course is simply the beginning. As practiced in the original guru/shishya model (that’s teacher/student for the Sanskrit newbies), where the student apprenticed for many years with an experienced teacher, the study of yoga is a life-long journey.Yet, if a student has a good understanding of yoga and has been practicing already for some time (ideally two years), then a 200-hour training can be sufficient to begin to teach. Of course you can only teach what you know, so this is where you start, just teaching what you know. Everyone has to start somewhere.Yoga teachers are impassioned about their art and craft and good teacher training programs offer courses and workshops that continue to fuel your evolving interest as well as the needs of your evolving student body and with many schools you can work your way up to 500 hours of training.
  6. Choose your Yoga Teacher Trainings wisely – they’re an investment
    While most yogis with aspirations to teach are in it for their own personal growth and a desire to share something that makes themhappy, the reality is that yoga teacher have to make a living.Yoga teacher training courses can set you back anywhere from USD$3,000 to USD$10,000 depending on the teacher, school, duration of the program and certification; YTT programs, especially the good ones; are not cheap. Consider your yoga training to be an investment: emotionally, spiritually and in the physical/material world and research your potential investment before diving in.When you’re choosing a training, clarify your accreditation possibilities after the course; as you want a certificate that will be easily recognized. Currently Yoga Alliance, is the most well-known system globally, but countries such as Australia also have their own systems.  Check about the current rates of employment of past graduates, speak to someone who has studied at the school — most yoga schools will refer you to previous students if asked — and also ask about assisting and mentorship possibilities.Another tip: be sure to ask how much emphasis your teacher training places on practicing the craft of teaching so that you emerge after the 200 hours ready to teach and share your learnings with confidence and ease.

Joseph Campbell, the late philosopher best known for his ‘follow your bliss’ mantra, predicted that yoga would be one of the callings of the new millennium.

With its remarkable growth come cautionary stories, such as the NYT Bestseller “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” Yet, even in this age of Crossfit, multi-hyphenated fitness trends, barre and The Class, yoga continues to be one of the fastest-growing forms of wellness and fitness in the world today, an antidote to our modern troubles of too much technology, constant stress and an ever increasing pace of life.

If you’re on a journey pursuing this powerful, transformative and beautiful path, inhale deeply and Om on. The world is waiting for you.

Ps. The next Blissology 100 hr immersion and 200 hour Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher Training runs in May 2020 in beautiful Tofino, BC on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada.

pss. Photo Credits: From Top: Meredith Rose Photography, Monique Pantel and Kate Ediger. Maha Gratitude.

Blog by, Insiya Rasiwala-Finn

The Connection Between Yoga & Environmental Health

Both Yoga and Ecology have one central message: All things are connected. Yoga teaches that the illusion of separation is at the root of our suffering. Conversely, in Blissology, we believe that the more we blur the line between where we end and nature begins, the happier we will be.

Beyond meditating, protesting, and using an eco-friendly yoga mat, in my eyes, there are two main things that yogis can do (either personally or in their practice) that can help the environment or bring their attention to climate justice:

1. Practice Nature Appreciation Moments.

These are small moments everyday where we reset in nature and fall in love again with the planet. To feel the beauty of nature is the healthiest thing we can do for our own selves and the planet benefits too.

You don’t have to look far to see that we are living in radical disconnection from nature in modern urban living. Too many people on the planet get busy and forget our connection to nature so it becomes a commodity that is separate from us.

The idea of a Nature Appreciation moment is to slow your mind down and focus on something beautiful in nature. Even if you live in a city, take time to find a tree, a pant or to look up at the clouds. Let go of the crush of time and see the miracle in front of you. This entire process can take less than ten minutes but yields huge benefits.

Our species needs to have more reverence for nature. Ultimately, we protect what we revere. All changes need to start there. From this deep love of Nature.

2. EcoKarma

Personally, I have chosen a path based on the Karma Yoga school and started a movement called EcoKarma.

We bring yogis to places around the world where we transplant coral, clean up beaches, restore nature plants and plant trees. It is incredible to work with a group of like-minded yogis that care about giving back. This is the best anti-depressant I know.

3. Reducing our plastic impact

Aside from that, anything that lowers our footprint is incredible.

I am a proponent of moving past recycling and just reducing our use of single use plastic. This includes simple, easy things like carrying your own water bottle and refelling it vs. choosing a plastic single use water bottle.

Forbes calculated that we are consuming a million plastic bottles per minute and 91% of those are not recycled. Simply carrying a water bottle avoids this!

I think most yogis are probably in the habit of carrying our own shopping bags but I carry a plate, a cup, a glass straw and a coffee cup in my back pack everyday. It’s so easy to pull this out at restaurants and cafes instead of disposable plates.

I used to buy granola in bulk at Whole Foods and bring it home and put it in a glass mason jar. Now I’ve learned that many stores will weigh the mason jar first, then let you fill it and they will charge you only the difference in weight. No plastic is required but I have to be prepared.

In summary, it’s that simple. Plastic is convenient but we are choking on in as a society. The remedy is preparation. I need to clean my plate and fork at night and put it in my back pack. It takes a little time and pre-planning, but we have to value this as a culture. Preparation over convenience is key!

~

One thing you can do? Participate in 3HO’s 40 Day Climate Strike Meditation. The meditation encourages yogis to recite the Prayer for Mother Earth by Guru Amar Das either 11 times each day or for 11 minutes each day over the course of the 40 days. Or join Eoin next Friday September 27 in Vancouver supporting our concerned youth for the climate change strike!

Is Yoga Medicine? Part 1 of 2

As part of our 500-hour training, I co-teach a course that I called Yoga and Mind Body Medicine. It’s a course I spent years dreaming up. My vision for it was to offer a Western science-based perspective on understanding the gross and subtle benefits of yoga on our body-mind physiology. I enlisted a colleague Dr. Lawrence Cheng—a Harvard trained integrative medicine doctor and yogi who teaches Mind-Body Medicine in medical communities—to present with me. I knew this was going to be groundbreaking.

However, when we listed this course under our Blissology Yoga school’s 500-hr training program on the Yoga Alliance website, we immediately received an email, telling us not to use the words “Medicine” or “Healing” in conjunction with Yoga.

Why is this an issue? Yoga Alliance explains that “the risk comes from suggesting that a yoga teacher or school is diagnosing and/or treating a mental or physical health condition. The words ‘heal’ or ‘healing’ imply this. These claims are within the scope of the practice of medicine and/or licensed health care professions.”

As an alternative to the word healing the phrases “improving health” and “increasing well-being” are  suggested.

This meant we had to get creative with what we called the course on Yoga Alliance’s website. Eventually, we settled on “Yoga and Western Science.

I understand that the medical community does not want people who have graduated from a 200-hour yoga training to describe themselves as healers, or treat someone with a sore back or cancer without the proper medical training nor does anyone want to be legally liable for endorsing someone as capable of healing issues for which they are not qualified.

This graph indicates the increasing amount of scientific research of yoga and meditation in the last decade

Yet, the data about the evidence-based healing benefits of yoga and meditation is increasing with each year. The benefits are so real that it is getting harder to dismiss all yoga as a “quack science.” I would love to see a day in the future when well qualified yogis (and doctors) will be able to claim that yoga is both “healing” and “medicine.”

Will this ever happen? Skeptics do not think so and go to long lengths to tell us why yoga is not healing, or medicine. In his article titled “Yoga Woo“, Stephen Novella, a clinical neurologist at the Yale School of medicine writes, “Yoga is simply exercise plus a lot of ‘Woo.'”

“Yoga, if practiced responsibly, seems to be a reasonably effective form of stretching and exercise. There is insufficient evidence, however, to conclude that it is any superior to any other form of exercise of the same duration and intensity. There are concerns about the safety of yoga, as it often involves extreme stretching or poses that the average person might find not only difficult but physically harmful.”

I’ll share more of my thoughts on this topic in Part 2 of this blog. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you, what is your opinion? Is Yoga Medicine or not? Should the word healing be used by some practitioners of yoga?