Category Archives: Therapy & Benefits

dr. Dream and his 333 bowls

Dr. Dream: Healing Through Sound Vibrations and Higher Frequencies

Dr. Dream led an ordinary life. He worked in marketing. Wore a tie. Jumped into web development. Followed a normal routine. Even had a conventional name — Mark Peebler. Then, he said goodbye. To it all. 

Dr. Dream as a Healer

Dr. Dream and his Tour of Love heads to Joshua Tree for contact in the Desert

Today, he lives out of a 26-foot RV. He’s in a different city, on average, every three days. He’ll be in Dallas May 6. Then, he heads West. I plan to catch him in Joshua Tree, California, May 20, for Contact in the Desert. In his refurbished life, instead of being surrounded by walls, computers and stress, he is enveloped with love. What you put forth, springs back to you. His latest offering is a Tour of Love  which he conceptualized in response to peoples’ needs. He says many are questioning what their life is about. Why are they on earth? 

“People are making changes,” says Dr. Dream. “They are searching for meaning. They’re recommitting and rededicating their lives, and wanting to be more in their hearts.”

He can relate. Dr. Dream was sitting in a million dollar home, with a nice sized bank account. He was living the life most Americans seek.  What society programs and conditions us to do. But, he wasn’t being fulfilled. That’s when he realized something was wrong with the status quo. There was “a void in my being,” he noted 13 years ago. 

That emptiness led to soul searching. As a result, he set out to share his personal truth and the nature of his realities. He recalls, “In this process, I lost my million-dollar home.  I probably sold my company, and exited that part of my existence, too early. But it was the right balance of getting back to what it’s all about. And it’s been amazing.”

dr. Dream and his 333 bowlsHealing Vibrations with 333 Bowls

As a Yoga Therapist, I appreciate sound therapy, including Tibetan bowls. In fact, I’ve met many bowl masters, and am familiar with the many ways in which they can be used therapeutically. Actually, that’s what drew me to Dr. Dream. As part of his Tour of Love, Dr. Dream leads healing bowl sessions like none other.

First, he uses 333 bowls. The number three, he says, is equated with the trinity. For him, that means receiving 1) Devine Perfection, 2) Health and 3) Guidance. “I’m always seeing 3-3-3. In my own experiences that’s been a big number for us.” 

“The wave that we facilitate, by and large, is not a sound bath. We don’t refer to it as a concert. We prefer people are sitting rather than laying down. Normally it’s a two-and-a-half hour experience. We take them through a process of connecting them with each of their chakras (one by one).” Dr. Dream explains, “We bring them a raw formulation of cacao. We put an essential oil on them for each chakra, and then we bring the bowl within inches of that chakra. We go up to the people 21 to 28 times in the experience.”

However, for Contact in the Desert, a mega-festival for people interested in other worlds, he has a different approach, that elicits the same results.

With the Help of Angels

At last year’s Contact in the Desert, 2500 people soaked up Dr. Dream’s sound therapy. To maximize the impact on each of the participants Dr. Dream brought in his band of 59 “angels.” First of all, 17 of the angels carried mister bottles filled with essential oils. Participants were sprayed with a different essential oil correlating to each of the chakras. In addition, surrounding the 2500 attendees in Joshua Tree were 40 root chakra bowls.  The remaining 293 bowls were played to awaken the other chakras. 

“We broke through our own ceiling that night,” he says based on what people told him they experienced.” 

Dr. Dream makes a large monthly donation to two Nepalese towns recovering from the 2015 earthquake. As part of his donation, they supply him with handmade bowls.  Hence, his tour of love is going full circle. “It’s a powerful energetic. That energetic is imbued in the bowls and people feel that. What we’re doing is creating a sacred space where people are just walking in, and normally people are blown away by it. The bowls have an energy that transcends the vibration.”

Plus, the experience is magnified by the use of essential oils.

Essential Oils to Boost Frequencies 

healing power of essential oilsNot surprisingly, I use essential oils, daily. Topically, internally, and aromatically. I have studied the healing properties of the different oils, from a practical standpoint, from an energetic platform and from an Ayurvedic perspective. As such, I recommend them in my Yoga Therapy personalized action plans.  However, Dr. Dream takes healing via essential oils to another level. This fascinates me. Plus, he isn’t just pulling ideas out of the sky.

When I spoke with Dr. Dream, he referred to a study done in conjunction with John Hopkins University. That research identified the different frequencies of essential oils along with the frequencies of the healthy and diseased human body.  

The Hopkins study taps into learnings from another prolific source, that Dr. Dream has been privy to for about 15 years. During the WWII era, Dr. Royal Rife created a device to measure frequencies. “His premise was to identify frequencies of ailments and then heal them with other frequencies. He was able to see what different frequencies did to compromised cells.” 

Bruce Taino, of the Hopkins study, looked at essential oils and identified their frequency levels. For example, Dr. Dream explains that the average human body, during the day, has a frequency that may fluctuate between 62 and 68. Consequently, when someone has a cold, their frequency may drop to 58. Those with Candida will be closer to 55. Cancer patients are at 42. Finally, the onset of death hovers at 25. 

Dr. Dream was intrigued by what needed to be done to maintain a higher frequency. The solution was quite simple. 

Roses to the Rescue

rose essential oils“The study showed rose (essential oil) being the highest frequency. It’s a very very powerful oil. It activates and expands the energy of the heart. As a human, you can’t go wrong with rose.”

No wonder, people are attracted to roses. “It’s always been held in high esteem. Even in our Hallmark culture of holidays, rose has been very big. It takes 60,000 roses to make an ounce of (pure therapeutic grade) rose oil. When you’re looking at that, it starts to make sense. How we feel when we look at roses, and when we smell roses…it’s no surprise. It’s a nice energetic.”

Interestingly, among the essential oils in my personal medicine cabinet is rose, which my Ayurvedic doctor encouraged me to use every night. Especially relevant, I use frankincense and helichrysum for healing, which follow rose at the top of the frequency chart. Internally, I tend to add peppermint to my water. 

helichrysum essential oilPeppermint scores a 78. Frankincense has a frequency level of 147, helichrysum 181, and 320 for Rose. 

Dr. Dream explains that the higher the frequency of the oil, the more it heals the spiritual body, whereas, if the oil has a lower frequency, it heals the physical body.  “I’m big on helping people learn about essential oils, and frankincense is called the king of oils.  Peppermint is a very physical oil. On the surface it gives you energy and a recharge. For a lot of people it lets them let go of stress.”

According to Dr. Dream, everything is connected to frequency. Resonance. Energy. Expansiveness. The auric field. Biofield. “It’s all tied together. Anything that has us constricted, reduces our biofield. Anything that has us expansive, raises our frequency. The most important tool is our minds. How we’re thinking of things — our belief systems. The people that are victims are manifesting more as victims. People that are positive and giving, they are getting validated. I live a very blissful existence. Not that I don’t have challenges. But I’m happy. I look around, and see everything and celebrate. The nature of my reality is that source sees that and says I’ll give you more of that.”

Bowls and essential oils are the why of his existence. “I’ve never met anyone less special than me. If I can find bliss, abundance and peace within…if i can do that, than anyone can do that.  I believe that at this time, for where we are as humanity, that it is very important to find opportunities to expand our knowledge and expand our feeling body and allow ourselves to find those things that we are drawn to.  Anyone that shows up at our experience is ready for an expansive experience.”

Contact in the Desert

Contact in the Desert, Joshua Tree, CAOf course, the energy in your back yard is likely not the same as the venues Dr. Dream frequents. In other words, healing energies can be expected to be heightened in Joshua Tree. Set in the high desert, Joshua Tree is a sacred space where I head every year for Bhakti Fest. 

“Joshua Tree is one of the most special places in the world,” says Dr. Dream. “The energy is so conducive to feeling good. I get to be the beacon of remembrance, and love. I get to be the beta trigger in that sea of information and get them back into their hearts. It’s the most beautiful role for me to be that beacon of love and that reminder of that it all comes back to our heart.”

Joshua Tree, California, one of the most famous UFO sighting areas in America, is the site for the largest UFO conference in the U.S.  In addition to Dr. Dream, Contact in the Desert unites presenters including Chariots of the Gods author Erich von Daniken, “Ancient Aliens” star Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, George Noory host of “Coast to Coast AM,” Fingerprints of the Gods author Graham Hancock, Disclosure Project founder Dr. Steven Greer, and best-selling author of the Communion series, Whitley Strieber.  Also leading workshops or discussions are Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, popular “Ancient Aliens” expert Robert Schoch, Secret Space Program veteran Corey Goode, and Aztec sighting incident authorities Scott and Suzanne Ramsey.


Simrit Kaur

Music and Mantra Healing — Simrit Kaur Interview

Invoking the Warrior Within, With Simrit Kaur

Simrit Kaur and Deborah Charnes of the Namaste CounselRecently, I had to heal from a bad dog bite, and deep second degree burn. My daily yoga practice was placed on hold for nearly two months, as I tapped into other modes of yoga needed.  As a result, I chanted for almost three hours a day. Mostly, the Ra Ma Da Sa kundalini healing mantra, including Simrit Kaur’s recording. I invoked the sacred syllables and words that represent life’s elements like the sun and moon. I chanted day and night. In bed. At the beach. On the bus. I shut the outer world out to absorb and retain the prana and healing energies of the universe. 

 Simrit Kaur‘s was one of my favorite renditions.  It was trance-like, rhythmic and celestial. Simrit believes this mantra is great medicine. “(When) we chant this mantra with our own voices…it’s more powerful than even listening to someone else do it.” While there are many ways to interpret Ra Ma Da Sa, she notes its power of providing internal balance which says, “I am that infinite healing that is within me.”

Now that I’m back to normal, it was a real treat to meet up with Simrit, in Miami, as her band was setting up.

Simrit launches her Resilience Global Unity Tour Wednesday, March 15. The world premiere takes place within the zen-like setting at The Sacred Space*  in Miami’s Wynwood district off North Second Avenue. From here, she heads to St. Petersburg on the other side of Florida, Asheville, N.C., with many performances on the way to Canada.

Unity in Sacred Spaces

The Sacred Space, MiamiDespite her accolades on iTunes, World Charts and Billboard Music, Simrit has graced South Florida with her beautiful blend of mantra music only once before. She feels particularly grateful to return to this multi-cultural music mecca. Miami is a good fit, as her new album is about cultural blends, that reflect her own life, growing up Greek in the deep south. “This new album has to do with all of us coming together,” she says. “Diversity is the strength of the community.”

She’s looking forward to people from all backgrounds coming together and having a good time in Miami.

“This space is awesome. It’s rad.  I love that they have Reggae outside. Inside, it’s like a museum space. It’s an oasis,” she says.

Her full band, uniting from other parts of the country, includes world percussion, harmonium, the 21-string West African kora, cello, electronics, and vocals. While some may consider her music mantra meditation, or kirtan, influences from other cultures is clear.  Many of her songs are sung in Gurmukhi, the language of the Sikhs, but she also sings in English, and in her latest album, Resistance, has a subtle global warrior undertone to her tunes  

Tuning Up Intuition with Mantras

Simrit Kaur band at The Sacred Space“People tell me it’s a highly engaging experience. It takes people on a journey,” Simrit says about their dynamic style of music. 

The journey, is knowing oneself. Tuning into the heart. Intuition. 

“Mantra is the projection of the mind,” she says. “It’s not spiritual. It’s practical. It changes the chemistry of the brain…blood…body. It widens our perspective. It acts like a drug. We’re happy (when we practice mantra meditation) because we feel ourself. It has its own rhythmic pulse…and electromagnetic fields…”

She explains that it’s easy to get in touch with who you are. In fact, all mantras  are based on primal universal sounds that take you to that same place. Consequently, they are accessible by all, and empower intuition.

“Intuition has to do with not knowing. Feeling.  I don’t care to know everything,” she adds. 

Most noteworthy, the power of communal versus individual mantra is considerably stronger. Hence, guests at her concerts can expect to leave in a state of bliss. Ananda.  

“When one person is emitting a positive vibration, it affects the whole earth,” she says, talking about the scientifically proven theories about the power of meditation. She likens it to a ripple effect. “If you have a little bit of water, and then 500 times that, it’s so much more powerful. We feel inspired when we’re together. When we come together with music, sound and mantra, it has an exponential effect.”

Heal The World

That’s one of the purposes of her Resilience World Tour, and the name of her latest album, “Songs of Resilience.”   She believes that challenges only make one stronger.

“Songs of Resilience” is about her personal journey. She says her most recent music is about human conditions — and suffering — since the beginning of time. Simrit was born in Greece. An orphan, she was adopted by a Greek-American family. Her younger brother, who was also adopted from Greece, was a special needs child for whom she had to give considerable care and attention. Early on, she questioned the real meaning of life. She recognized the challenges that Greeks have been going through for thousands of years. And, the state of our society today. Especially in light of the intense isolation many of us consider as the norm, nowadays. 

Connecting With Your Roots

Simrit Kaur“That’s a big sickness of our time. Being alone,” she says, alluding to how music can heal. “We can create an incredible experience in tumultuous times. Music is a powerful medium. We feel inspired when we’re together.”

Simrit is saddened by the lack of family unity, and honoring of one’s heritage. Similarly, she says the abandoning of one’s roots is “a disease in America.” Her adoptive family passed on their respect for traditions and family. 

“Our parents were rooted in the Greek culture. They’re like yogis in the truest sense,” she says about her parents. Even though they don’t do yoga on the mat. “They taught us to be loving and kind. We do yoga to be expansive.”

As part of the global tour, Simrit, her husband and child, will spend time in her birthplace. Then, in April, she has two performances in Paros, Greece, before heading north to Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Sweden and Norway.  Finally, the tour ends in Mexico City in October. 

Tickets available at BrightStar.  

*Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Before or after the show, ticket holders receive 10 percent off food and drink at Plant Food Wine, located inside The Sacred Space.   

Chill Out stress reduction therapeutic workshop

Chill Out Therapeutic Stress Reduction Workshop

Aside from my life as a yoga therapist,  I’ve worked my entire adult life in the Public Relations industry. I think I’m pretty chill. However, I just read that Public Relations is ranked the sixth most stressful profession.  Furthermore, event planning (part of PR) is number five. But hey, it’s not as bad as being in the military, a fire fighter or police officer.  Of course, sitting behind a desk, downtown, isn’t as stressful as wearing a flak jacket worried that you’ll be greeted with an uzi. Nonetheless, my fellow PR pros will corroborate our business requires learning stress reduction techniques.
stress reduction workshop with breath work and meditation Stress is a state of mind, and we can be chill, if we put our mind to it. That’s why I will lead Chill Out, one of my signature therapeutic workshops, Sunday, March 19. Chill Out will include breath work, meditation, restorative yoga and yoga nidra. Limited to no more than four participants, register ASAP. 

I can attest that your breath can bring about a powerful emotional change. Once, during a stressful week preparing for a new business pitch with my team, one of the leaders was particularly negative and rude. I wanted to wring her neck. We took a short break to review, on our own. I went into my office, closed the door, and practiced mindfulness. When I returned to the conference room, I wanted to hug this woman who was pushing me to the limits before the meditation. Proof positive that yoga is the antidote for stress.

But since I like facts and figures, here are some reasons why you should Chill Out with therapeutic yoga.

Proof Positive 

1) Stress is a factor in five of the six leading causes of death.stress reduction workshop with breath work and meditation

2) Stress is the trigger for almost nine out of ten doctor visits.

3) Medical Daily, reported on a study among personnel in a surgical intensive care unit. Stress plummeted 40 percent among participants who practiced mindfulness, hatha, meditation, and listening to music (my favorite form of yoga aka kirtan).

4) The Mayo Clinic says, “Yoga can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve heart function. And almost anyone can do it.”

5) MD Anderson incorporates yoga in their programs for cancer patients, to counteract their increased stress. MD Anderson calls yoga “a quintessential mind-body practice combining movement, controlled breathing, and breathing exercises, and meditation.”

6) More western doctors are now prescribing yoga therapy.

See for Yourself

ksepana mudra jupiter mudraOne western doctor who prescribes yoga therapy, and practices the eight limbs of yoga, is Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD. As an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, for decades, he has conducted and analyzed research on the positive side effects of yoga. Study after study, his findings point out the benefits of yoga. Asanas, breathwork, relaxation and meditation can not only lower the blood pressure, but increase brain GABA levels. Studies confirm they lower perceived stress and back pain at work. Plus yoga produces “enhanced expression of genes associated with energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance, and reduced expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress-related pathways.” Using brain scanners, he takes before and after images of the brain to see how meditation affects the limbic and paralimbic systems.

While his processes are not simple, the results are. Of meditation, he states, “It turns on genes that are good for us. It’s happening at the very core of our selves…We are changing our brains and our bodies.”

Give it a shot. Do your brain and your body some good.

Chill Out is appropriate for people of all ages, regardless of level of physical fitness. Plus, the Chill Out workshop incorporates tips about easy lifestyle changes and practices to keep cool as a cucumber. Finally, participants will be treated to a fresh “shot”  from Munch On and Beyond, the newest gluten-free, vegan establishment, located in northeast San Antonio.


bumble bee breath in kids yoga

Kids Yoga: Beyond the Sounds of Silence

I feel nice, like sugar and spice

Stomping your feet, clapping your hands, shaking a maraca, buzzing like a bee and singing. Yep. Those can all be part of yoga, especially kids yoga.

Kids yoga at Texas Veg FestNo matter how much I may prepare for a kids yoga session, I always end up improvising. Never do I stick to routines. Rather, customizing to the participants. Toddlers versus pre-adolescents. Or, high energy youngsters pumped up on sugary cereals versus little yoginis.

Plus, my kids yoga classes aren’t always in a perfect yoga studio setting. Parks. Festivals. Even a two-room schoolhouse in rural Costa Rica. There may not be sufficient (or any) mats. Yoga in the rain (and mud), yoga on the beach, yoga in sweltering sun, or humidity. Allowing Mother Nature to take the lead. Then, it could be yoga on uneven damp or rocky surfaces, or hard cold (and dangerous) marble or tile. These kids don’t sport yoga gear. Rather, they can be decked out in fancy dresses or skin tight jeans.

With all those variables, there’s one thing I can count on. Letting kids yoga be fun through sound.  No blasting R&B like during a Vinyasa class, or singing along to Beatles or Motbumble bee breath in kids yogaown greats in a Gentle Yoga session. Not your formal repetition of three Oms to start the class. But, incorporating playful rhythms, beats, vibrations and vocalizations into the kids yoga time. Connecting to, or creating, sound in the body, mind and soul.

It’s natural for youngsters to play with rhythms, sound and movement.  Like Patty-cake Patty-cake or Red Light Green Light.

The music room of one’s imagination is endless. In my recent kids classes, we experimented with beats and percussion instruments. Clapped hands, snapped fingers. Stomped feet and pounded the floor. Felt the music inside our bodies, by humming, buzzing and roaring. We explored sound levels, alternating between silent, whispers and belting out the words. Then, we sang simple mantras in rounds, or in groups, one side loud, one side quiet. As if on automatic replay, we chanted a mantra while we moved through asanas (postures).

Banging drums, chanting in any language, and moving to the rhythms all can help you get a deeper connection in your yoga. And, have a blast while doing it

Wow! I feel good, I knew that I wouA Peru travel experience: Seaside yoga with vendor girls in Paracasld now

David Newman, aka Durga Das, is a Kirtan artist, leader and author.  At this year’s Bhakti Fest retreat in Chicago, he said it bothers him when people ask what a chant means. “What matters is what you feel,” he said.

“Why does it feel so good to chant? Can you be totally here, but not here at the same time? The mind always wants an explanation,” he added.

Newman explained that Kirtan, in its mantra form, is not a symbolic language. “Apple is a symbol, he says. You can see it, feel it and taste it. Kirtan is non-symbolic.  When I started chanting, I travelled with a Kirtan great. He said ‘the name of God is God.’ There’s no distinction with the word and that which it’s describing. Kirtan is an ancient form of sound healing.”

Newman, who has recorded 11 Kirtan albums, found a lot of peace through yoga and Kirtan. So much, that he turned his back on a law career to begin a more enlightened, peaceful path, and open a yoga studio.

Madi Das with daughter“I made the choice long ago to grow through joy, and Kirtan has been a great assistance for that endeavor.”

About 20 years ago, in a dream state, he saw Neem Karoli Baba. In his vision, the guru said, ‘bolo, bolo, (sing, sing).’  As a result, when he woke up, he said, ‘I’m going to do that. I’m going to sing.’”Swami Satchidananda founder of the Integral Yoga lineage, spent decades giving lectures across the U.S., and the world. One of hisfrequent closings was a group chanting of “Om, Shanti, Shanti, Om.” He said the sound vibrations of the word shanti were much more powerful than its English equivalent (peace).

Newman reiterated Swami Satchidananda’s messages about the sounds of the mantras. “Even more essentially you are aligning yourself with a divine vibration. The mantras are like a magnet. Every time you chant you poke a hole at that false sense of yourself. That’s when they stick. After a little while there’s a little birdie that says ‘hey you. Everything’s gonna be ok.’ And that transforms your life.”

In the meantime, it just feels good. Kids have a natural energy and sensitivity to things. They also have a natural creativity and a natural sense of honesty. So, when you see kids enjoying the vibrations, rhythms, beats and syllables, it’s got to be right. And, not just for the little ones.

yoga is transformational

Yoga is TRANsformational

Yoga is transformational — on a deep level, rather than just loosening your hamstrings and building your quads. True yoga is invisible. It’s not about the handstands.

Ricky TranRicky Tran is a yogi. Yes, he has great quads and hamstrings, and can do all the challenging yoga poses with his body. However, talking to him, it’s clear that his greatest accomplishments via yoga are those that aren’t visible to the naked eye.

After college he moved to Austin. The capital of Texas is a great place for yoga enthusiasts wanting to live a clean lifestyle. But Ricky wasn’t running down that road. He got stuck in a rut. The addiction hole swallowed him up. Tobacco. Alcohol. Meth-amphetamine. Prescription drugs.

His tells how yoga is transformational on Tommy Rosen’s Recovery 2.0. Tommy Rosen is a leader in the yoga world for making a difference among people with addictions. A former addict, he travels the country sharing his healing art with those who are still struggling to overcome their weaknesses.

Ricky Tran at the Texas Yoga ConferenceRicky Tran, like Tommy, overcame his addictions through yoga. Like Tommy, he is an apostle for clean living now, and is a featured workshop leader at yoga events beyond his hometown.  Ricky was in Houston recently for the 2016 Texas Yoga Conference.  One of his morning sangha sessions was devoted to yoga as a means to transform oneself, and clear the demons.

“Before Yoga, I wasn’t conscious of my decisions,” he said. “But I was conscious of the results of my decisions. Like jail.”

There was a lot of addiction for Ricky, so his road to recovery wasn’t as easy as the sticking on a patch or just saying no. It rarely is that simple.

Ricky Tran at the Texas Yoga Conference“The way you do anything is the way you do everything. I have an addictive personality.  We give 110 percent. When I partied, I partied to the extreme.”

He talks in the third person about his former self, as clearly, he’s a different guy now. He and his wife own two yoga studios, and are parents of a newborn. He looks and sounds like a family man, with solid family values.

“Ricky wanted to have fun. I hated my life. I was almost rock bottom. I got into a lot of trouble.”

He was living in party houses. One day, he was driving home to change clothes, and it hit him that he had to change his life.  He left Austin, and moved back to Dallas. He’s been living there ever since.

Fortunately, he got hooked on something good for him. Yoga.

Yoga is Transformational and Powerful

Ricky found a free yoga class. It changed his life. He was a macho kind of guy. Dare we say he was partly lured into yoga for the scenery? Aka women in tight skimpy clothes.

Ricky Tran at the Texas Yoga ConferenceThe experience wasn’t what he was expecting. He was focused on himself, rather than the women surrounding him. “My shirt was completely soaked. What kept me going back was it felt so good.”

After six months of yoga, he stopped smoking speed because, “It was ruining my yoga practice. My yoga practice became more important than anything else.” In another six months, he was able to quit cigarettes, binge drinking and abusing prescription drugs.

“Everything we do, that experiences pleasure, we want more. If it’s going to bring you sukha (pleasure), you’re going to want more. If it’s dukha (pain) you’re going to want to get out of that position.” It finally sunk in that his self-prescribed emotional and physical pain killers were actually causing pain. The light went off in his head.

“Duh, I don’t want to smoke any more. I was able to quit smoking, quit drinking and quit popping pills at the same time.  I was empowered. I wanted to create health, abundance and happiness.”

Ricky Tran at the Texas Yoga ConferenceAddictions are powerful things. The light switch may go off, but it’s easy to go back on. “Samskaras (patterns) come up when you have nothing else to do. It was unintentional, but it just happened (relapses). I knew I had to do something different.”

He delved deeper into yoga. He began teaching yoga. Reading about yoga. Researching yoga.

In 2008, he met Sri Ramaswami who introduced Ricky to the true meaning of the yoga sutras.  Ramaswami was a direct disciple of Krishnamacharya, and teaching at Loyola Marymount College in Southern California.

“My head was spinning for about a year.” It’s been about nine years, and I keep going back.”

Ricky saved his money for a year to be able to study with Ramaswami. We’re not talking about a weekend, or a week. The first time, he went for 45 days. By 2010, when he came out of a deep meditation, he was no longer the same Ricky.

yoga is transformational“Suffering seemed to have been destroyed in that moment of realization. Of course, if one does not maintain a long and consistent practice, the gift of yoga does not stay.”

Now, he dedicates ample time to studying the yoga sutras with Sri Ramaswami every chance he gets.

“When you go inside, it can be scary. It’s a dark place. In the moment of awakening, it’s like a flash of awakening and things start to make sense to you. It’s a spiritual thing. You realize that you’re not this body. There’s a part of you that goes on forever.”

“You uncover the Light or Truth within. You experience the undying, immortal Self within. Truth is something that does not change in the three phases of time: past, present and future. If it changes, it was never true to begin.”

“Yoga can do what nothing else can do. It will introduce you to yourself,” he beams.

Dr. Alejandro Chaoul demonstrates Tibetan Yoga

Tibetan Yoga to Quiet the Mind

meditation and Tibetan yogaMany years ago, in South America, I taught English to pre-schoolers. It was all about coloring and play. Still, the kids couldn’t sit at the tables without squirming and jumping around. So I’m not surprised that the hardest part of yoga, for many, is the stillness.  Energetic, dynamic, physical practices can be easier than having a silent mouth — and mind.

That’s one of the reasons why the Encinitas, California schools teach yoga. The ancient practice is proven to give the kids more focus in their reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.

Yoga trains the body, and the mind, to be still for extended periods of time. The Yoga Sutras say, sthira sukham asanam. Which loosely translated means steady, at ease in a seated position.

Tibetan Yoga at MD Anderson

Tibetan Yoga is an excellent practice to quiet the mind.  Dr. Alejandro Chaoul is an advocate of this lesser known form of yoga, for people of all ages and physical states.

Dr. Alejandro Chaoul demonstrates Tibetan YogaChaoul received his doctorate in Tibetan Studies. For the past 16 years he has been on the staff of Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center. Among his many duties, he coordinates mind-body intervention programs for different cancer populations.

Tibetan Yoga is clearly close to his heart. He is author of two books, dozens of abstracts,  articles and CDs that highlight his research. Recently, he shared his love for Tibetan Yoga at the 2016 Texas Yoga Conference in Houston.

Tibetan Yoga is different from Indian-based yoga. “We start with calming the monkey mind, then utilizing the body.”  Through Tibetan Yoga, he says, one can maintain stillness to help release the mental, physical and spiritual obstacles. “That stillness can be a doorway to openness.”

Tibetan Yoga has been an integrative therapy at MD Anderson since 1997. Chaoul calls the 11-minute practice, given to patients on CD, his “connecting with the heart.” The hard part, he acknowledges, is “what happens the other 23 hours and 49 minutes in the day.” Therefore he prescribes ‘meditation pills,’ short meditation moments during the day.

His research on Tibetan Yoga, and other mind-body practices in integrative care, supports the benefits. “These practices can reduce chronic stress, anxiety and sleep disorders and improve quality of life and cognitive function.”

Tibetan YogaOne of his studies was with Lymphoma patients. Those who practiced Tibetan Yoga reported a significant overall sleep quality, quantity, and reduction in latency. Plus, they were less reliant on sleep medications. Alberto Rodriguez practiced in the seven-week Tibetan Yoga research project with Dr. Chaoul. He agreed the meditative practice improved his sleep patterns. Additionally, he said he had improved appetite, greater sense of relaxation and a clearer mind.

This Tibetan Yoga, called Tsa lung is based on a long oral lineage that was put into writing in 11th century texts. Chaoul learned Tsa lung from his teacher Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche more than 20 years ago. It’s about clearing the energetic channels (tsa). In Ayurveda, we refer to them as nadis. In Traditional Chinese Medicine they are meridians.

There are five different movements. Each one is centered around one of the five winds (lung or vayus) that are described in Tibetan and Ayurvedic medicine.

Chaoul says that in Tibetan Yoga, one brings the mind and breath together at one of the chakras or energetic centers contacting one of the five winds. You focus in the chakra as you hold the breath and repeat a pattern of movements. “At the end, you exhale, and release obstacles that are there, enabling you to stay longer in your meditative state.”

meditation and tibetan yogaTibetan Yoga is a powerful practice to reach a higher level of focus, clarity, calm and awareness. “The breath is a wild horse,” says Chaoul. “The mind is its rider and has a tendency to monkey. When we hold the breath, we help the holding of the mind, so it can gain control and focus, and relax in that state of mind. Meditation is a state of mind that is both calm and aware.”

The purpose of the practice is that as we clear the tsa we can abide and stay connected longer in our meditative state of mind. Eliminating blockages in these energetic channels is what both Acupuncture and therapeutic Yin Yoga set out to do. Given the shared histories of these traditions, we can see the common grounds in Tibetan Yoga and other Tibetan practices.

Tibetan Yoga is one of the several mind-body practices offered at MD Anderson. Sessions are free for anyone touched by cancer. To access videos and audios, click on clinical services and then Tibetan meditations.  Read more about Chaoul’s work or review prior blog posts on Yin Yoga.

yoga nidra

Yoga Nidra: A Powerful Practice

Recently, I gave two Yoga Nidra sessions to someone awaiting biopsy results. Nervous about the diagnosis, she was weak from sleepless nights. After the first one-hour deep relaxation practice, she reported a sleep-filled evening. The day after her second Yoga Nidra experience, her visualization materialized. She was nidra

Yoga Nidra is one of my favorite offerings. It is revitalizing. It packs in the power of sleep, quadrupled. It can change habits, and reduce PTSD.

Nidra means sleep. However, Yoga Nidra is sleep-like, but not sleep. It’s meditation-like, but it’s not. It’s hypnosis-like, but you’re not under a spell.

deep relaxation, yoga and meditationIt may be one of the most powerful of yoga practices. And, one of the least known. Few have experienced Yoga Nidra before they close their eyes and lay under a blanket in my studio.  Some may have done a mini session, or, practiced what they were told was Yoga Nidra. Others confuse savasana (corpse pose) with Nidra.

I view my style as extremely therapeutic and authentic. Passed on by my yoga therapy guru, I consider it the real deal.  My lineage was researched and practiced many years ago in India by a disciple of Swami Sivananda. Swami Satyananda Saraswati studied the effects of Yoga Nidra on himself, on his dog, and a young boy. He concluded that the secret of Yoga Nidra was powerful.  “When the relaxation is complete, the receptivity is greater…whatever impressions enter the mind at that time become powerful, and they remain there.”

In 1968, Swami Satyananda went to a detention camp to teach yoga. The inmates were disrespectful and insulting. “About 600 prisoners converged on me,” Swami recalled. He knew  he wouldn’t be successful sharing hatha yoga with the “hardened criminals.” His solution: Yoga Nidra. Still flustered, he called the detention camp to cancel his commitments there. To his surprise, the prison official pleaded with him to return. “Swamiji, you have cast a spell over them. They have been quiet ever since you left.”  So Satyananda went back and conducted six days of Yoga Nidra at the prison. Each time, dispositions improved. On the final day, there was a farewell meeting, and the men were respectful and apologetic. “When a man is under tension, his behaviour is influenced, and when he relaxes, he becomes natural,” concluded Swami Satyananda.

At the recent Texas Yoga Conference, another yoga therapist for whom I have great respect, recalled Satyananda’s studies and accounts.

If we can enhance quality of life for anybody, even for a single moment, that makes us feel worthwhile. — Smitha MallaiahSmitha Mallaiah

Smitha Mallaiah works full time as a mind-body intervention specialist for the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She studied Naturopathy and Ayurveda, and has a masters in Yoga Therapy from S-VYASA in Bangalore. At MD Anderson she is involved in developing and teaching yoga research interventions for cancer patients. She’s one of my top picks at the annual Texas Yoga Conference in Houston. I’m a fan of hers, She’s a fellow yoga therapist who is clinically focused, and digs for data.

Mallaiah led a Yoga Nidra session at the conference. Another day, she lectured about the science and research supporyoga nidrating its benefits. At the research session, she referred to the author of my Yoga Nidra bible, Satyananda. She shared anecdotes about how the practice has helped people in different geographies. Closer to home, she spoke about her first-hand experiences at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

As I saw with my encounter with someone awaiting biopsy results, sleep disturbances are among the most common cancer-related symptoms. A wide range of 15 to 95 percent of cancer patients report sleep disturbances during and post-treatment. That’s why the Integrative Medicine Center at MD Anderson offers Yoga Nidra, meditation and other services. “We use a modified form of Yoga Nidra – a conscious relation technique, and women who have trouble sleeping for 30 years have learnt to relax and sleep effortlessly,” says Mallaiah, referring to her patients.

The side effects that cancer and treatments wreak on patients may be unavoidable. However, our society and lifestyles inflict stress on most of us, causing many dis-eases. Mallaiah notes that 100 years ago, the plague and cholera were rampant. Now, stress is causing illness. She says that relaxation is essential, given the high stress and fast paced lifestyle in which most of us live.

“Emotional tensions arise from likes and dislikes…the fight between domination of positive and negative emotions leads to pranic or emotional imbalances, which are deeper than physical tensions,” says Mallaiah.  “Most relaxation methods are external, like television or video games, which over stimulate. So there is no silencing of the mind, body and spirit. It is very important to rethink what you do for relaxation.”

As our lifestyle/society has caused more stress-related diseases and dysfunctions, we need more deep relaxation techniques, and Yoga Nidra is incomparable.

Yoga Nidra as iRest

Chill Out stress reduction therapeutic workshopOne of today’s greatest Yoga Nidra researchers is Dr. Richard Miller. For 30 years, he has been studying Yoga Nidra. So successful, he has rebranded it as iRest  for the military. It is currently being practiced among active duty, veterans and families of service members in more than 30 VA or military settings across the United States. Among his books are “The iRest Program for Healing PTSD: A Proven-Effective Approach to Using Yoga Nidra Meditation and Deep Relaxation Techniques to Overcome Trauma.” I’ve taken workshops with Miller, and others that attest to the special needs of active or retired service members. Read more.

Try a Yoga Nidra session as a stand-alone, or as part of my Chill Out signature workshops.

Vegan sag at Good Karma

Ayurvedic Diets and Food Journaling

In my Tummy Bust, Sugar Drop, and Gutsy Yoga signature workshop series, I stress Ayurvedic diets. Not calories, but what is appropriate for you based on learnings from Ayurveda, as well as a myriad of modern nutritionists and integrative doctors.

In Ayurveda, each person is unique. FThe Tummy Bust therapeutic yogaurthermore, what might be appropriate for you to eat when you’re eight, isn’t necessarily what you should be eating when you’re 80. Likewise, with Ayurvedic diets you need to alter your intake based on the weather, and other external conditions.

One thing is for sure. The Standard American Diet is SAD. Processed foods are made with so many artificial flavorings and additives, that they don’t resemble much anything grown in the earth. Over time, our tastebuds get used to what may be harmful.  Thriving on routines, some wake up daily to savor eggs and bacon, while others scarf down coffee and a bagel with cream cheese on the go.  Lunchtime favorites may be a sandwich and chips, or burger and fries. After all the carbs, fats and sodium, some may hunger for pizza and beer, or pasta and wine, for dinner.

vegetables high in pranaThe yogic or Ayurvedic diets are based on consuming foods high in prana (life source) and sattvic (neutral, non-mood altering).  So a box of cereal that’s been sitting in the cupboard for a year or so has little prana, hence, isn’t going to give you much fuel.

Ayurvedic diets frequently use herbs and spices to balance the doshasAyurvedic diets seek balance, in part, based on herbs and spices. For example, making your own tea with fennel, coriander and cumin seeds can be very soothing for many people. In the summer time, you may want to add fresh mint to your green juices or smoothies, whereas in the winter, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger and turmeric tea or golden milk may be more appropriate.

At the same time, we need to realize that there are more and more food allergies and intolerances, most of which are to a few food groups, which are easy to avoid, especially if you’re following a yogic or vegan diet.

cinnamon ayurvedic spiceUsually, food allergies present with “normal” responses such as gas, bloating, itchiness, cravings, headaches, fatigue, irritability, or dark circles under the eyes.  However, some can be fatal. Food sensitivities, i.e. gluten intolerance, are harder to diagnose.

A journal can help you identify what culprits are in your pantry, and what makes you lethargic or cranky.

Oprah’s longtime coach, Bob Greene is an author of several bestsellers. He recommends journaling as a powerful way to combat food addictions. In “The Life You Want,” he writes “…certain foods set off an explosion of feel-good brain chemicals, so you go back for more…the pathway in the brain from trigger to treat is well worn…breaking the habit may prove tough…Addictive foods tend to have pumped-up flavors, tastes and textures…It’s hard for your average blueberry or compete.”

coffee-1105112__180People joke about their morning coffee, or how candy wires the kids. Yet, because caffeine and sugar are part of the Standard American Diet, many accept these mood altering foods as normal.

Joel Fuhrman, M.D. says the drug of choice for most Americans is food. The father of the nutritarian eating explains that when our bodies absorb toxins routinely, we rely on them. We are addicted to them, and have a hard time not consuming them. Giving up sweets, java, bread, cheese or even processed foods can cause irritability, cramping, low fever and spasms, as you go through withdrawal.

JJ Virgin, author of “The Virgin Diet,” recommends a 21-day detox to monitor your reactions.  JJ recommends eliminating sugar and artificial sweeteners, soy, gluten, eggs, peanuts, dairy, and corn from the get go. After three weeks, you can re-integrate one food at a time, monitoring your reactions.

Deepak Chopra, M.D., in “Grow Younger, Live Longer,” suggests a log to identify toxic emotions and toxic foods. “Studies have shown that journaling about upsetting emotional experiences can improve your immune function, as well as help you gain clarity and insight. Toxins must be identified and eliminated from your body, mind and soul.”

Bob Greene adds that people should identify emotional triggers. It may be a time of day, such as when you’re cooking in the kitchen, or when the kids are asleep. Or, maybe it’s when you’re on deadline.

food diaryWhether it’s a computer spreadsheet, a spiral notebook or a hard bound journal, I encourage my yoga therapy clients to record the following for at least a month.

  1. Sankalpa. Start with a positive intent related to diet and health.
  2. Digestion. Note any discomfort, gas, bloating, etc. List frequency of bowel movements, size and shape, and any abnormalities.
  3. Liquid intake. How many cups of water or herbal teas did you consume, daily? How many carbonated or caffeinated drinks? Sugary drinks/juices?
  4. Food intake. List details, based on your personal health needs. Charts can include food items, portions and times consumed, calories, carbs and sugar loads.
  5. Exercise. What physical activity did you do each day, for how long, and what level of exertion?
  6. Meditation and/or breathwork. Both are important for lifestyle change. Note what practices you did, and for how long, each day.
  7. Sleep. Include the number of hours, and quality of your sleep, each night.
  8. Weight. Weigh yourself once a week, upon rising.
  9. Blood pressure/blood sugar. If you have high blood pressure or blood sugar, conduct frequent self checks to notice spikes or dips.
  10. Energy level and mood. Did you feel energetic after eating that piece of chocolate? Were you depressed the first week? Release your feelings here.

Whether you want to settle your tummy, lose a few pounds, or better regulate your blood sugar, food journaling is an essential piece, along with attention to principles of Ayurvedic diets. Contact me for more information or to register in one of my therapeutic workshops.

Note: Another version of this article originally appeared in Yoganonymous on January 13, 2016. 


Yogi Bhajan - Painting by Sewa Singh

Yoga for Your Brain

Yoga for Your Brain

brain-619060_640As a yogi, I believe that I’m giving my bones and muscles plenty of TLC.  As a yoga therapist, I also realize that I’m giving my mind beaucoup TLC through my meditation, breath work, chanting and sattvic (pure) lifestyle.

Yoga therapy is both an art and a science, and I relish both parts. I like to balance my hemispheres.

Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., also seems to have that balance. Khalsa’s personal 40-year yogic lifestyle practice follows that of Yogi Bhajan, who once said, “Those who meditate not only don’t develop dementia, they go into another dimension.”

Khalsa, as his name implies, is a Sikh who has a long white beard and turban. For more than a decade, he has been taking the art of yoga and putting it against all the scientific tests to prove that meditation, and other forms of yoga therapy, may indeed boost brain function and perhaps prevent dementia.

Affiliated with the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine in Albuquerque, Khalsa is an expert on Yoga and Medical Meditation as Alzheimer’s Prevention Medicine.

So if Sudoku isn’t for you, Khalsa has other ways to keep your mind supple.  It can be as easy as sitting comfortably with your eyes closed — and singing.

I love to sing. In fact, as a kid, I probably experienced my first “highs” after watching The Sound of Music in a big theater in downtown Chicago. For the next month, it seemed like I was on cloud nine, reliving the vocals of Climb Ev’ry Mountain and Sixteen Going on Seventeen.

I have taken workshops where I learned how chanting affects your brain — all for the good. When I start chanting, I don’t want to stop. Kirtaneer Krishna Das has said that only with Kirtan (devotional singing) can you repeat the same few words for half and hour, and it doesn’t get old.

Khalsa’s research is based on just 12 minutes, daily, of chanting a few syllables. It’s called Kirtan Kriya. The short and simple singing exercise that Khalsa researched for more than ten years, incorporates several of the principles taught by Yogi Bhajan: posture, breath, mudras (hand positions), mantra, and focus of concentration, in this case visualization.

Yogi Bhajan - Painting by Sewa Singh

Yogi Bhajan – Painting by Sewa Singh

Bhajan was not a doctor or a scientist. However, the son of a medical doctor, he learned yoga as a child and was proclaimed a Master of Kundalini Yoga when he was only 16 years old. Bringing Kundalini Yoga to North America, his brand of yoga took the traditions from sages and modified it for people with everyday working lives.

Techniques Bhajan encouraged are not uncommon in yoga. While people have seen the benefits of yoga for thousands of years, it’s more recently that people have questioned, and examined, “why?”

Khalsa founded the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (ARPF) in 1993. His approach to keeping Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) off the map, sounds like traditional ingredients for yoga therapy. His recipe calls for plant-based diet, stress management, physical and mental exercise and spiritual fitness, and of course the Kirtan Kriya.

Khalsa didn’t just take a few people, have them sing a few mantras, and take a few notes. He began his formal research in 2003. He began studying Alzheimer’s prevention because of his studies, which suggested that stress caused memory loss. He reasoned, therefore, that meditation would help prevent it.

He has partnered with The Ministry of Health and Welfare in Finland, UCLA, The University of West Virginia, The University of Arizona School of Medicine and The University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

His White Paper gives many reasons to believe that Yoga Therapy should be a part of every senior citizen’s daily routine. Consider some of the numbers.

  • Women are twice as likely as men to develop AD in their 60s
  • A woman’s lifetime risk for AD is higher than that for breast cancer
  • Every 67 seconds, someone is diagnosed with AD
  • AD is the sixth leading cause of death
  • AD costs our society as much as heart disease and cancer

“We’re having an epidemic in lifestyle diseases,” says Khalsa. “Yoga is appearing at just the right time. The focus is on treating symptoms in Western medicine.  We need not only pharmaceuticals and surgery, but self care.”

Khalsa is the first physician to advocate a lifestyle approach to treating and preventing Alzheimer’s.

With his dedication to research, he has put the puzzle pieces together.

For example, followers of Traditional Chinese Medicine will understand that through mantra repetition, the 84 acupuncture meridian points on the roof of the mouth are stimulated, sending signals to the hypothalamus and pituitary.  Similarly, mudras stimulate dense nerve endings on the fingers, which correlate to yin meridian starting points.

FullSizeRender“When you utilize the fingertips in conjunction with the sound, specific areas in the brain, as seen on SPECT scans … are activated,” says Khalsa. “Modern research reveals that lifestyle activity can promote cognitive health in aging and protect against cerebrovascular pathology and perhaps beta-amyloidpathology, which leads to AD.”

Dr. Khalsa’s analytical side captured brain scans of people before and after the mantra chanting. His study concludes that the chanting can reverse some of the symptoms of memory loss and increase telomerase, the rejuvenating enzyme that slows cell aging.

In 2012, he published a scientific paper , with others. “The increase in telomerase of 43 percent by participating practicing Kirtan Kriya was the largest increase found in any study. Shorter telomeres are associated with chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s (and a shorter lifespan.)”

Bhajan’s words should also resonate with those that practice TCM and Ayurveda. “The art of healing, the art of ecstasy, the art of God-consciousness has millions of names in mystic terms. It has to do with rhythm and reality. When the body is in rhythm, there is ease. When the body, or any part of the body goes out of rhythm, there is dis-ease.”

Dem Bones yoga therapy for bone health

Yoga and Osteoporosis: DEM BONES #3


Loren Fishman demonstrates balancing half moon (Circa 1977)

Loren Fishman demonstrates balancing half moon (circa 1977)

In two prior posts I introduced my new series of Yoga Therapy workshops for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and general bone health. I call it, Dem Bones. The series was created, in part, from research and the knowledge of many yoga therapists, several of whom are MDs. In my third Dem Bones blog, I tap into pointers from Loren Fishman, MD regarding yoga and osteoporosis. Stay tuned for future Dem Bones posts, quoting other prominent yoga therapists and/or physicians.

Iyengar trained Loren Fishman practices reverse triangle during his med school days

Iyengar trained Loren Fishman practices reverse triangle during his med school days

Loren Fishman, MD, says loss in bone density is one of the most widespread chronic health problems found in Western societies. “We worry so much about breast cancer in women, however, in actuality, the risk of a hip fracture is equal to the combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer,” says Dr. Fishman, an Iyengar-trained yoga teacher and managing partner of Manhattan Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that one in every two women and one in every four men, aged 50 or older, will suffer an osteoporosis-related hip, spine, or wrist fracture. Worldwide, more than 200 million people have osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia.

The connection between yoga and osteoporosis is one reason why I’m launching my Dem Bones therapeutic workshops in Texas.* I’m a big believer in yoga for bone health, and now, with Dr. Fishman’s expert input, along with that of other yoga therapists and health professionals I’ve designed my own signature therapeutic sessions that are appropriate for people with osteoporosis, osteopenia, arthritis, or those with most current or old bone injuries.

Long before I’d paid attention to my bone health, my doctor scribbled, “weight bearing exercises” on an Rx.

Loren Fishman's Om pose, omkarasana

Loren Fishman, MD, studied yoga in India with Iyengar, before completing his medical studies

Yoga has always been my modus operandi. So, anytime I was in the gym and working the exercise machines, my brain would ponder how I could best use my own body for weight bearing. Barefoot and on the ground is far more comfortable for me that pushing or pulling on a large steel contraption.

I designed Dem Bones after reading Dr. Fishman’s books, articles, and attending his keynote address and workshop at the International Association of Yoga Therapists annual convention. Of course my learnings are also based on many other books, lectures, studies and my yoga therapy training. But, Dr. Fishman is an expert. He specializes in back pain, bone health and yoga therapy, has authored many books and countless medical reviews and is a med school faculty member. And, yes, a yogi. In fact, all the images in this post are of Fishman when he was in med school.

Loren Fishman, MD, has studied the effects of yoga on osteoporosis for more than ten years

Loren Fishman, has studied the benefits of yoga and osteoporosis for more than 10 years

“Yoga is better than weight lifting, since groups of muscles, each stronger than gravity, oppose one other in asana,” he writes in Yoga for Osteoporosis, (W.W. Norton) which he wrote with Ellen Saltonstall. As little as ten minutes a day can keep the doctor away.  What’s more, yoga improves strength, coordination, range of motion, balance and mental alertness thereby preventing trips or falls, which can be debilitating and even fatal.

that will be published on line ahead of its print date by the peer-reviewed journal Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation. The researchers tracked 741 participants, over 90,000 hours of yoga. They used DEXA scans to gauge the density in the bones, and evaluate the minerals. Bottom line, yoga raised bone mineral density significantly.

While pharmaceuticals may build bone density, they ignore bone physiology. Fishman says that meds reduce the strength of osteoclasts which dissolve injured bone tissue and initiate bone repair, and, bisphosphonates (e.g., Fosamax and Boniva) can cripple this function, leading to osteonecrosis, spontaneous fractures, retarded healing.

Fishman says bisphosphonates are “associated with gastrointestinal toxicity, jaw and other sites of osteonecrosis, slowed healing, severe and sometimes irreversible leg cramps and bone pain, and many other side-effects.”

Fishman’s research with yoga revealed no serious injuries, and the benefits were chronicled after just ten minutes a day of yoga, over extended periods of time.

Yoga is relatively easy, and accessible to all, even to people who may be wheel chair bound, or amputees.  “Yoga has been shown to reduce back pain, arthritis, and anxiety and to improve gait, neural plasticity associated with motor learning, all capacities that mitigate against the falls that produce osteoporotic fractures.”

Loren Fishman, MD, has studied the effects of yoga on osteoporosis for more than ten years

Loren Fishman, MD, has been an advocate of yoga for 40 years

Osteoporosis and related fractures put a multiple billion dollar toll on our health care. Yoga is free, and an ounce of prevention is incalculable.

Beyond the recent scientific studies, yoga has been tested over the centuries. One of the reasons for its merits is a theory Julius Wolff coined in 1892. Wolff’s Law states, roughly that the more stress a bone sustains, the stronger it becomes. Conversely, a paraplegic will experience significant bone loss along with muscle atrophy.

The explanation is simple.  Muscles are stronger than gravity, explains Fishman, and yoga postures stress bones more than gravity. Most yoga is what I call yang: active poses that work the muscles. Contractions of the muscles increase bone loading,  and isometric contractions, that we often see in Iyengar, Ashtanga, Anusara and other yoga styles, add in more strength building.  The more varied a practice, the more muscles — and bones — you can positively impact.

As with any exercise plan, work with a qualified instructor or therapist. For those that have already been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, there are many contraindications within a yoga practice, and a yoga therapist can guide you through modifications to best suit your body.

Dem Bones yoga therapy for bone health*Dem Bones are 90-minute private or semi-private workshops. Sessions can be conducted in my home studio, outdoor deck, or my client’s home or place of business. Book before November 1 and get your sixth session for free.