Health

Applying the lessons of the Ashtanga Yoga practice for a healthy life.

Is one teacher the correct method?

You don’t have to listen to me as a teacher, as a nurse, or as an acupuncturist. In any and all of these professions, I am not responsible FOR you. I am responsible TO you.

Being responsible TO you in the medical field, we should be encouraging patients to seek a second opinion. Doctors are human too, sometimes they may be missing something, or not recognizing another option that is available. When I fractured my clavicle, the first surgeon wanted to operate that week, the second opinion said we can wait to see how it heals. He said that if it doesn’t heal correctly we can always go back in with surgery and straighten it out later. If I went and did surgery right away, there would be no going back. Which would you do?

There are times that we as students NEED to get a second opinion. We need another teacher to look at our practice. There are times when the teacher we study under is not seeing our potential, AND there are times when our current teacher may have pushed us too far.

So should a student only have one teacher?

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Health VS Wellness

I woke up this AM and spilled coffee grounds all over the kitchen floor while trying to make a daily brew. I know it’s not spilled (expressed breast) milk and it shouldn’t cause me too many worries, but at 4 o’clock in the morning on a Monday, it started to go down an unpleasant path. With the coffee grounds spread all over the floor like termite droppings there was no other way around the mess. I had to walk through it to get to the broom which meant tracking little black crumbs all across the kitchen floor. And those little bits of caffeine seeds start poking into my feet, waking me up from the outside in rather than the inside out like they normally do. 

After I had finished sweeping up the entire kitchen and cleaning my feet, the situation became real. All of the coffee grounds were in the dustpan, along with tangled strands of hair, sand from Venice Beach, a green twisty-tie thing, red and brown acupuncture needle tabs from my lab coat, and an unidentified black substance, possibly food related.

I’m usually composed, and I’d like to think that the yoga is working in relation to my ability to decide what to get stressed about, but that’s after yoga. You understand?

After the morning yoga practice it’s ok for the coffee to spill. It’s ok to be stuck in traffic. It’s ok for the toothpaste to vomit down my shirt. It’s ok because I’ve had my leg behind my head, or I pressed myself up in a back bend that felt like my ribs were separating and my heart was exploding with light. The ‘noise’ of honking cars is muted after twisting my arms around my knee. It all seems a bit more trivial.

Here’s why.

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When I graduated nursing school, friends and family members who know that I also practiced yoga were excited for me exclaiming that, ‘how great it is that you can combine your yoga skills with caring for patients.’ Not exactly those words, but similar. 

From where I was standing in a hospital starting an IV checking birthdates on an ID band, and lab data before administering 250mcg Digoxin I couldn’t understand how the two health care systems could possibly be combined. Aging was a process handled by health care professionals and pharmaceuticals.

Yoga was something you did so as not to end up on the receiving end of my IV. Yoga was something you could ‘try’ after seeing the Physical Therapist, or after we removed a blood vessel in your leg for a CABG. It was something you could try as a last resort because doctors didn’t know what else to do for the your fibromyalgia when lost in the pharmacopeia of drugs.

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Morgan Lee
The process of aging

All complex systems begin to break down randomly and gradually at different times. It’s why in our genius we have built in back up systems to nuclear power plants, and back up systems for the back up systems. It’s why there are back up systems in the human body; an extra kidney, a second lung, liver cells that regenerate, etc. Systems in place that if the primary one fails a back-up can take over while making repairs or replacing the primary system. The secondary system isn’t as efficient or effective as the primary, but keeps the entire operation moving forward another day.

For most of our species existence on this planet the average lifespan of humans was around 30 years. It’s only in the last century that the average lifespan of humans has increased to about 80. The modern human is, in a sense, a freak. A mutant. An unnatural pheromone.  

When we talk about aging with respects to our yoga practice we are entering uncharted territory.

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Padmasana - the master asana

The closing asana, mainly Baddha Padmasana, and Padmasana, should be preformed by everyone. Jois states that the benefits of Baddha Padmasana purify the Liver and Spleen. One should note that the organs listed are not the western organs but the organs associated with TCM.

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Morgan Lee
The Female cycle

 Should women practice Ashtanga Yoga during their cycle? How does this yoga help with regulating the menstrual cycle?

The major player in human reproduction is the Female. Unfortunately because sexual health is taboo and not openly discussed, in part due to a patriarchal society, the waters around the female reproductive system are often murky.

Aside from acknowledging that some women have abdominal pain during menstruation, the topic of menstruation is not discussed in The Yoga Mala. In fact, ‘a lot of women with strong Ashtanga practices at some point lose their periods, often due to a combination of low body wight and intense exercise.’  (Alison DeMaio, MD OB/GYN) This is common for high intensity sports across the board know as athletic amenorrhea.

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Morgan Lee
Ashtanga Yoga as energy medicine

The practice of Yoga, Tai-Chi, Qi Gong, and the practice of TCM are energy practices. 

According to TCM there are 14 channels that originate from the Chong Mai. In Ayurveda the Chong Mai is named the Sushumna Nadi. From the Chong Mai two channels branch from the Chong and are known as the Ren Mai and Du Mai, or the Ida and Pingala respectively in Ayurveda. These channels are the core of our bodies development and the root of our essence. 

In TCM the outer layers or channels deal with the lower levels of Maslow’s Heigharcy of needs and the chakras related to digestion, while the inner channels protect the heart and the essence of our beings. 

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Morgan Lee
Can Ashtanga Yoga improve the health of the human reproductive system?

Should women practice Ashtanga Yoga during their cycle? How does this yoga help with regulating the menstrual cycle?

In the essential text on Ashtanga Yoga, The Yoga Mala, Jois states, ‘Some women suffer from abdominal pain during menstruation. This is removed by the practice of these asanas (Marichyasana.) The womb becomes powerful and enables a woman to carry a child strongly, and miscarriage due to weakness is cured.’

It’s impossible to deny that there is a flow of energy through the body. “It’s been called by many names. In ancient Chinese medicine, it is called Qi. In yoga, it is called Shakti. In the West, it is called Spirit….the yogis call energy centers chakras.” (The Untethered Soul - Michael A. Singer) Traditional Oriental Medicine links these centers with our internal organs. Both systems involve using natural remedies to allow the body to heal itself.

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