Earth Mother Father Foundation
Yoga and Research Education Center
Calling All Yogis
When you think of yoga, do you envision a man in a long beard meditating on top of a mountain, searching for the meaning of life? That's how it may have been a long time ago. But nowadays you can find just about anyone doing yoga. From stress reduction to cancer treatment, alternative-healing practices reach more people than you might think. Maybe by the end of the dispatch, it might even reach you!
When I was little, my mom used to take yoga. So that means it's been around for a long time. Ok, so my mom is not THAT old. But yoga really has been around, practically forever. Archeologists have found stones from over 5000 years ago showing people in yoga positions. Over many thousands of years, yoga has been practiced and refined by people who dedicated their lives to it. So how does this apply to us, living in the new millennium?
Parahamas Satyananda Saraswati - try saying that name ten times fast! He was a saint and believed that no matter what your race, religion or status in society, everyone could use yoga and meditation. I would have to agree. If you look around at today's crazy world, fast food, fast paced jobs, and fast paced lives, where is the time to take care of our bodies? Yoga and meditation are not just ancient forms of exercise performed by mystic yogis but are seen by many as a scientific way to take care of bodies, minds and spirits.
So what is yoga and meditation? Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word meaning "union." Yoga can be described as a way to unite the body and the mind. Using different poses and concentrating on your breathing, yoga helps you to be very aware of both of these. People choose to do yoga for a lot of different reasons. When I take a class, it is to exercise without being too hard on my body. People think that yoga is just stretching, but it really works on strength, balance and flexibility. A yoga class can be very challenging and it works your whole body. The best part of yoga class is at the end, when you get to meditate, and sit very still. This allows your mind and body to be peaceful (not something I usually get to feel with a busy trekker's life.) Most of the people in my yoga class come right after work; most of us are there to relieve some stress at the end of a busy day. So, that is why I do yoga. But other people seek out yoga and meditation for different reasons.
I spoke with several people who teach yoga as a "complimentary" form of therapy for people surviving terminal illnesses. An example of complimentary therapy is when a person with cancer goes to the regular doctor, but then also uses yoga, meditation, or other alternative programs. I met Waz Thomas, a yoga teacher for people with cancer in Bolinas, California. He explained that a "cancer diagnosis comes from the medical field. Often chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery are the only medical options. After a person goes through all of these and the cancer is still progressing, they are looking for other options." That is when they come to Commonweal Center, where Thomas works. Commonweal is set atop beautiful hills that overlook the ocean. Just being there feels like a healing place. The center gives people with a cancer a safe and nurturing environment to talk about and practice alternative therapy.
Not too far from Bolinas, Jnani Chapman works in San Francisco as a stress management specialist. She practices yoga, acupressure (touching pressure points in the body to help stop pain) and massage therapy. She told me "using yoga for people with cancer…is much more than physical postures." She explained that exercise is not always good for someone who is very ill. "When you're healthy and fit, you do yoga as exercise to stay fit. But when you're combating an illness, energy needs to go into healing, not into [stressful exercise]." There are so many different ways a person can work on healing.
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Before you started reading this dispatch, you had probably already heard of yoga and meditation. But have you heard of healing touch? I hadn't until I visited Earth Mother Father foundation in Sedona, Arizona. While I was there I met Serenah Curran, a healing touch therapist. She works on the mental, emotional, and spiritual levels of a person's problems. Working with her is sort of like going to a psychiatrist who can also channel the energy of the universe. Ok, I know that sounds weird. But she actually did some of her healing on me the day I met her. She put her hand near my chest (not touching me) and my feet began to tingle, then my legs. She asked if I could feel it, and I said, "Yes, but what exactly am I feeling?" She told me it was energy she was sending through me. Curran directs this energy to places that need healing. She also talks with her clients and helps them work through any emotional blocks that could be causing their illnesses. I was intrigued by the whole thing and would definitely consider doing it again.
Everyone I talked to about alternative therapy said that many hospitals are becoming more accepting of them. Chapman works with hospitals across the country to help them set up alternative treatment centers. And Curran explained to me that healing touch therapists are being invited into operating rooms to help healing. Thomas laughed, "This all would have been voodoo, black magic five to ten years ago." But hospitals are recognizing that patients feel better when they have complimentary therapy, which then makes the traditional medicine work even better.
Although I am a believer in alternative healing, some of it is a little far out, even for me. When trekker Stephen heard I was writing a story on yoga and meditation, he had also mentioned to me that I had to go to Sedona, the spiritual capital of the country! From yoga to psychics to sound chambers, there are more alternative forms of healing than I could fit into my dispatch. While I was at the Earth Mother Father foundation, I took a tour of some of the forms of therapy they offer. First I saw the sound chamber. It's a big bed hooked up to a really good stereo. The vibrations from the music shake the bed, which help to heal the person in the bed. Next I came across the pyramid, which is a bigger, more complicated sound chamber. I think to understand all of this, I would need to spend some more time in Sedona. But since the trek is almost over…maybe a trekker can't learn it all!
I am excited that yoga and meditation are becoming a part of mainstream society. At my last job, we had a yoga teacher come into our office to teach a lunchtime class. You can take yoga at the local community college. And I remember reading that Courtney Cox, from Friends, does power yoga. Hey, even Time Magazine's cover story this month was about…YOGA! More and more people are realizing what the ancient yogis knew thousands of years ago. Taking the time for some yoga and meditation is good for the mind, body, and the spirit. When these three things unite, a person can find peace and balance. In our hectic world, that's something pretty important to strive for.
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Links to Other Dispatches
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Nick - On the road to extinction?
Stephen - What do 15 million Americans know that you don't? Find out!
Stephanie - Misunderstood or just insane? Cults in our nation