The Power of the Diagphragm by Tiffany Cruikshank in Yoga Digest
“There are several distinct roles that the diaphragm plays in the body on a more energetic level, the first being its capacity to regulate the flow of energy throughout the body. In Chinese Medicine the diaphragm is considered the gateway between the upper and lower parts of the body, therefore it’s the diaphragms job to regulate the ascending & descending functions of the body. This is represented in our ability to transport qi, blood and fluids to the entire body to nourish the brain & internal organs as well as the ascending & descending functions of respiration & digestion to name a few. Because of this, the diaphragm serves a vital role in regulating energy flow throughout the body.”
To read the full article click here.
Yoga Star Tiffany Cruikshank Leads Class in New York’s Bryant Park
A revered figure known for bringing peace and spiritual well-being to people around the world visited New York City on Thursday. No, not Pope Francis—acclaimed yoga instructor Tiffany Cruikshank.
Click here to read the full write-up on Tiffany’s Bryant Park yoga class in The Wall Street Journal.
Tiffany Cruikshank Shares Tips For Reducing Stress With Forbes
In our modern world, things are moving and changing at a faster rate than ever with new developments in medicine, business, finance, you name it, all happening in the blink of an eye. If we want to succeed, if we want to support our families, if we want to build a legacy we must work harder than we ever have to get and stay ahead of the game. So stress just becomes part of the terrain. But what if that stress is also what’s halting your progress?
Click here to read the full article.
A Better Immune System Through Yoga? By: Rebecca Powell Doherty, PhD
We are delighted to share this wonderful article written by contributing author, Dr. Rebecca Powell Doherty regarding yoga and immunity. Learn facts and findings on how yoga slows down the body, releases stress hormones and decreases inflammation that breaks down the immune system.
Walk into any yoga study and you’ll hear a constant stream of chatter about the benefits of yoga. Yoga improves strength, flexibility, joint stability, and the list goes on. One I hear often is folks who do yoga regularly claim to get sick less frequently and when they do get sick, they say they heal faster. As an immunologist I am intrigued by these kinds of statements, so I turned to the scientific literature to see if I could find corroborating evidence and a possible explanation for these claims.
First, consider the idea of stress. There are numerous studies and reviews which demonstrate the body’s response to stress, both chronic and acute (J Neuroimmune Pharm (2006) 1: 421–427). In an acute setting, we know it as the “fight or flight” response, an enervation of the sympathetic nervous system that floods the body with epinephrine, increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rate, delivering oxygen robustly to the necessary organs and muscle tissue. This is a fantastic response if, say, you’re being chased by a saber tooth tiger. RUN! NOW! FAST! The additional oxygen delivery makes it easier for your muscles to respond and for you to get away. Many people also experience this if they have an uncontrolled fear, such as a fear of heights or public speaking. Dry mouth, sweaty palms anyone? It’s not as useful in those settings, but evolutionarily speaking, the response is the same.
On the other hand, chronic stress can stimulate this response over an extended period of time. This can lead to prolonged increase in heart rate and blood pressure and what has come to be known as ‘adrenal fatigue’ or the body’s inability to properly regulate epinephrine and other hormones.
From an immune system perspective, this kind of chronic stress response leads to an increase in inflammatory mediators, compounds typically used by the body to respond to bacterial or viral infections or assist in wound healing by modulating the cells of the immune system. If immune cells receive stimuli continuously, they eventually stop responding, a state known as anergy. This is, in a nutshell, how stress can decrease an individual’s ability to respond to infections or heal tissue damage. In people with chronic disease states, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, this prolonged inflammation can lead to flare ups that cause organ, joint and tissue damage.
Knowing this, then, how can yoga possibly help? As we’ve already noted, the stress response, chronic or acute, is controlled via the sympathetic nervous system. To counter that, we have to find a way to initiate the parasympathetic response. We may not negate the stress response entirely, but we can certainly mitigate it a bit. So, how do we do it?
According to a paper published in the journal Nature in 2000, stimulation of the vagus nerve (the longest cranial nerve that runs from the brainstem all the way down through the thoracic cavity to the abdomen and regulates heart rate, respiration and digestion) attenuates systemic inflammation in response to bacterial toxins (Nature 405, 458-462. 25 May 2000). More recent studies in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery demonstrate that vagus nerve stimulation decreases gut injury and lung damage following trauma or severe blood loss (J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2012 August; 73(2): 338–342). Numerous other studies point to vagus nerve enervation as the crux between the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. This suggests to us that, if we can find a way to stimulate the vagus nerve, we can potentially decrease the level of inflammation in our bodies, improve overall health and boost our ability to respond appropriately to injury or illness when they do occur.
Enter deep yogic breathing. Nope, I’m not talking anything fancy or advanced pranayama. All it takes is long, slow, controlled breathing. A review published this year in Advances in Mind-Body Medicine (Adv Mind Body Med. 2015 Winter; 29(1):18-25) points to controlled, rhythmic breathing and details the numerous studies that show this simple practice to be highly effective to alleviate stress and improve healthcare outcomes.
The best news of all is because the benefit is traced to the breath, absolutely anyone can use this tool. No asana is required. A simple meditation that focuses on breath control is all you need. This kind of breathing is certainly built into the yoga practice, but applied to any form of exercise or meditation the technique can be equally effective!
Happy breathing, yogis, and cheers to your improved health!
About Rebecca: Rebecca Powell Doherty, PhD has been studying science and doing research since 2001. She graduated with her B.S. in Biology and Genetics from NC State University in 2005 and went on for her PhD in Immunology at UNC Charlotte, graduating in 2010. She has been teaching Anatomy and Physiology, along with other science courses for 7 years. Somewhere along the way, she fell in love with this yoga stuff, completing her 200-hr teaching training in the fall of 2009. She’s worked to balance her yoga world with her scientific one ever since. She has, for several years, conducted translational research in hemorrhage and inflammation at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC and taught at Queens University. She recently migrated to Blacksburg, VA with her husband and pup (Einstein) to pursue her master’s degree in public health for infectious disease.
Share Your Story Featured Yogi Lindsay Roselle
Happy July to all our yoga friends worldwide!
This months Share your Story featured yogi is Lindsay Roselle from Fort Collins, Co. Lindsay used yoga as a way to heal her body after a traumatic horse accident left her severely injured. Her recovery process inspired her to complete Yoga Medicine’s 200hr teacher training and to open her very own yoga studio, Mindstream Yoga. Lindsay is currently completing her 500hr teacher training with us and is using yoga as medicine in her community. Read Lindsay’s remarkable story below and share your own personal story with us at www.yogamedicine.com
My yoga practice has been a part of my life since I was a
teenager, but its medicinal benefit really became clear to me after a terrible
accident I had with my horse in 2010. As I was leading him back to his pen one
evening, he spooked and trampled me, which severely broke the middle and ring
fingers on my left hand and caused a traumatic head injury and small brain
bleed that left me in the Neuro ICU unit. Luckily the brain bleed resolved
without surgery, but the injury to my hand turned out to be more severe than I
expected. As the fingers healed, the connective tissue and new scar tissue over
the broken joints contracted, leaving the fingers in a bent position at the
middle knuckle and me unable to bend or straighten them at all. My yoga practice completely changed as I adjusted to not being able to support weight effectively on my left hand. I no
longer felt comfortable in arm balances that required supporting weight on the
hands, and even simple postures like Down Dog were a challenge. Adding to this,
my entire body felt different from the trauma of the accident, and my
confidence in its ability to move and support itself was low. I had been a
Division 1 college athlete and had a regular yoga practice for years, so needless
to say I was completely humbled (and somewhat frustrated) by how the body
changes as it processes injury and trauma. After months of physical therapy and
modified yoga, I ended up having surgery on the fingers and began the long
journey of rebuilding strength and flexibility in my fingers, hand, and arm.
Shortly after my surgery in early 2011, I began my 200 Hour Teacher Training
program as a way to hold myself accountable to a mindful healing process and
the reintegration of yoga into my life post-surgery. As I progressed through
training, my fingers began to move again, and my confidence in my body and
practice slowly came back. I was so inspired by what was happening in my body
that I started to write the business plan for the studio that I went on to open
in early 2012. When Mindstream Yoga, Inc opened I was incredibly excited to
share the power of yoga as medicine with a larger community, and have been
humbled and honored to see it help transform so many people’s lives since. I
attended my first 500 Hour retreat with Tiffany in September of 2012 and am now
completing the final case studies for my 500 Hour certification in Yoga
Medicine, which I expect to finish this fall. The inspiration to learn from
Tiffany and share Yoga Medicine with students at Mindstream is 100% a result of
the transformative healing process I went through using yoga as medicine in my
own body. Today I can truly say that I am grateful for the accident not only
because it inspired me to create Mindstream, but also because it led me to this
amazing YM community
Follow Lindsay on Instagram at @laroselle