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Chronically Ill Patients Turn to Yoga

The New York Times printed an article December 15th, 2005 on yoga’s affect on chronic illness by Carol Lee,
Chronically Ill Patients Turn to Yoga for Relief.

The piece provides a very good overview of yoga’s benefits for those with various illnesses such as AIDS or Chrohn’s disease. Many patients find that the sessions, which make them feel more comfortable, also lessen some of their symptoms and the side effects of their medications.

The story opens with this:

JACK WATERS credits yoga with saving his life four years ago.

I do too. I’ve said many times over the last five years that yoga saved my life because I would have killed myself I was so alienated from my body, my life was a series of losses and doctors offered no relief or hope. I was lucky, very lucky. I’d already been doing yoga for five years when I became ill. I’ve written about yoga and my obstacle here.

Cynthia Mencher, a breast cancer survivor…69, joined a yoga class at the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan while recovering from her illness. “That gave me back a sense of reinhabiting my body.”

That re-inhabiting often serves as the best benefit. The mind goes away from a body that betrays.

Medical professionals have embraced meditative practices like yoga in managing illnesses. Studies have shown that yoga can, among other things, reduce fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis and lower anxiety in patients with cancer, heart disease or hypertension. In a recent preliminary study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, people with chronic insomnia who practiced yoga daily said that they were sleeping significantly better and for longer periods.

It should be noted that the type of yoga practiced and discussed here is Iyengar yoga – a gold standard when it comes to yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar wrote Light on Yoga in 1966 which helped bring yoga to the West. He also developed the use of props to support the body in illness and focuses on alignment. Iyengar was very sick as a boy, so it’s not surprising that his style of yoga is the most helpful – to any one, sick or well.

And one of the yoga studios featured is in Westfield, NJ, where I lived until I was 10 years old. Unity Yoga is said to be in Mountainside, but is really in Westfield.