Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Niyamas on the Mat

By Dr. Bharti Verma, MD
May 10, 2018

Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

Last month, we delved into how to practice Yamas on the mat. Today, we’ll be looking into Niyamas. The Yamas are a social code of conduct, and the Niyamas are a standard of personal ethics an individual strives to follow on the spiritual sojourn of Yoga.

 

Shaucha (purity)

Cleanliness and tidiness in the outer environment and your own personal cleanliness keeps the mind from becoming cluttered and irritable. On the mat, if your mind becomes disturbed, then your body cannot focus on doing asana, and the whole practice becomes disturbed.

Deeper understanding of Shaucha is to understand that your body and mind influence each other both on the mat and off the mat. Taking care of each is important to achieve a steady and comfortable asana. Balance and symmetry can only be achieved if the mind is calm and the body flows with the breath.

Shaucha on the mat means personal and environmental cleanliness, together with calmness of the mind.

 

Santosha (contentment)

Santosha on the mat means your asana practice is happening with a relaxed attitude of the body and mind.

Accepting the body as it is in that moment without complaint, and having a mindful attitude toward the practice of asana. When the mind and body are both relaxed, then every movement is joyful and becomes an expression of happiness.

 

Santosha on the mat is a tension-free body and a joyful mind, both flowing in harmony with the breath. 

 

Tapas (penance)

Tapas means willingly accepting adverse conditions without complaining, and this extends to your asana practice on the mat being met with a sincere attitude. Having patience and willingness to give the practice your sincere effort. This type of practice will develop endurance and stamina on the mat and build capacity for endurance off the mat.

 

Tapas on the mat is accepting the challenge of practice with a sincere attitude.

 

Swadhyaya (self-study)

Self-study on the mat means observing one’s attitude, balance, symmetry, and sincerity, and from these observations, learning to improve your own practice at your own pace.

Swadhyaya on the mat means learning from Self-reflection.

 

Ishwar pranidhana (surrendering to a higher power)

Ishwar pranidhana is invited to your practice by 100% just letting go of any anxiety on the mat. Once your sincere effort has been given to achieving symmetry and balance on the mat, let the mind and body totally relax.

This attitude drops any feverishness. It allows you to transcend the body into stillness and the mind into a deep silence. This allows the divinity within to prevail.

Or as Patanjali explains, “Prayatna Shaithalya vAnant Samapatti bhyam!”

Ishwar Pranidhana on the mat is letting the divinity within be your guide into the practice and allowing the divinity to prevail: It is the journey and the destination!

 

In fact, one needs to follow only one of the Yamas or Niyamas and all other Yamas and Niyamas will start to manifest. Not just on the mat, but also in life. Each Yama or Niyama holds a secret to leading one to the truth, and like all rivers merge in the ocean, each of the Yamas and Niyamas bring one to the depth of True Consciousness.

Asatoma sat gamay…

 

Dr. Bharti Verma, MA, MD, MCFP,  combines an established medical perspective with a seasoned background in yoga. As a senior teacher with the Foundation, Bharti teaches advanced level yoga and meditation programs internationally. She is an avid yoga practitioner and instructor with 500 h E-RYT Yoga Alliance certification. She brings yoga to her clinical practice and provides yoga and meditation instruction to many of her patients on a weekly basis.

 

Join Dr. Verma and some of the most influential and engaging yoga teachers in the south east for the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10th-12th, 2018 at the Art of Living Retreat Center.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: alignment , niyamas , spirituality , the Practice , yoga

The Practice: Yamas on the Mat

By Dr. Bharti Verma, MD
April 28, 2018

Yamas and Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

As per Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga, Asana is the third limb, the first limb being Yamas and second limb being Niyamas. It makes sense, then, that the first two limbs must have some relevance to Asana practice. Superficially, there may not be an obvious connection, as the Yamas are a social code of conduct, and the Niyamas are a standard of personal ethics an individual strives to follow on the spiritual sojourn of Yoga.

Patanjali explains how an asana should be practiced: Sthir sukham asanam: An asana, or a pose, should be steady and comfortable. So how can Yamas and Niyamas help bring about an asana practice that is steady and comfortable?

Today, we’ll be looking into Yamas.

 

Ahimsa (non-violence)

In an ordinary sense, we see violence only when it is directed toward others. Rarely does one look at himself or herself through an understanding of non-violence.

On the mat, Ahimsa means that you choose to honour and respect your own body and its ability to practice asanas, so that you will not hurt myself physically or mentally. It means that you make an effort to do what you can on the mat with sincerity, respecting the limits of you body.

This means that you will not over-stretch or strain your body, and at the same time, will do what you are able to with what capability you have. If an asana is done with this attitude, it can be the first step towards being still and steady in body, mind, and spirit, to reaching a place where there is no judgement as to your ability and no comparison with others. Because the body is not strained, and the effort is sincere, the mind is relaxed and the spirit free.

 

Ahimsa on the mat is a sincere effort that honors the body and calms the mind.

 

Satya (truth)

How can an understanding of truth help on the mat? What does truth on the mat look like?

 

Truth remains the same on the mat or off the mat. There is truth in the fact that everything is changing at every moment. There is truth in the fact that one’s body and mind change daily, even from moment to moment! If you allow yourself to be swayed by the changes in the body or changes in your thoughts, feelings, and opinions, then your asana practice cannot possibly remain steady and comfortable.

 

Truth is also found in the thought that though everything changes, there is a part of you that is not changing. Your ability to stretch, lift, flex, and twist may improve as your practice becomes more intense and regular. These abilities of the body may also deteriorate as a result of illness, injury or aging. However, the understanding of a steady and comfortable asana can only continue to improve as you practice, so that you can transcend the body-mind attachment and discover the part of yourself that is unchanging.

 

Satya on the mat is: Body, breath and mind belong to me and change with time and circumstances. Honouring these changes I aspire to rise beyond these changes to that part of me that is unaffected by the change.

 

Asteya (non-stealing)

What can you possibly steal on the mat?

Asteya on the mat comes in the form of losing patience, or attempting advanced asanas on the mat, when you have not sincerely learned the basics of a beginner practice. If you want to practice and look the same as an advanced yoga practitioner without applying sincere effort, that, too, is stealing. You might also practice for shorter periods of time on far fewer days of the week, and still expect to gain the physical and mental benefits of yoga practice.

This insincere attitude is stealing, wanting more than what you have earned. In this type of practice, you cannot possibly reap all the benefits of yoga practice, and may even end up with a physical injury that will prevent you from continuing your practice. If you continue to envy the advanced practitioner, you may be left with a feeling of failure or disappointment.

A strained body and a disturbed mind cannot possibly bring you to a state of a steady and comfortable asana.

Asteya on the mat is being non-judgemental, non-competitive, and measuring your growth only by self-comparison. You are your only competition!

 

Brahmacharya (celibacy or moving in infinity)

How can one practice Brahmacharya on the mat?

Brahmacharya has a more superficial meaning of celibacy, but a deeper meaning of becoming free from desire and abiding in the Brahman. Abiding in the Self.

If by practicing asanas, your intention is to develop a slim, trim, and sexy body, then asana practice will become nothing more than an exercise routine. However, a properly instructed asana practice will bring you to a deeper understanding of the Self.

With full awareness of the body that is properly balanced with a mind that flows effortlessly with the breath, the asana practice itself becomes a meditation.

Brahmacharya on the mat is a body that is balanced, and a mind that flows effortlessly with the breath, so that the spirit is free to soar the vast expanse of the sky.

 

Aparigraha (non-accumulation)

How does one practice non-accumulation on the mat?

 

You are practicing aparigraha when you simply have the confidence that with sincere effort and proper execution of instruction, you will be able to do the asana mindfully. That as your understanding of the asanas increases, even simple asanas will unfold their complexities and value for your wellbeing. Having the confidence and being content with your abilities at any given stage in your practice will open up the path towards higher learning.

 

Aparigraha on the mat is confidence and trust that you shall be given what you need as you continue to do your practice sincerely.

 

Tune in next month for Niyamas on the Mat!

 

Dr. Bharti Verma, MA, MD, MCFP,  combines an established medical perspective with a seasoned background in yoga. As a senior teacher with the Foundation, Bharti teaches advanced level yoga and meditation programs internationally. She is an avid yoga practitioner and instructor with 500 h E-RYT Yoga Alliance certification. She brings yoga to her clinical practice and provides yoga and meditation instruction to many of her patients on a weekly basis.

 

Join Dr. Verma and some of the most influential and engaging yoga teachers in the south east for the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10th-12th, 2018 at the Art of Living Retreat Center.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: alignment , niyamas , nonviolence , the Practice , yamas , yoga
Doctor Burnout - Art of Living

Living Well: Decreasing Physician Burnout for a More Fulfilling Practice and Life

By Dr. Bharti Verma, MD
March 14, 2018

Doctor Burnout - Art of Living

Physicians working in the current healthcare environment are under an enormous amount of pressure and stress, and as a result, a condition commonly referred to as ‘physician burnout’ is becoming an ongoing concern in the medical field. Trying to manage the stress of patient cases and administrative tasks, on top of balancing the challenges of everyday life, are among the reasons why physicians are feeling the pressure.

 

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 300-400 physicians die by suicide annually. That’s almost a doctor a day. As mentioned in the April 2016 issue of U.S. News & World Report, physicians have higher rates of depression, divorce, and substance addiction than the general population, and 50-70% of doctors suffer from ‘burnout syndrome’. A growing body of research shows that physician burnout and depression are linked to medical errors and to the kind of depersonalized care that is often both less effective and less palatable.

 

When the praise turns into stress

Health care professionals are inspired to serve their patients and profession. But in the process of caring for their patient’s needs, the care provider is subject to many stressors, and often neglects their own health. While putting their needs last may seem heroic and praiseworthy, this can compromise clinicians’ personal well-being, and may lead to:

  • Burnout
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Moral distress
  • Compassion fatigue
  • Poor clinical decisions
  • Medical errors
  • Depersonalization
  • Loss of sense of self and purpose
  • Lack of a sense of personal achievement
  • Depression
  • Suicidal tendencies
 

Health and happiness start with you

By sacrificing their own well-being, health care providers are adversely compromising the quality of care they provide to their patients. As a doctor, you must remember that before you can take care of others, you must take care of yourself first.

 

Dr Susmitha Jasty, a practicing gastroenterologist in Brooklyn, New York, says, “One cannot serve from empty vessel. Historically, physicians are caregivers, but we don’t always take good care of ourselves. When we invest in self-care, we typically become better role models for our patients and our families and experience less stress and burnout. When we overlook these priorities, we might become wealthier, but may do so at the cost of our health and happiness.”

 

Doctor Burnout - Art of LIving

 

An interesting read in The Wall Street Journal mentions, “There’s a strong link between what doctors do themselves and what they tell their patients to do,” says Erica Frank, a professor of public health at the University of British Columbia who was the principal investigator on the Women Physician’s Health Study (WPHS) which surveyed the health practices of 4,500 women doctors in the 1990s, and has studied U.S. medical students and Canadian doctors as well. “If we pay more attention to physicians’ health, we’ll have a patient population that is healthier.”

 

Another interesting article in New York Times points out, “It has been shown in some studies that if the physician is exercising, if the physician are taking care of themselves, eating well, sleeping better, they have patients who have better clinical outcomes,” said Dr. Hilary McClafferty, a pediatrician who is an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.

 

In order to be truly effective in their work, physicians need to balance the demands of their work with self-care. This involves taking time off for introspection and self-care to replenish their personal reserve of adequate mental, emotional, and physical energy to stay clinically competent and present.

 

Caring for oneself to care for others: physicians and their self care

The famous Wellness Wheel refers to 6 types of wellness – physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social and occupational – and allows individuals to reflect on current life balance and self-care. Improving physicians’ wellness and implementing self-care strategies is a multifactorial process and includes attention to all these 6 types. Personal self-care refers to strategies for individual physicians to take better care of themselves.

 

According to a research study, strategies for personal self-care include prioritizing close relationships such as those with family; maintaining a healthy lifestyle by ensuring adequate sleep, regular exercise, and time for vacations; fostering recreational activities and hobbies; practicing yoga, deep breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation, as well as pursuing spiritual development.

 

Meditation over medication

According to the American Medical Association, burnout and ignoring the source of problems is not the way to wellness. Meditation can help to protect the mind, which can help healers to heal while they maintain personal well-being.

 

Doctor Burnout - Art of Living

 

According to Psychology Today, 6.3 million Americans, or roughly 1 in 30 Americans, are being referred by doctors to practice activities like meditation. The high number of referrals shows that doctors are recognizing the benefits of meditation and yoga. A Harvard study shows that mind-body practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce your body’s stress response, and to have many health benefits, including improving heart health and helping relieve depression and anxiety.

 

The Living Well: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs

The Art of Living Foundation, a global pioneer in yoga and meditation for more than 35 years, offers the

Living Well: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs” program for busy medical doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals seeking to build a proficient practice for self-care to enrich their quality of life and patient care. The tools and techniques taught in this retreat have been well researched and backed by many scientific studies at different universities world wide.

  • This retreat provides the health care provider an opportunity to learn yoga and meditation-based, simple hands-on self-care practices that
  • Reduce stress, exhaustion and compassion fatigue
  • Enchance physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being
  • Enrich quality of life
  • Improve ability for intuitive diagnosis, focus, concentration
  • Help to navigate the challenges of personal as well as professional life with more tranquility and dynamism resulting in improved performance
  • The retreat also provides physicians and allied health professionals with an update on the latest research in yoga, breathing practices, and meditation, as well as their therapeutic applications, including benefits and risks.
 

Earn CME/CNE credits while you learn

Recognizing the importance and essentiality of self-care for physicians, the NYU Post-Graduate Medical School designates this program 10-30 CME credits. By attending this program HCP not only learn excellent self-care tools, but also earns 10-30 CME / CNE credits as provided by NYU Post-Graduate Medical School.

This course, which is designed for physicians, medical students, residents, fellows, osteopath practitioners, nurses, nurse practitioners, allied HCPs and complementary and alternative medical practitioners, is offered in various locations in the USA throughout the year by the Art of Living Foundation.


   

— Dr. Bharti Verma, M.D.
This article first appeared on artofliving.org

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , doctors , health care , healthy lifestyle , meditation , nurses , peace , physician burnout , yoga
Chronic Pain - Art of Living

Exploring Wisdom: Chronic Pain & Yoga – A Physician’s Perspective

By Dr. Bharti Verma, MD
February 20, 2018

Chronic Pain - Art of LivingPain is something we all feel at some time in our lives. If we are fortunate, the source of the pain is treated properly, and the pain goes away relatively quickly.

 

But sometimes, with pain that is difficult to manage, the discomfort can persist for months at a time. In those circumstances, pain comes to be seen as a disease in its own right. And often it can only be managed, not cured.

 

The true cost of chronic pain

Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, according to a fact sheet from the US National Institutes of Health. It is the most common reason Americans access the health care system. Pain is the leading cause of disability, and the most common cause of long term disability. It is a major contributor to health care costs.

 

The National Academy of Medicine estimates that pain affects more than 100 million people and costs $600 billion a year.

 

Taking all of this information into account, we can guess at the impact pain has on individuals. As French Physician Dr. Albert Schweitzer described it, back in 1931, “Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself.”

 

We know the scale of the problem: the numbers of people involved, and the cost of managing their discomfort.

 

The question is – can we reduce that terrible toll? Can we, the health provider and the patient, work together to find and deliver a better way of managing chronic pain? I believe we can.

 

Exploring solutions for chronic pain

In my practice as a family physician, I’ve discovered some low-cost, highly-effective remedies that can improve the lives of people living with chronic pain. These are solutions that I, as a family physician, am happy to share with my patients, and these remedies can be used in addition to the conventional strategies for managing chronic pain.

 

One of those conventional strategies is the prescription of opioids. Of course,we are all keen to see a reduction in the death toll from the overuse of opioids, but I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s go back to the root of the problem–pain.

 

How do we define and manage pain?

Acute pain is the body’s reaction to physical injury, infection or inflammation due to tissue damage. The International Association for Study of Pain, in 1994, defined pain as “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage”.

 

In medicine we talk about pathophysiology, a term used to explain the processes within the body that result in the signs and symptoms of a disease.

 

The pathophysiology of chronic pain is not well understood; nor is the significant impact of pain on the patient, and his or her physical, emotional, social and occupational wellbeing.

 

These factors, in turn, can have a significant impact on a patient’s ability to overcome chronic pain. The prognosis, the course and probable outcome of the condition, is influenced by many environmental factors: nutrition, social supports, socio-economic status, exposure to drugs and substances, the patient’s state of physical and mental health before the onset of the condition, the patient’s attitude, and even genetics.

 

The opiod issue

Traditionally, chronic pain is managed by the use of analgesics, physiotherapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, and psychotherapy.

 

Opioids have become the mainstay of drug-oriented treatment. Unfortunately, in Canada in 2016, there were 2,800 apparent opioid-related deaths. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, if this trend were to continue, up to 4,000 lives were expected to be lost for the same reason in 2017.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the US 63,600 deaths were related to opioid overuse in 2016, and the estimate is 66,000 in 2017.

 

As society, and health providers, we have to do a better job.

 

And, as health care providers, we are trying. The 2017 Canadian guidelines for managing non-cancer pain lists its number one recommendation as “optimization of non-opioid pharmacotherapy and non-pharmacological therapy, rather than a trial of opioids.”

 

It is well accepted that conventional management of chronic pain has limited success.

So, let’s explore an option that I know to be highly effective – which can help reduce pain and reliance on pain medications.

 

How yoga and meditation can help

Yoga and meditation can be helpful in managing not just pain, but also the associated depression and anxiety that comes along with chronic pain. More than that, it can improve cognitive function deficits associated with chronic pain. A recent research done at Stanford University suggests that meditation and breathing practices could be the solution to overcome the opioid crisis.

 

According to an official of the National Institutes of health, “There is compelling evidence that practicing mind-body techniques such as yoga and meditation can counteract the brain anatomy effects of chronic pain.”

 

Neuro-imaging studies have shown that chronic pain can reduce gray matter in the brain. Decreased gray matter can lead to memory impairment, emotional problems, and decreased cognitive functioning. The practice of yoga can actually increase gray matter in brain. If we can increase our gray matter, we increase our ability to handle pain.

 

Yoga practice may provide a protective effect in reducing the burden of depression and anxiety in these patients living with chronic pain.Yoga and meditation practice can also reduce pain sensitivity, leading to patients requiring less pain medication.

 

Bridging the gap to yoga

Often when I say ‘yoga’, many shy away. They worry that they need to be flexible, agile, and fit to practice yoga. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Yoga practice can be tailored to an individual’s needs. Meditation practice can be taught to anyone willing to learn.

 

All you need to start yoga or meditation is the willingness to begin; a willingness to try something new. And let’s face it, if you’ve lived with chronic pain for any length of time, you probably know that conventional pain management is not always effective. So, what do you have to lose?

 

I believe we should be offering to teach yoga and meditation to our chronic pain patients, to improve their quality of life.

 

These practices are effective, and they can give us a low cost, highly effective way of improving the lives of people living with chronic pain and its associated problems.

 

A new option for health care providers

What is more heart warming than that now yoga, breathing and meditation practices are widely accepted by the medical community? There are courses where health care providers can learn these powerful ancient healing techniques and earn the Continuous Education Credits too.

 

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

 

Bharti Verma, MA, MD, FCFP

Dr. Bharti Verma is the President of Duffus Health Centre, and has varied experience in all aspects of family medicine, including long-term care, obstetrics, geriatrics, pediatrics, psychotherapy, and counselling. She is also a senior instructor in yoga and meditation with Art of Living Canada, and was Vice-President of AOLF Canada from 2010-2017.

 

This article first appeared on artofliving.org. 

     

The world needs your voice! Join Dr. Verma and Medha Garud for their upcoming Women’s Wellness Retreat, where you’ll learn to identify and overcome the barriers for reaching your full potential, and approach health, wellness, and womanhood from an Ayurvedic perspective. Learn More Here!

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: chronic pain , healing , health , meditation , pain , yoga