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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 


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
Art of Living - Articles We Love February

Articles We Love: A Love-Filled February

By Paige Reist
February 14, 2018

Art of Living - Articles We Love February


Ah, love. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the world, and something we all crave at a cellular level. Connecting with others and feeling loved and cherished nourishes our soul and gives us purpose. But love is so much more than something that you receive from others. It’s something that you can actively put into the world, and something that you can use to heal and grow within yourself.


As much as we adore love in all forms, we think that self-love is perhaps one of the most important and revolutionary practices you can cultivate. Which is why our favourite articles this month focus on how to make the choice to love yourself.


The Beautiful Truth About What Happens When You Choose to Fall in Love With Yourself

Kelly Douglas for Thought Catalog

Kelly Douglas shares her thoughts on learning to loving herself, and how this journey has transformed her life from a painful existence full of self-deception to one that is brimming with light.

“Amid the thick fog of my self-deception, I could vaguely make out a glimmer of the truth. I chased that spark of unconditional self-love with a sense of reckless abandon, steadfastly determined to capture it and forever hold it close. The light slowly grew more powerful, stripping my soul of self-imposed deception and filling my heart with truth. As I basked in the warmth of self-love, I resolved to never again habitually deprive myself of the love I deserve. At long last, I discovered I am always enough, despite the feverishly conniving taunts of my mind attempting to convince me otherwise.”


4 Yoga Practices for Self Love

Samantha Lahonen for Sivana East

Yoga isn’t just a physical practice, but a mental and emotional one as well. Samantha Lahonen guides us through four transformative yoga poses that foster self-love.

“Sometimes, it doesn’t feel so easy to love yourself, yet having a negative self-image sets you up for illnesses such as anxiety and depression. You may notice that you put the needs of others before yourself; as the “people pleaser,” you often compare yourself to others, or you avoid certain situations or opportunities for fear of failure. This is where yoga comes in. Yoga puts you in a state of meditation, helping you to let go of the thoughts that whisper you are not good enough and keep you in a state of low self-esteem. Yoga replaces them with positive thoughts such as the feelings of strength, stability, and energy that come with practicing yoga.”


Radical Self-Love as a Spiritual Practice

Kelly Ann Matuskiewicz for Absolute Awareness
Kelly Ann Matuskiewicz shares her thoughts on self-love as a spiritual practice, and how she incorporated self-love techniques into her own life to bring forth a more meaningful, fulfilling way of existing in the world.

“When I started to practice radical self love, my entire life experience shifted to more positive interactions and outcomes. I felt more confident, self assured, I trusted myself. Who and what I attracted into my life felt better and I was more in the flow. Unfortunately, not many of us know how to truly love ourselves. This is a key piece preventing us from manifesting our dreams and creating the lives we desire.”


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 , art of living retreat center , healing , Love , self love , wellness , wisdom , yoga
Art of Living Journeys

Art of Living Journeys: How Denise Re-framed Her Life

October 25, 2017

Art of Living Journeys


Before joining us at the Art of Living Retreat Center for our weekly Happiness Retreat, Denise felt as though she was stuck – in an unhappy marriage, in unhealthy patterns, in the darkness. But after a weekend of lessons, love, and light, she found her own light at the end of the tunnel. We recently sat down with Denise to speak about her experiences, what she would tell her former self, and how she is living in her light. 


Prioritize Your Wellness

Before Art of Living came into my life, I was in a place of hopelessness. I yearned to find joy and happiness, but I was at the point where I didn’t feel like I was meant to in this lifetime. I was dealing with some emotional trauma, and I was also in an unhappy marriage. It wasn’t only affecting me, but my children as well. My unconditional love and acceptance for this person had turned a corner to enabling. Through Art of Living and the Happiness Retreat, I was able to realize that I could still love this person while prioritizing my own wellness and taking myself out of an unhealthy situation.


The tools and techniques taught in the Happiness Retreat took away the guilt of that decision. I was able to move forward and live the life I’d always wanted to live. I found a joy and a peace that I’d never felt before.


A Way Out of Darkness

If I could speak to my former self, I would apologize to her, for letting her feel for even one moment that there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. That she would be unhappy forever. I would tell her that the darkness is not a place she had to stay, that there was a way out. And the Happiness Course is the very essence of the first step towards finding a way out of that place.


The Happiness Retreat brought a knowledge and confirmation to me that there was something better out there. It’s not just someone telling you that you can be happy. The tools and techniques of the program transformed all of my negative thoughts and patterns into something positive. It allowed me to move forward, and to find the light, even in my darkest moments.


Paying it Forward

The Art of Living Retreat Center is such a wonderful, accepting place. It feels as though you are coming together as a family, connecting with anyone and everyone. We all matter – each person does have something to give to someone else. If I had not come here and seen the people around me, and felt the love and peace and happiness, then I would have never been able to conceive of that happiness being possible within myself.


My desire now is to share my story with others. There are women out there who are exactly where I was, and I want to show anyone who’s been where I am how I got through it, and how I ended up in this amazing place of peace and joy. I want women to know that there is hope to live a life of joy, peace, and happiness.


Make the choice to truly thrive in life. The Happiness Retreat runs weekly. 


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 , art of living retreat center , happiness , Happiness Program , healing , wellness
Art of Living - Faith in What

Exploring Wisdom: How to Cultivate Faith

September 25, 2017

Art of Living - Faith in What

Faith. We hear this word so often in a spiritual context that we’ve begun to take the meaning for granted. What is faith, exactly? And on our own individual  journeys, what do we put our faith in? Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar spoke about the role of faith in the path of spirituality during his last visit to Boone; what it is, how to develop it, and how to develop trust in yourself and your journey. 


TAGS: art of living , faith , happiness , healing , knowledge , mindfulness , sri sri ravi shankar , wellness

The Practice: The Fishman Method – Yoga for Osteoporosis

By Paige Reist
May 5, 2017

Loren Fishman - Yoga for Osteoporosis


Loren Fishman, MD, B. Phil., is one of the few physicians practicing medicine who incorporates yoga into his regular treatment protocols and offers patients individual yoga therapy. This spring, he joins us at the Art of Living Retreat Center to share his unique and effective program with yoga practitioners, yoga teachers and therapists, physical therapists, nurses, physicians and health insurance leaders. Loren shares his journey to developing his unique method. 

Yoga and Osteoporosis

I’d heard from my friends and colleagues that it was extremely dangerous to teach yoga to osteoporotic or even osteopenic people. However, I wanted to explore whether that was accurate or not. So I did DEXA scans (the definitive test of bone mineral density) on a number of patients with osteoporosis and osteopenia, and invited half of them to come to classes I taught in my office after patient hours, and kept the other half as controls. I did this for two years, up to 2008.


When we got DEXA scans again, the yoga group had gained quite a bit of bone mineral density. The controls lost a little, and there were no significant injuries of any kind. Not even repetitive stress injuries – if you’re practicing yoga properly, stress injuries are quite uncommon.

It worked well, but I didn’t think these results were publishable yet. My son happened to pass by my desk and said, “Dad, give me the data.” In 5 minutes, he showed me that these results were statistically significant. A few months later, we published “Yoga for Osteoporosis – A pilot study.” Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation 25, No. 3, 2009 pp. 244-250. 


Creating the Program

At this point, I really became enthusiastic. It seemed to me that there might be a way that any person could use yoga to improve bone strength, so I hired a camera man from Harvard, a director from Columbia, and a friend who is sometimes a Broadway actor, took two friends and myself as models, and created a DVD of yoga for osteoporosis.


We made a thousand copies of the DVD, and gave them away to people willing to do blood tests, a urine test, and give a current DEXA, as well as another one after two years of practice. The tests ruled out nutritional, hormonal, and metabolic reasons for weak bones.


I chose poses that I thought would strengthen the most frequent fracture sites; the spine, the hip, and the femur. Happily, those are also the three sites measured by most DEXA scans. We made the DVD with three versions of each pose; a beginner’s version, an intermediate version, and the classical version of each pose.

The difficult part was that we needed an older DEXA scan too, in order to make this into a before-after study. We needed to compare what happened to people in the two years before they started doing this yoga (although many had done some yoga before), with how their bones fared after they did this yoga daily for two years.


This was an Internet-recruited study, and the 1000 people that received the DVD were from all over the world. Eight years later, over 240 of the recipients complied, and sent in previous DEXA scans, and many sent before-and-after X-rays, too. All the information went to Bernard Rosner, Professor of Biostatistics at Harvard.

The Results Are In: Yoga Improves Bone Density

It took more than a month to get anything back from him. In the meantime, I was ruminating as to whether I’d just wasted ten years of my life.


Eventually, we got the statistical results: .001 significant improvement in the spine and femur, with improvement in the hip as well.


We published this study soon after as Twelve-Minute Daily Yoga Regimen Reverses Osteoporotic Bone Loss.” Lu, Yi-Hsueh; Rosner, Bernard; Chang, Gregory; Fishman, Loren M. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation: April/June 2016 – Volume 32 – Issue 2 – p 81–87.


Over 80% of the people in the study reversed their bone loss and began to gain bone. No fractures or serious injuries of any kind were seen or reported in over 100,000 hours of people doing this yoga daily. Over 80% of them had osteoporosis or osteopenia when we started. Fewer had these conditions when we finished.

The Future of Yoga and Osteoporosis

We are now working on another study which we call a dose-response study,. In these, we have participants see a teacher who is trained in our yoga every two weeks to see what “dose” of yoga the participants are giving themselves. Then we’ll see what happens to their DEXA scans in two years.

We’ve also developed alternative sets to ward off the inevitable ennui of doing the same poses day in and day out. New alternatives also strengthen the bones in the wrist, the fourth most probable fracture site. We have put the first group, the group we’ve already proven to work, online for free on Youtube, offer DVDs on

We also give workshops such as the one at the Art of Living Retreat center in North Carolina. Additionally, we offer online training to teach yoga teachers to train people to do these poses at their proper level. This is an effective, innocuous, and quite valuable skill for yoga teachers to acquire.

Join Loren Fishman at Yoga vs. Osteoporosis from May 31st to June 4th at the Art of Living Retreat Center!


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


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , Fishman method , healing , loren fishman , osteoporosis , yoga , yoga practice , yoga retreat
Yin Yoga - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: Nora Benian on Yin Yoga and the Path to Surrender

By Paige Reist
March 31, 2017

Yin Yoga - Art of Living Retreat Center


Yoga, as many practitioners can attest, is so much more than a physical practice. Yin Yoga is a series of restorative and energizing postures that are held for a longer time, healing and opening the soul just as profoundly as the body. We recently spoke with Nora Benian, RYT-500, Yoga Therapist & Instructor, and upcoming retreat host about the transformational power of the practice. 


Making Space for the New

We struggle with repeating thought patterns about ourselves and our lives, and the idea of letting that way of being go can be scary. Our thought patterns are what we’ve built our lives around, and they give us security, identity, and power – or so we think. We fear letting go, because we fear what we might be when we are stripped down.


But what are we really afraid of? What story about ourselves are we clinging to? The truth is, we must clear out the old to make space for the new. That which no longer serves us has no room anymore, because we need to make room for that which will serve us from here onward. Having a practice of surrender in your life will make space for your growth and personal realizations of who you really are.


The Art of Letting Go

Yin Yoga is all about surrendering and practicing the art of letting go. Yin is to accept a shape that is authentic, without forcing your body to change. It is to help one relax into the bones, to be still and give up holding on. The resistance one encounters can be layered, like peeling back the layers of an onion, and we must continually remind ourselves to let go. Just when we think we are in the pose fully, we come across another layer of resistance.


But if we keep breathing deeply, eventually a release happens. We then go through the steps of fostering acceptance again with this new, recently uncovered layer of resistance, and find the courage to go through yet another layer with deeper breaths, deeper trust. We must trust that going through these layers of resistance is better than fighting against them. That is when we surrender. That is when give the life force a wider channel to flow through, bringing more life into the body and calming the mind.

Our biography is our biology.

Heal the Body, Heal the Soul

A regular practice of Yin Yoga also releases muscular pain. Yin Yoga works on the connective tissues, joints, and tendons attached to the bones. It accesses the deep fascial networks that run through every element of our body. This is a continuous connective tissue that exists from head to toe, so that a restriction in one part will affect every other part.


Fascia stores all pain from the landscape of our lives – our biography is our biology. Fascia is where our trauma is stored. Physical tension is the manifestation of emotional trauma. Just as a broken bone creates scar tissue, emotional trauma is also ingrained int he history of our body. This is why emotions like anxiety, anger, or grief are all felt at specific locations. Even after the emotion has passed, our bodies hold onto these memories until we let them go.


Yin yoga helps to create a space to surrender inhibiting mind patterns. As the fascia is released, so are the psychological traumas it contains. This is why certain poses can bring a surge of emotion as stored energies are unblocked at let go. Without those thought patterns, we can discover the core of who we are. Not who we were, not who we will be, but the ever-changing kaleidoscope of our present and beautiful selves. At this point, we will no longer need to cling to possessions, people, or ways of thinking that do not serve us, because right there, on that mat, in the stillness and peace, we remember that we are enough. We will always be enough.


Trust yourself – you are more complete than you know. Within you is a power beyond your wildest dreams, and your true nature is unconditional happiness and peace.


Join Nora Benian for her Yin Yoga Immersion Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center this May. 

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


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , happiness , healing , wisdom , yin yoga , yoga , yoga practice , yoga retreat

Exploring Wisdom: Wah! on Developing Energetic Resonance

By Paige Reist
March 10, 2017


Last week, Wah!, musician, leader, healer, and Art of Living Retreat Center workshop host, shared her thoughts on energy and healing. Today, she shares three ways that you can develop and hone your own energetic resonance so that you, too, can begin to experience healing from within.


Give and you shall receive. The Universe is a living, breathing, evolving entity, which can and will respond to any energy you initiate. If you put out bad energy, the Universe will respond and magnify it. If you share good energy, the Universe will respond and magnify it. Knowing how to magnify and build energy is something we call building energetic resonance. It’s like stretching dough at a pizza pie factory. Like pushing waves of water. It’s like the wax-on, wax-off practices in the Karate Kid movie. If you can move and build physical things, you will learn how to move and build energetic substances, which is the whole idea behind healing.

Here are three suggestions to help you learn and develop energetic resonance.

Sit Idle

Sit idle for 5 minutes during the day, and allow your mind to slow down. You can watch nature, watch a fish tank, lie on a hammock and allow yourself to space out or daydream – in other words, allow yourself to move into alpha brainwaves. This is healthy for the brain. This is not walking the dog or reading a magazine. Find neutral, be idle, body relaxed, eyes open. You can watch birds and trees, wait for a bus, or even do this on public transportation.
Being idle is the brainwave state that leads to meditation, and allows the body to rejuvenate, repair the immune system, and release healthy hormones. Knowing how to relax and move into slower brainwaves is essential in healing practices.
Resonance needs space to expand into, and patience to give it time to build. Energy won’t flow in places of congestion. When you begin something, learn to guide, breathe, and love it into existence. This is homework – I call it ‘Zen and the Art of Living Happily With Your Own Energy’. There are many tools for mental relaxation; if you need more tools, just ask! If you have a meditation practice, feel free to discuss the feelings resulting from that practice and ways to improve it with either myself or Dr. Leary – that’s what our class is for! I’ve created many guided visualizations you can listen to on a regular basis for assistance with relaxation.



Make it bigger and better. Ask the Universe for more of the good stuff. If you are praising food, go into more detail. If you want to appreciate your partner, elaborate! Go on, tell them all about it – every detail you love and appreciate about them. Use repetition and add extra words, energy, and feeling to fill the space around the idea. Do it with words and conversation first, and later on, you’ll learn how to do it with energy.


Like the pizza pie maker, stretch your Qi. Take longer steps when you walk (really, it’s not as easy as you think!). Listen to someone without interrupting, giving advice, or commentary. Hold space so they can feel their energy. Stretch your arms overhead and say “Ahhhh!” Do it right now! “Ahhhhhh!”


Join Wah! and Dr. James Leary, Life Qi Renewal specialist, for their Life Qi Renewal Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from April 6-8 . 

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


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , Dr James Leary , energy , healing , music , Wah! , wisdom
Dance - Art of Living

Exploring Wisdom: This is Me Dancing

By Heather Bilotta
March 5, 2017
Dance - Art of Living
Photo by Michael Zittel

My heart felt achy; heavy in my chest. It was a strange yet familiar feeling, a combination of an ice block in my core right alongside a sensation of longing. I could feel my arms, legs, and hips move with the rhythm of the music. With each step, reach, bend I felt like I was melting that ice away, opening deeper into my experience of myself. What is this feeling?

Loneliness… sadness… heartache…“that’s it,” I thought to myself, and all the while my body kept pulsing, moving, kept expressing this deep sadness via the way my limbs crumbled, extended, folded, and launched my body through space. Here I am. I am heartache. This is me. I am dancing.


Dance is Expression

Dance has always been a way for us to express and connect. An ancient way to find a mate, go to war, celebrate birth and death and get in touch with so many wordless aspects of the human experience. I postulate that dance in its most sincere form is not just about connection to another, it is also about fostering an intimate connection with ourselves as well. Movement is a way to experience and communicate those deep emotions that well up from the insides of us. The ones that we may have a hard time processing with language alone.

Dance in its most sincere form is not just about connection to another, it is also about fostering an intimate connection with ourselves as well.

For me, heartache is one of those hard to feel and hard to share emotions. What I mean is to share from a place of feeling, not just talking. I can report about my sadness or loneliness to you in words, but there’s a way this content-driven means of communication can feel hollow for me, and maybe for you, too, as the listener. We are hard-wired to communicate our feelings through the subtle and unsubtle movements of our face, hands, and every other part of our body. When I allow my body to move out my grief through the vehicle of dance to an evocative song, or off the dance floor when my movements and facial expressions tell you how I feel as my voice is silent…that is when we can often feel the most deeply touched by the experience of another.


Dance is Healing

The healing trick for me here is this. Attunement. Attunement to self, then another. The first step in the process is to allow ourselves to first become aware of our own felt experience. Once we are in touch with those feelings, we can choose movements and gestures to help us land even deeper into our experience. When we are embodied, fully connected to our felt sense we can then move in a way that feels alive and congruous. Dance and expressive movement is a way that I get to know me better, and then share me with others in a way the feels soulful and rich.


Throughout my life there has been nothing quite so healing as having the dance of my truth. Whether that’s sorrow, joy, power, or softness with others who are dancing their truth. It has been particularly sacred when my fellow dancers and I echo and mirror movements…then I know they get it. They get me. My pain is their pain and vice versa. “Just like me….” This seeing a reflection of my movements, this feeling of unison, of community through dance can often blast through my frozen heart in a far superior way than words. As my fellow dancers and I fall into moving together a connection forms like no other off the dance floor.


Dance is Connection

Turns out that this feeling of peace and well-being after dancing isn’t just my experience or the experience of a finite group of people. While listening to NPR’s Morning Edition earlier this summer I heard a report on a recent research study out of the University of Oxford on the profound health benefits of group dance. They found that people who danced together in synchrony had a higher pain threshold than those who didn’t dance, or those who danced without mirroring others.


Dance is a way that we connect, that we attune to each other, that we feel felt by another. Humans are a social species. Our survival, growth, and evolution are dependent in part upon our ability to connect with our community. Dance has been and continues to be an integral part of the human experience. My suggestion is that when we add self-attunement with dance, this is a recipe with endless healing potential.


So the research is in. Dance. Get out there and do it. Whether you go sign up for ballroom, get your best friends together in your living room, or come to one of my Shake Your Soul classes, dance is a powerful way to befriend your body, other people, and create a sense of well-being and peace inside and out.
– Heather Bilotta


Heather Bilotta, RSMT
A passionate believer in the healing power of self-expression and the importance of connection to community, Heather is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Certified Shake Your Soul® Instructor, SomaSoul® Practitioner, and Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra® Teacher. Heather teaches at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Cranwell Golf Resort, and beyond. Read more of Heather’s thoughts on her blog.


Express, connect, and heal at Shake Your Soul: The Yoga of Dance, from June 23 – 25, 2017.  Click here to learn more.

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


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , dance , exploring wisdom , happiness , healing , healthy lifestyle , Heather Bilotta , Shake Your Soul

Exploring Wisdom: Wah! on Energy & Healing

By Paige Reist
March 3, 2017

Wah!, musician, leader, healer, and Art of Living Retreat Center workshop host, knows that in order to heal the world, you must first learn to heal yourself. In this first of two posts, she shares her wisdom and strategies for amplifying your own energy and healing yourself. 


When you learn about healing, your first job is to learn to heal yourself. Through yoga, meditation, and other practices, you come to understand that you have the ability to summon beautiful healing energy and direct it to different parts of the body.


In meditation, you learn to breathe, cleanse the mind, visualize light, and feel loving emotions of compassion and caring for yourself and others. In yoga, you activate the life force (prana) by chanting Om, and doing breathing practices (pranayama) and postures to move the energy through the body. You can further add to the fun by engaging energy locks (bandhas), and sealed energy postures (mudras).


Creating Space & Finding Energy

Whatever way you explore healing, the first step is learning how to find the energy. When you’re tired, you know you need energy, but you don’t know where to find it. I’ve got news for you: it’s everywhere. All the time. Mother Nature is always renewing herself, and that flowing energy is always available. You have to focus your mind and relax to find it. That’s the whole purpose of a daily spiritual practice; you have to find the good energy regardless of the mood you’re in.
How can you engage this energy? The first ingredient for any healing method is creating space. You create space inside of the body, openness in your mind, trust and innocence in your heart. You wholeheartedly welcome the new way. This is how energy begins, so make space for it – clean your closets, your brain, your heart, and shine your inner light. It’s out with the old, and in with the new, all the time.


Magnifying Your Flow

When energy starts to flow, you can use it, amplify it, build it, direct it. You can tap into the energy of creation and start learning how to flow with it. It’s as easy as doing something you like, and then doing more of it. The more you do, the more you like, the better it gets. It’s just like falling in love. When you add to it, it magnifies, and more of it comes back to you.
When you use energy flow to magnify substance, you build more of what you want. Building energetic resonance is not adding new flows of energy, but simply expanding the energy you already have. You can compare it to a bank account – you’re not opening a new one, but just expanding the one that you have. Like making a pizza pie. Like whipping egg whites. Something is added to create more substance. You might call it air; we call it Qi – it’s your energy that makes the difference.
Let your energy flow in your body like a river. Let the energy flow through your house. Make it beautiful. Make it spacious, and move within your body like it’s your home. It’s your energy; call it in, direct, build, and amplify it.


Join Wah! and Dr. James Leary, Life Qi Renewal specialist, for their Life Qi Renewal Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from April 6-8 . 

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


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , Dr James Leary , energy , healing , music , Wah! , wisdom

Lyme Disease: Healing Naturally

By Paige Reist
January 24, 2017

Lyme Disease - Healing Naturally


“Dr. Dashore, I’ve done every antibiotic treatment there is, but I still suffer. Why can’t I recover from Lyme disease?” 


Lyme Disease: From Victim to Vitality

When Jennifer walked in my door last spring, she was shockingly frail, underweight, paralyzed on her right side, losing her vision, depressed, anxious, and barely able to keep even a few morsels of food down. She was ravaged by insomnia, and having been through a recent divorce as well, she was hanging by a thread. She came to me after witnessing her dear friend fully recover from stage 3 ovarian cancer, with the help of my techniques and methods of natural medicine.

Today, approximately a year later, Jennifer is a healthy, vibrant, and sparkling soul, ever willing to help another in need, to lend an ear and even a few dollars to help ease the pain of a fellow “Lymewayfarer.” She has completely recovered from the anatomical, physiological, and biochemical damage that her Lyme disease created within her, is currently working full time, and training to be fit again with yoga and meditation.

The elegance of medicine lies in knowing when to wean ourselves off of harsh chemicals, and turn to the wisdom of plants, nature, and biological medicine to help us truly repair damage and heal from within.

Integrative Medicine is the Key

No one can kill their way to health. The body is a sacred vessel of the soul. We are all beings of light, and every cell carries the healing light of our maker within us. Every strand of our DNA is programmed to seek homeostasis and balance. Yes, we do need to bring out-of-control microbes back in check, with fast-acting allopathic medication during acute phases of any disease – but the elegance of medicine lies in knowing when to wean ourselves off of harsh chemicals, and turn to the wisdom of plants, nature, and biological medicine to help us truly repair damage and heal from within.

Almost every patient I see benefits both spiritually and emotionally from a physiological detox. The process is difficult, but then again, true change is never easy. It takes great willpower, faith in oneself, and a positive attitude that this universe will bend over backwards to help heal and accommodate a spiritually awakened child of hers.

The therapeutic ideal we strive for is a complete healing of all systems – body, mind, and spirit. These are not separate – in reality, we need all three to work together to remain fit, healthy, and happy.

In integrated medicine, we look at health as beyond freedom from physical disease. Health is a deeper strength, balance, and a mind-body wellness that must be achieved along with absence of disease. I truly believe that the future of healthcare lies in the fusion of allopathy with alternative therapies, giving rise to a system that will treat each patient holistically and according to their own unique needs.


The workshop that I am hosting, Walking the Lyme Road, will be a beautiful, synergistic blend of learning, empowerment, personal discovery, and healing.
Dr. Jodie A. Dashore


About the Author

Jodie A. Dashore is a Board Certified Doctor of Occupational Therapy in private practice in New Jersey. She has owned and operated clinical practices in Bombay, London, and Marlboro, New Jersey. Her current practice is dedicated to patients of all ages with Tick-Borne Diseases and PANS. She is a certified homeopathic and holistic health practitioner.
Dr. Dashore is also a trained spiritual counselor, yogi, and meditation leader. She has mentored with her Guru of 28 years, Sadguru Baba haran Singhji, at his Ashram in Dera Beas.

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


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: healing , integrative medicine , Jodie A. Dashore , Lyme , Lyme disease