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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Kirtan Yoga: Moving Out of the Studios and Into the Hospitals

 I am so very excited to have my first guest writer on It's a Yoga Thang! As someone  who is in-love with chanting/singing and understands the healing power behind these mantras, I am grateful that Allison Brooks reached out and wrote this article for me to share on this Blog. Thank you Allison!

Kirtan Yoga:
Moving out of the studios and into the hospitals
Kirtan, as most of you probably know, is the sacred expression of the language of the heart through sound and word. The exotic sounds and the “call-and-response chanting”, promote inner-peace, inner-transformation, and divine peace throughout the world. To intensify this mind+body revitalization, traditional yoga poses are practiced while the kirtankars perform, hence Kirtan Yoga.
Though a familiar term amongst avid yogis, the general public probably has no clue what Kirtan Yoga is or what benefits it can bring. That is why many practitioners and teachers have started moving their classes from their studios to hospitals, schools, nursing homes and so on.  So far the public reception of this healing art has been positive. Many students claim that they feel more open and revitalized after a Kirtan yoga class and some say they just go for the music.
The best part, the therapeutic effects of Kirtan not only touch the patients, but as well as the doctors and nurses of the patients. Jennifer Canfield, founder of the Call and Response Foundation, reminisced on one of her Kirtans at a local mental hospital and talked how the staff was moved to the point of tears by the chants. 
“I talked to one staff member who said that their job puts them in a constant state of tremendous stress, and as a result, many of them develop their own serious health problems,” quoted Jennifer.
Some of the staff member at that hospital and other facilities around started purchasing hand drums and other instruments to have local kirtankars come in and give lessons. Many hospitals and nursing have been incorporating weekly Kirtan session in their agendas to promote healing and stress-relief. The staff and patients acclaim that the session make them more positive and open-minded towards treatments, and more opt to work with the nurses.
Multiple Cancer treatment facilities consider Kirtan a complementary therapy and now recommend it for patients, especially those with a serious prognosis, like pancreatic or mesothelioma cancer. This should not undermine the use of Kirtan for any medical necessity, but doctors know that aggressive cancers need aggressive treatments, and that this sudden change leads to stress and reluctance towards treatment. Kirtan as well as other forms of yoga are able to positively combat these negative side-effects naturally, and help ease the physical and mental pain of treatments.

Confessions of a Spazzmastic Yogini

OOps...I did it again. I've found myself in the same whirl-wind state of being I've tried so diligently to steer clear of.  This time though, I'm grateful for the abundance of great opportunities my schedule has offered up to me and at the same time, making changes necessary to take care of myself. Progress. It is true, The Great Universe sends us lessons over and over again until you "get it".  So, I was reminded of this article I had written for Origin Magazine last year and thought I would share it here as well. Enjoy the picture, it tells the truth.

Confessions of an Imperfectly Perfect Yogini
“Peaceful” Yogini With Anxiety

 When I teach yoga it is a channel of perfect peace, complete with rays of light beaming down upon me and the sounds of Heaven surrounding me. When I teach I feel grounded, centered, calm, and have no questions about who I am or what I am offering to the beautiful sentient beings before me contorting their bodies, breathing, and actually listening to what I have to say. It must be true that I am a channel for something far greater than myself because I have had students say that I have offered them the most brilliant original quotes I don’t remember uttering from my throat chakra.  Time and time again I have heard, ”DeAnna, you are just so peaceful and centered.”  Oh dear, how I hate to disappoint them when they add me as a friend on Facebook and they begin to witness the non-focused, mess-making, social networking addict that is woven into the fiber of my very being. 
     Throughout my yoga-teaching career, I have learned to be more upfront regarding my struggles with anxiety, my obsession with achieving greater and greater goals, and my insane almost manic need to over schedule and over commit. By nature I am a pleaser and a prover.  Pleaser + Prover = Petri Dish for anxiety.  I’ve found, thru my honesty, more students and people off the street are able to relate to me.  Let it be noted, I truly could be put out to live on the street some days, as that is how lost in the dizziness of my mind I can get when I forget to practice my pranayama.
     Anxiety is described as all sorts of things:  fear, worry, concern and apprehension.  All of which can serve their purpose if we were like animals and could use this flight or fight response accordingly, but we don’t. Our culture says we are not safe enough, we do not own enough possessions, aren’t pretty or handsome enough, and/or aren’t emotionally stable enough. Stop watching so much news and see your anxiety decrease. Recognize how many coupons are dropped into your email, tempting you to buy more crap you don’t need and you do it because now you can have one in every color, causing loss of space at home, which gives us shows like Hoarders. Pa-leeze can we have some real looking people on the cover of magazines and people actually purchase them?! Finally, let us not feel, it’s a sign of weakness; so instead, let’s kill our emotions with medicine (though I do agree sometimes medicine is needed). This mini rant will now require twenty minutes of Paschimottanasana and Viparita Karani in order for me to calm down (fans face).

     The bottom line is, we need to stay in the present moment. Yoga teaches us this, but hardly anyone listens because of the reasons I listed above. Somehow we have to balance living in our culture and practicing the philosophy of yoga. After hours and hours of research, second, third, and forth guessing myself, worrying whether or not I was on to something brilliant or simply something mediocre, I have come up with a solution.  It is taught regularly, the practice of Pranayama eases the suffering of anxiety and believe me, I’ve practiced enough Nadi Shodhana Pranyama (one hand on the wheel, the other on my nose) while driving that I’m certain many people have felt sorry for the poor girl picking her nose driving down the highway.  And sure, it works, but it acts as a Band-Aid to the wound underneath. What we need to work on is taming and changing our minds and lifestyles as much as possible.  From the 8 Limbs of Yoga, I believe a close look at the Niyamas is necessary, especially Santosha (contentment) and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender).

I came across this brilliant quote by the late Richard Abell, another Imperfectly Perfect being like myself who said, ”Anxiety is the space between the now and then.” If we are not content, we are either grasping for something in the future or grieving over something in the past. If we can learn to surrender to the natural flow of life, understanding the only constant is change; it is much easier to maintain a feeling of peace and calm. I do believe it is possible to weave the philosophy of yoga into our every day lives, however it takes greater practice than simply hitting the yoga mat three or five times per week.  I can practice some pretty awesome arm balances, but they do not give me peace. What gives me peace are those fleeting moments when I let go of control and trust in the natural flow of the Universe, feeling gratitude for all that I have and all that I am, no matter how Imperfect it may seem.

DeAnna Shires Nielsen M.Ed. E-RYT 500 is the creator of Breathe into Recovery: Yoga for Addiction Recovery and Breathe into Bliss: Yoga for Emotional Healing , and Founder of Blue Anjou Yoga Studio in Lewisville, Texas.