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Kirtan melts the heart, fills the mind with purity and generates harmony and Divine Love. He who chants the name of God forgets the body and the world. The devotee enters into the superconscious state by singing devotional music." ~Swami Sivananda "Bhakti Yoga"

February will offer a 3 day chant retreat with Krishna Das who is one of the foremost devotional singers in the world. There will also be courses offered on mantra chanting and the yoga of sound. Join us and discover your Divine Love this month.

Cardiac Medical Yoga
For the special needs of heart patients and their spouses
By M. Mala Cunningham, Ph.D. Founder and Director

The Cardiac Medical Yoga program is a system of health promotion and stress management. It incorporates modified yoga postures, deep relaxation, stretching, breathing, healing imagery, mindfulness (as well as emotional and spiritual healing) into a complete package designed for the special needs of heart patients and their spouses.

The program follows the premise established by William Osler, M.D., who is considered the founding father of modern medicine. Dr. Osler used to teach his medical students to "ask not what type of disease the person has, but ask what type of person has the disease." The idea of asking "what type of person has the disease" is of particular importance in working with heart patients because the factors of stress, personality and lifestyle all play a part in the development and progression of heart disease. The attitudes, emotions and lifestyle factors that contribute to the "lack of ease," and thus "dis-ease" in the heart patient can be helped through the practices of mindfulness and yoga.

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A yoga-based model of healthcare is supported by research studies that have shown that yoga and mindfulness interventions can help patients actually reverse and prevent coronary heart disease, which in the United States is the number one killer, far exceeding cancer and other diseases in prevalence and mortality. The Cardiac Yoga program offers heart patients the ability to participate in their healing by providing them with strategies and tools for dealing and coping with their health challenge and, most importantly, for being able to reduce stress and reverse their disease process.

It is exciting that more and more hospitals and medical facilities are looking to incorporate programs such as Cardiac Medical Yoga into patient care as they are finding that not only are heart patients realizing tremendous benefits, but hospitals are able to dramatically reduce their healthcare costs through yoga-based healthcare programs. Certified teachers of Cardiac Yoga have the unique opportunity to not only help heart patients find their way back to a healthy lifestyle but to help reduce healthcare costs in general. These are exciting times in healthcare as medical personnel look to implement yoga programs for prevention, rehabilitation and for palliative care.

Over the years, I have been able to bring the Cardiac Medical Yoga program into hospitals and medical facilities. When I'm interacting with heart patients, I'm often reminded of Rumi's quote: "It's only through the heart that you can touch the sky." Working with heart patients and their families at such a vulnerable time in their lives has opened my heart and has helped me to understand the challenges and the needs that heart patients have in recovering their health. Implementing the Cardiac Medical Yoga program has been a blessing in my life, and I have found that the teachings of yoga have a positive and powerful impact on patients who are struggling with the challenges of heart disease.

The idea for the Cardiac Yoga program originated back in the early '80s when I was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison finishing my doctorate in counseling psychology. Much to my dismay a colleague and mentor of mine had a heart attack at a fairly young age. We were all taken by surprise, but I was even more surprised to learn that the cardiac rehab programs at that time only offered exercise programs for heart patients and very little else. When I spoke to my colleague after his heart attack I was struck by how depressed, anxious and emotionally isolated he felt. Since I was already a yoga instructor (and a psychologist), I decided to explore how yoga and mindfulness could be of benefit to heart patients and in particular, my colleague. The Cardiac Yoga Model and Program evolved from these events.

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Even today, although most medical facilities offer tremendous benefits in helping to diagnose and treat heart disease, they offer limited services for helping patients change their lifestyle and reduce stress. There is an important and definite place within medical establishments for programs such as Cardiac Medical Yoga.

Join Mala Cunningham for her Cardiac Yoga Teachers Training program February 20-26 learn how to bring the benefits of Cardiac Medical Yoga to heart patients and their spouses


Let your Story Unfold
A Yoga-Centered Writing Practice

By Virgina Frances Schwartz

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Many yoga practitioners wish to write. Some, however, never set a word to the page; some write once in a while and long to connect at a deeper level but do not know how; others write but encounter such obstacles that they never finish. Solutions for all writers can be found in a yoga-centered practice.

How does a yoga-centered practice help writers? It does so through the practice of philosophy and asana. The practice of ahimsa or non violence is essential for writers. One of the yamas from the Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga, Ahimsa reminds writers to have compassion for themselves as well as others. As writers become aware of self-created barriers, they can release the ego's paralyzing judgments and begin to draw words from deep in their core.

To be a writer is to enter a great training of mind, body and spirit. In Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2), the yogi writer is rooted to the earth, but stretches sword-like arms through self-doubt to inform the universe he will stand his ground and write. Yet writers also need to surrender. In the Child's Pose, the yogi opens his heart and mind to allow imagination and prana to flow through them to bring inspiration and perhaps, the next scene.

Fresh drafts flow from the creative core within us. When writers, through meditation and asana, shift from the world of ego and go inward, they write from their hearts. When we stand centered like tall warriors or archers in Tadasana, our arrow strikes straight. As writers, when we sit in our center, our words are true.

Come join us in the lush gardens of the ashram to write the stories you have been wanting to write your whole life.

Join us for a Yoga-Centered Writing Course

photoYoga as Muse: Creative Writing, February 27 – March 3, 2011 with Jeffrey Davis.
Through unique exercises, discussions, mini-lectures, safe and optional read-aloud sessions, and short readings of professional writing, you will experience how yoga helps you develop confidence, versatility and authenticity on the mat and on the page.

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Soul Stories and Memoir Writing, April 17-20, 2011 with Virginia Frances Schwartz
This course will focus on telling our own life stories for self healing, allowing core memories to be released through breath-work, guided relaxation, daily free-writes and asanas. We will be building foundations for memoir and sharing our works in progress in a group setting and receiving feedback.