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Therapeutic Yoga

Therapeutic Yoga

therapeutic yoga breathing
therapeutic yoga breathing, thanks to Kandis Twa


This past November I dashed late into a networking event at a new-ish yoga studio in my neighborhood-walking distance from my house.  BendnMove owner Tamara Gillest introduced me around.  The health care providers offering their services were familiar to me, members of a Business Networking International chapter here in West Seattle.  It felt like coming home to a room full of caring practitioners; a chiropractor, a vendor of the Smovey and Nordic walking poles, a life coach and personal trainer, a massage therapist among others.  I knew I’d been led to this event and was open to what was offered.

Therapeutic Yoga.  I asked Tamara what that might be.  I have studied yoga for years and have a morning practice.  Over the last few months, walking any distance at all has been challenging because I never know when the sciatic pain will begin.  It is a pain that makes me cry out and wonder if I can make it home.  I remember once walking to the hardware store about a mile away and setting out for the return trip with a cloth bag full of six bedding plants.  That much weight proved too hard to carry.  I set the bag behind a picket fence and limped home to get the car, worried that someone would steal my bag.  Of course, this is West Seattle’s Genesee hill and the bag was untouched.

Every time I left home, I experienced breath-shortening anxiety in anticipation of pain.  I realized I wasn’t walking every day out of fear of pain.  Perhaps Therapeutic Yoga could help with that anxiety.

I signed up for 4 sessions.  Tamara sized me up and gave me a series of gentle stretches, hip opening, core strengthening moves to practice.  Most importantly, she refocused my yoga breathing to help with the anxiety.  It has made such a difference to practice deep breathing, to remind myself to initiate every move with the breath, and to build confidence in my legs and back and core again.  I always take my sticks with me to give support when the pain hits.  I’m back to 30 minutes of walking every day.

A google search for yoga poses to help with sciatica resulted in poses that are far too advanced for the level of challenge I have.  Perhaps it is my age.  At 78, it is not a good idea to twist into a pretzel even though I am strong enough to do this.  Tamara’s approach is gentle, breath-centered, calming-the very approach I need to help me slow down, relax into movement.  If you have suffered chronic pain, you know how difficult it is to manage your thinking about an activity you are about to try.  If you know it causes pain, you tense up or you may decide not to bother trying at all.


The last thing I want is to stop moving.  I would lose all the benefits of moving that I have mentioned in post after post.  Muscle tone weakens; blood flow to the joints slows down; lungs long for fresh air and deep breathing; stiffness sets in.  We must keep moving to stay vibrant.  Anticipating pain can keep us from setting out.  My pain is diminishing ever so slightly and I am able to step out of the house with my sticks and walk for 30 minutes, breathing into the pain, keeping my breaths long and deep and calming.

Here’s what Tamara has to say her Therapeutic Yoga teaching 

Yoga therapy provides high quality and skilled therapeutic application of yoga.  The education and skills required to work as a yoga therapist surpass those of the average yoga teacher, necessitating a comprehensive understanding of anatomy, physiology and psycho-spirituality from both the eastern and western traditions.  Yoga therapy is a highly personalized experience that focuses on your specific condition and needs.  It offers a means for safe, personal healing to people living with chronic pain or illness.  You can expect a tailored program unique to you that incorporates breath, movement and meditation. Individual yoga therapy is ideal for those with special needs or conditions, who prefer a slower-paced program and a one-on-one setting. 

 Does yoga therapy replace other treatment modalities?

 Yoga therapy is leading edge and uses yoga as a complementary treatment to traditional medical healing practices. Based on on-going treatment studies, these weekly sessions are ideal for those with chronic lower back pain, neck pain and auto-immune disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, among many chronic conditions.

Thank you, Tamara and Therapeutic Yoga.

Comments?  Thoughts?


Be well, Do well and Keep Moving.


www.HiHoHealth.com  Shaklee product shopping site

www.EmpoweredGrandma.com tails of travel, most recently Mexico

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pigeon pose pain free

Gentle Reader,

I had a plan for this week to bring you the information Julie Donnelly eveloped about muscle strain. and the myth that strenghthening the muscle can heal the pain.  I can not find the sequel to my last posting.  Stay tuned.  The information may show up through further research.  At least one reader was eager to hear what she had to say about that.

Instead I will tell you about my own unexpected healing from severe arthritis in my hips. I can recognize the healing because when I went to yoga on Tuesday, the instructor led us through an opening of the first shakra.  The idea behind this came from her reflection about St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th.  What was the pot of gold that brought good luck all about?  The pot of gold found at the foot of a rainbow.  Our seven chakras are energy centers in the body located along the spine.  They have been associated with the full spectrum colors of the rainbow, beginning at the base, or shakra #1, Red.

We lucky humans are the pot of gold when we open, connect and release our chakras. Our primary chakra is found at the base of the spine, the tail bone, floor of our body when we sit on the ground, sits bones creating support for all the other six chakras.  This is our root, where issues of survival reside.  Survival in terms of money, a place to lay our head, sufficient food to sustain life.  When chakra #1 is healthy, we feel stable in life, supported, able to manage.  Perhaps my own sense of security around these foundation elements contributes to the lessening of arthritis pain in the hips.

pigeon pose

Our yoga instructor began her guidance with us lying flat on our backs.  Layer upon layer of complexity opened the base, pelvis and hips.  After an hour she asked us to find pigeon pose.  I have not done pigeon pose for 8 years because of the terrible pain in my hips.  This is a posture which requires the right knee to fold in front of the body, the left leg stretched out behind, the hands and arms lifting the torso to find a comfortable position.  Once this position is stable (I put a block under my right hip to support it as forcing it to rest of the floor is painful), you see if you are able to rest your elbows on the mat in front of your bent knee.   I was amazed that I could find this pose without pain.  Two days later, there is some ache in the hips, but nothing a couple of the herbal pain relief tablets can’t handle.

What has happened over the last few years?  It would be hard to pin point all the actions and attitudes that may have contributed to more pain-free mobility in my hips.

Let’s explore some possible causes of the lessening of arthritis pain.


I have a dear feiend who suffered so much from arthritis in her hips and especially one knee that she took the drastic steps to see if she could eliminate her pain.  She has cut out all dairy, all grains (that’s right, ALL grains), all night shade plants which include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.  She does not deviate from this diet.  She does not cheat.  I eat with her often so I can testify to this.  She was on a heavy duty prescription pain killer.  She takes no medication today.  And she is gorgeous.  A side benefit.

Personally, I am not rigidly adherent to my dietary rules, but I avoid dairy (no cheese or ice cream, no milk except in my coffee), and I avoid grains, especially wheat.  I do eat a mixture of steel cut organic oats, barley and rye during the cold winter months when I am going skiing or feeling the need of comfort against the weather.  I eat brown rice.  Raw tomatoes seem OK for my body, but those tiny red, yellow and orange peppers that  I love are not so good.  Roasted, they seem to be less bothersome.  I am absolutely convinced that diet has a great deal to do with arthritis.  If you haven’t tried the extreme measures practiced by my friend and you are in pain, by all means, give these dietary suggestions a try.


Over-exercising does not seem to help arthritis pain.  Rather too much exercise exacerbates the problem.  I have been working with a new-to-me program since before Christmas.  The program is the invention of JP Glassey.  His three facilities here in the Puget Sound area are called Xgym.  This this approach to excercise is completely different from anything I have ever experienced.  Today I dressed for the day, which includes dinner and theater with friends later on.  In these clothes I showed up for my 21 minutes guided workout. My wonderful trainer, Clayton, watched over me with care, encouragement and ruthless insistence while I made slow, measured progress through 5 muscle groups until there was not one more move left.  Complete muscle failure.  No sweating.  No strain on any joint, absolutely none.  No impact.  Just pure muscle development.  I jokingly ask for a wheel chair assist to get to my car.  Doing this 21 minute workout twice a week is what it takes to change your muscle strength.  Not hours in the gym lifting weights.  I am not bulking up, either.

I decided to work with PJ and his trainers in order to keep my bones healthy.  Bones get stronger when muscles make demands on them. A side benefit is the loss of 5 pounds of fat.  The weight loss only showed up last week.  Three months of fat-to-muscle conversion came first, then the excess pounds are disappearing.

If you can’t go to the Xgym, buy PJ’s book, Cracking Your Calorie Code.
He describes the science behind his methods, his approach to food, exercise and dieting.  He describes the five basic excercises and how to begin, plus one progression to the next level.  A person could easily do these at home.  I do.  The only problem is that is very hard to force yourself to complete muscle exhaustion on your own.  You could find a buddy.

Exercise: Part II

Walking is still one of the best ways to keep the body moving.  PJ’s approach to cardio can best be described as a burst of effort.  He has a couple machines that we are invited to use, however they are not necessary.  Find your self a stair case and go up for 3 -4 minutes as fast as you can until you think you are going to have a heart attack.  Rest a minute or less and do it again.  A couple repetitions are enough.  How efficient is that?

Snow shoeing along Commonwealth Creet, Snoqualmie Pass, WA

I still love walking, or snow shoeing, or cross country skiing for long steady breathing and enjoyable movement and as long as time allows, I’ll be outdoors or a long day on Wednesdays.  It’s more about the forest, the quiet, the friends who share the experience than the fitness goals.  PJ claims, and to look at him, it must be true, that he can maintain his level of fitness with one or two cardio moments a week along with one or two 21 mnutes muscle grouip workouts.


Suffering from arthritis pain is a real downer.  My 81 year old friend was in such pain in her apartment, she could barely get to her bed, much less get in it.  Going to the bathroom was an big “ouch!” all the way.  So she stopped moving.  Her grandson is her personal trainer.  “Grandma, you have to keep moving!”  Today she’s at her doctor’s and will hopefully find out what the origin of the pain is.

Her grandson is right.  The absolute worse thing you can do is sit down.  Avoiding the wheel chair requires that we keep moving.  My neurologist told me back in 2004, after he looked at my xrays, that if he didn’t know me, he would expect to see me in a wheel chair due to the advanced arthritis in my hips and lower back.  I am no where near a wheel chair.

Without any scientific evidence to support my belief, I am convinced that listening to Peggy Cappy’s “Back Pain relaxation” cd every night as actually helped to heal my joints. She reminds us that our cells die off and new one are formed regularly and that over time, given healthy nutrition, our new cells can be healthy cells.  The joints can change for the better.

So, Gentle Reader, I hope these personal experiences help you in your journey to better, pain-free mobility.  If you have your own experiences to share, let us know.

Be well, Do well and Keep moving,


206 933 1889



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Go ahead and dig in the garden

Dear Gentle Reader,

With the strains of Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons setting the tone, spring has finally come to Seattle. While so many of you are enjoying unseasonably warm weather, we have seen snow flurries, much rain and the thermometer has not climbed into the upper 50’s. Until the last couple of days.  The parking lots at the nurseries were full this weekend.  I came home with 11 bags of top soil and 6 roses.  Getting these in the ground usually means an aching body.  My friend, after a day of digging, complained that she couldn’t bend down to tie her shoes.  What’s a person to do who nurses osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis?

Here are some suggestions:

On your hands and knees.  Perhaps you, like me, are most comfortable crawling around on your hands and knees.  My friend, catching sight of my knee pads hanging from the wall, asked what sort of art object that was.  Those are my knee pads.  I have them hung right by the back door so I grab them when I head outside to do a gardening chore, however small or brief. If they are hidden away in some garden shed, you won’t put them on.  You’ll be in the garden and you’ll bend over to pull a weed and there goes the back.

A garden stool  I love my garden stool made of sturdy plastic. Upright I can sit on it to work in the barrels and containers, harvest pool beans and fava beans.  Inverted, I can kneel on it and use the legs as handles to lift me up.

Stretching i didn’t mention this first because I stretch everyday first thing in the morning, first on the Back2Life machine and then a few Feldenkrais hip opener moves followed by yoga down dog, runner’s lunge and plank.  Then while the oatmeal cooks, the seated routine with Jennifer Kreis. I blogged about Jennifer’s seating wake up exercises last Feb. 12, Yoga and Arthritis. I just checked her website: The DVD I love so much is now part of a set of 4 and they are currently discounted to $29.95.

Time limit  Don’t over do it.  The minute I sense a strain, I stop.  Manana es otro dia.  Tomorrow is another day.

I found this delightful forum on gardening which I’d like to share with you.  Enjoy the comments of these women as they share how they keep their bodies moving. http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/accessible/msg091943101715.html  Together we will achieve more, and more comfortably.

Thanks for reading, and please send your suggestions so we can learn from your techniques.

Be well, Do Well and Keep Moving,


Betsy Bell’s Health4U

206 933 1889


I enthusiastically forster a person’s business development in the health and wellness field.

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Yoga and arthritis

Gentle Reader,

My morning routine of lying on the floor, legs over the Back2Life machine, followed by several gentle yoga poses gets my body functioning.  I am then ready for the chair chi gong exercises, free weight lifting both standing and the lying on an ethafoam bolster and more stretches with a theraband, emphasizing the IT band with the leg slightly drawn high across the body.

Yoga, what I call the essence of Yoga, is at the core of all this early morning routine.  Mary Sue Corrado, my Pilates instructor, worried that I would overdue yoga and increase the damage to the L5 disc, that I would exacerbate the osteoarthritis slowly worsening at age 68.  I was training to climb Mt. Shasta, the 14000 ft peak in northern California.  I was part of a team climbing to raise money for The Breast Cancer fund, whose aim is to prevent breast cancer by advocating for the elimination of human causes of environmental pollution.  All the training materials recommended yoga for core strength.

If you would like to climb mt. Shasta with the best support you could imagine, get in touch with Connie George at the Breast Cancer Fund today and GO FOR IT!  It was a top experience of mine and could be yours.

I asked for a private appointment with an instructor at the 8 Limbs yoga studio, only a 1 mile walk from my house in West Seattle.  I needed a private lesson and assessment because I required guidance on how to modify any program to take care of my weaknesses and physical vulnerabilities.  The early morning class led by Amelia Gailey taught me how to center with my breathing, gently move to wake up the body and slowly build to a strong powerful series of poses.  Over the next 5 years, I practiced at 8 Limbs and gained tremendous core strength.  Pain management took care of itself.

A couple years ago, pain increased with a full yoga session involving all the asanas and I had to discontinue a full practice session.  I know that it would be beneficial for me to find a gentle class.  Instead I found Jennifer Kreis’s Hot Body/Cool Mind DVD and use her yoga routine, and seated chi gong for a morning workout.

My own exploration resulted in using yoga for pain management.  A recent study conducted by the Arthritis Foundation found that arthritis patients who maintained a regular routine of range-of-motion and low-resistance exercises (like yoga) showed less pain and better mood over the long term. Studies also show that people who start a regular routine of gentle yoga exercises are less likely to drop out than people who start other kinds of exercises for arthritis. Over 50% of people who start other kinds of arthritis exercise programs drop out after six months. Studies show that because yoga is more fun and more pleasurable, people are more likely to stick with it as an exercise for arthritis.

Whether you go to a studio (the very best) or learn a few moves you can do at home, yoga is an outstanding over all mind, body and spirit healer.

The following comes from the study.

Health benefits in general

“Yoga is more than an arthritis exercise. Yoga, which comes from a Sanskrit word that literally means ‘yoke’, is designed to bring all body systems into proper alignment so that the entire system functions correctly. Health benefits of regular yoga practice include increased energy, better posture, weight loss, deeper relaxation, an ongoing sense of well being and calm, greater flexibility, lower blood pressure, healthier diet, and increased alertness and mental functioning.”

“All yoga practice includes deep relaxation techniques and an emphasis on proper breathing, both of which have been shown to improve mood and reduce pain and anxiety. Many types of yoga teach healthy diet as well. Regular yoga practice is often recommended for heart and cancer patients because of its usefulness in a healing aid and an aid to relaxation.”

Benefits for arthritis

“Yoga is one of the very best exercises for arthritis because it directly treats the main problems arthritis sufferers face: pain, swelling, joint stiffness and lack or flexibility, depression, and anxiety. Yoga is very gentle, so arthritis patients can learn the stretches and poses at their own pace, making very gradual progress that improves well-being rather than causes pain. The long term effect is increased flexibility and reduced or eliminated pain in the joints, as well as better general health and mental functioning, and better, healthier sleep and positive mood.”

Finding a yoga class

“Yoga classes are widely offered across the U.S. at YMCAs and YWCAs, through hospitals and community centers, at health clubs, and at senior centers. The websitewww.yogaalliance.org maintains a list of yoga teachers and yoga centers where classes are offered. Arthritis sufferers will probably be able to locate a class specifically for people with disabilities or for older students, as these are becoming more and more popular as yoga becomes a more and more popular arthritis exercise.”

There is so much variety in the classes offered and you want a teacher who will understand your limitations and goals and help you not over due.  If you are a type “A” person, like me, you have to be careful not to overdo.  Not all instructors and classes are equal.  I have tried a lot of them and for my body’s problems; I need the slow, gentle routine with held poses rather than the faster movement of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.  Above all, if you have arthritis, please get a private consultation first before launching into a full scale yoga practice.  Learn what helps your particular condition and gently pursue it.

The Arthritis foundation of course recommends discussing with your doctor the use of yoga as an exercise.

“Your doctor probably has a list of resources and an opinion about where your needs would be best met. Ask for a note describing your physical limitation that you can give to the yoga instructor before starting your first class. Yoga instructors are trained to take disabilities and limitations into account and work individually with students at their own level, not matter how limited that may be.

“No matter how disabled you may from arthritis, or how much pain you may be experiencing, you will be able to start a gentle yoga routine based on your abilities and begin to move forward. That is why many yoga classes specifically for older and disabled persons are springing up through hospitals and wellness centers. Yoga is one of the few exercises for arthritis that absolutely anyone can do.”

A Happy Downward Facing Dog to you!

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving.  Betsy

PS:  I’ll be traveling in Nicaragua for the next 2 weeks.  Watch for a new posting after March 1st.

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