Women’s Empowerment in an Age of Illness, Part 2


This is the second of a two part series by guest blogger, Ginger Garner, an educator and expert in medical therapeutic yoga and women’s health. Her full bio can be found in the introduction to Part 1.

In the last post, I discussed the health related reasons that cause women to be put at a remarkable disadvantage in the US. Now, it is time to discuss one of the best (and most inexpensive) solutions to give women a sense of empowerment and control over their well being.

Yoga’s Healing Power
One of the ways that women can be empowered to take control of their health (and life) is through the ancient holistic practice of yoga. It prevents and treats injury and illness, looking at health through a preventive and not just pathophysiological lens.

I have been teaching medical yoga (a blending of east and west medicine and therapies) for almost 20 years and have experienced first hand, as a clinician and as a woman, the amazing results that yoga’s power yields.

Medical yoga can(4):

• Reduce risk of CVD, cancers, stroke, and diabetes through introducing safe physical activity into your daily routine.
• Improve your diet, which also reduces the risk of CVD, certain cancers, obesity, and stroke when following an anti-inflammatory regimen.
• Reduce high blood pressure
• Reduce inflammatory processes in the body
• Reduce and manage stress.
• Reduce self-destructive behaviors.
• Help you lose and manage your weight.
• Manage orthopaedic conditions such as low back and neck pain or tendonitis/sprains/strains.
• Reduce stress-related risk factors for disease.
• Stabilize your mood by calming the nervous system (through decreased sympathetic nervous system activity).
• Build body confidence, intelligence, and overall fitness.
• Improve your respiratory/lung health.
• Reduce risk of depression and anxiety disorders and their symptoms.
• In maternal health, reduce labor pains and risk of post-partum depression.
• In women’s health, reduce post-surgical complications such as scar adhesions, pelvic pain, and other chronic pain.
• Manage current chronic pain syndromes and ones related to it such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Finding A Qualified Yoga Practitioner
When yoga is used as medicine, it is practiced by someone with extensive training in medical therapeutic yoga and a license in medicine or other medical therapy. Currently in the US, there is no license or certification that allows you to access medical yoga and have it covered by insurance – except those therapists trained through the education method I developed, Professional Yoga Therapy.

Currently, there are also no standards or licensing for yoga therapists or teachers in the US. There are voluntary standards set by Yoga Alliance, but they do not provide certification or guarantee of a teacher’s proficiency in yoga. Further, they prepare a person to teach basic yoga to people with no existing health issues. However, I look forward to happily promoting other programs like Professional Yoga Therapy when they come into existence. Right now, PYT is the only program in the US which trains licensed medical professionals to use yoga as medicine.

If you have a medical condition or illness, search for a PYT therapist with dual training in medicine and medical yoga – here.

If you are a healthy individual with no pre-existing health conditions, search for a teacher on the voluntary YA registry here.

Why choose a licensed medical yoga therapist?
• The yoga used is evidence based. It is medically and scientifically grounded making it effective and safer for people with all kinds of medical conditions, including the natural state of pregnancy and post-partum.
• They are qualified to evaluate, treat, and refer to other medical specialists while looking at the entire person from both a western medical and holistic standpoint.
• They can use yoga combined with medical technology and methods to treat and prevent injury and illness.
• They are legally qualified and trained to work with people who have everything from minor sports injuries to serious illness and complex medical histories.
• They are trained to differentially diagnose. This means that they are trained to recognize precursors, signs, and symptoms of more serious illnesses that would require more complex medical attention.
• They are bound by law and their medical license – to first do no harm. They live and work by a medical code of ethics and have at least 4-6 years and in most cases 6-10 years of formal medical and medical yoga education

If you do not have medical insurance, I encourage you to still contact these therapists. Many of them will work on a sliding scale and have programs in place that work with women (and men) who cannot afford treatment.

The best news of all is – your yoga treatment, when administered through a licensed medical professional, is usually covered by your insurance. You can find a therapist that is also a licensed medical practitioner here.

Low Cost & Free Yoga Resources

The base philosophy of yoga is that it should be accessible to all – just like health care.
Here are a few free and low cost resources for yoga.

Medical Yoga
Breathing In This Life – a medical blog for women and mothers – download free breathing and yoga practices
Ancient Yoga, New You – a medical yoga DVD for anyone suffering from physical or emotional pain. It is based on a three year research study I conducted with a very pleasant middle aged woman suffering from multiple chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and weight problems.
Mayo Clinic Wellness Series – a series of yoga DVD’s for different ailments.

General Yoga
Holistic Online – Yoga – general yoga and Ayurvedic advice
Yoga Journal – a popular magazine offered online giving general yoga advice

Ginger Garner MPT, ATC, E-RYT500, PYT

1. American Heart Association.
2. US Dept. of Health and Human Services 2006. Women’s Health USA 2007 report.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Overweight and obesity. June 2004. Viewed 4/16/07.
4. Over my years of research, teaching, and writing in medical therapeutic yoga, I have compiled hundreds of scientific references which support the plethora of benefits yoga provides. For systemic benefits of yoga, there are 77 preliminary studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals I source.
More research on yoga and CVD