Category: Complementary Health

Yoga Therapist vs. Yoga Instructor. What’s the Difference?

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Dr. Suzie Carmack PhD, MFA, MEd, NBC-HWC, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, who serves as the Department Chair of Yoga and Ayurveda, and Assistant Professor at Maryland University of Integrative Health, is an award-winning yoga therapist and #1 best-selling author who conducts presentations all over the world.  

In a recent interview, Dr. Carmack unpacks the differences between a Yoga Therapist and a Yoga Instructor: 

What is the difference between the training required for Yoga Therapists versus Yoga Instructors  

As their names imply, there are fundamental differences between Yoga Therapy and Yoga Teacher (Instructor) training programs.   

Yoga Teachers are trained to be educators — to lead groups in studio, gym, school, and community settings in the teachings and practices of yoga, much like a guide leads you through a museum. The timeline of a Yoga Teacher training can vary, ranging from a one-weekend workshop to a 200-hour or a 500-hour program.  

Different programs are available because there is no nationally accredited certification for yoga instruction; however, there is a registry that is run by the Yoga Alliance in which teachers can register as an RYT 200 or RYT 500. These designations imply that the registered yoga teacher has completed a Yoga Alliance-approved program of either 200 hours (RYT 200 Teacher) or 500 hours (RYT 500 Advanced Teacher). Although Yoga Alliance has curriculum standards that their approved programs must meet, each program has some flexibility in how they deliver their training program based on those standards. Each program can also choose to focus on a unique style or practice of yoga – for example, one program may focus on bringing yoga to schools while another program may focus on yoga for athletes, or supporting mental health.  

Most RYT’s (Registered Yoga Teachers) have been trained to become an expert in a particular style of yoga and may or may not have been trained to modify and adapt that style’s choreography and communication for the unique health, medical, and well-being needs of each individual student.  

By contrast, Yoga Therapists are trained in 800-hour programs to be patient- and client-centered in their delivery of yoga therapy in one-on-one and smallgroup settings. Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well-being through the application of the teachings and practices of Yoga” (IAYT Website) All Yoga Therapy programs are approved by our nationally accrediting body, the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), and yoga therapists who complete these programs and take a national board-style exam earn the Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT) credential. Although there is also some variety in the ways that IAYT-approved programs deliver their training, in terms of format and style or focus, all programs are required by IAYT to train Yoga Therapists to develop a program of care that is tailored to their clients’ unique health, medical, and well-being needs 

Is there an overlap between these two career paths? 

All Yoga Therapists are also Yoga Teachers, but not all Yoga Teachers are Yoga Therapists. Allow me to explain: 

All IAYT-approved Yoga Therapy programs require trainees to begin with at least 200 hours of Yoga Teacher (Instructor) training and 100 hours of experience teaching yoga. So, one can’t become a Yoga Therapist without first becoming a Yoga Teacher. On the other hand, not all Yoga Teachers continue their training after their RYT 200 or RYT 500-hour credentials to become Yoga Therapists.  

Although some Yoga Therapists move out of Yoga Teaching once they earn their C-IAYT credential, others choose to overlap their Yoga Therapist and Yoga Teacher roles. In the latter scenario, a Yoga Therapist may dedicate several days per week to their private practice of Yoga Therapy in a community or healthcare clinic setting and dedicate additional hours weekly to teaching yoga (as a Yoga Instructor) in studios, gyms, and schools.  

How much time does a client typically need to practice with a Yoga Therapist and Yoga Instructor to note a difference in their health? 

It may sound toogoodtobetrue, but it has been my experience as a Yoga Therapist and as a Yoga Teacher that clients immediately notice a difference in how they breathe, move, and engage with the day. Although people tend to think of yoga as a practice that requires a yoga mat, there are many ways to practice yoga in our lives and this means that it is a practice of transformation that creates change within the practitioner in how they feel and how they live. 

That said, beginners (first-time yoga practitioners) are advised to start with a well-trained Yoga Instructor or certified Yoga Therapist and not try to go it alone and on their own. I have friends who play golf who say you should only start playing golf with a trained golf professional so you can avoid common mistakes and make the practice your own. The same holds true for Yoga! 

What are some common health needs where a Yoga Therapist is recommended? 

We know that 70 – 80% of the public has at least one chronic health condition, and yoga therapy can be helpful for all of them! That said, most Yoga Therapists focus their private practice on working with clients and patients with a particular medical condition, such as heart disease, anxiety, or chronic pain 

Is it often the case that a person who benefits from Yoga Therapy can also improve their health by  participating in Yoga classes? 

This depends on the client/student. In some cases, Yoga Therapy can help the client modify their practice of yoga so that they feel more empowered to adapt their practice to their own needs when taking a yoga class. In other cases, yoga classes may be contra-indicated for the client. For example, a prenatal client should not be attending a hot yoga class, because she is practicing for two, and her unborn baby does not yet have the same ability to thermoregulate (deal with extreme differences in temperature) as Mom does. In a similar way, a client with anxiety and depression may need a trauma-informed practice adapted to their unique mental health needs, and not all classes are trauma-informed. In addition, yoga teachers guide a group, so they do not always have time to give individual attention to participants. And, because of health privacy concerns, many students in yoga classes may not feel comfortable sharing their unique health needs in the ‘open forum’ of a class setting. 

What personal aspects contribute to the success of a yoga therapist or instructor? 

We are living in an exciting time for yoga. In the last five years, the number of yoga practitioners has grown to 20% of the U.S. population alone, and in the last three years, the number of research articles focusing on yoga has grown exponentially too. With all this demand comes the need for yoga instructors and yoga therapists with a wide variety of skill sets and demeanors, who can meet the clients they are meant to serve in their own unique way. As I say in my book Genius Breaks, every person has a genius within them, including Yoga Therapists and their clients as well as  Yoga Instructors and their students. Both fields focus on integrity, inclusivity, and the willingness to meet clients where they are. For example, I am a “type A” person, and I love working with senior and servant leaders who struggle with perfectionism. Yoga and its gift of self-compassion help me with my perfectionism daily, and I love paying this forward for my clients. In this way, every yoga teacher and yoga therapist can bring their full selves forward, and their students and clients will benefit! 

How would you compare the costs between a Yoga Therapy session and a Yoga class?  

I am glad we can bring this difficult but important topic up and out into the open here. 

Because yoga is a practice that helps people to “let go of stress,” it may be surprising for anyone reading this to hear me say that pricing is an issue that causes significant stress for both Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists. Some Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists choose to offer free or discounted classes or sessions as part of their service (philanthropy) to the world. Meanwhile, other Yoga Teachers and Yoga Therapists choose this field as their career and charge anywhere from $10 per class or more (teaching) to $150 per session or more (yoga therapists). Some yoga teachers and yoga therapists fall somewhere in between – charging for most of their sessions and classes and donating or discounting a portion of them. (This is like most small businesses – who must earn revenue to stay afloat but also believe in giving back). 

It is my belief that we should be charging more for both services, and that is why I do. About 20 years ago, I attended a talk with author and speaker Carolyn Myss, where she gave an example, “If you wanted to hire a lawyer that had 20 or more years of experience and specialized training in your unique problem, you would think nothing of paying $500 or $1000/hour — if you had the means to do so, right? So why do we healers not ask for what we are worth?” Before hearing this, I had burned myself out giving yoga away for free to clients and in community settings. Although I enjoyed helping, I realized I was undervaluing my worth and the worth of this yoga practice. I took this as a personal challenge and started asking for more of an investment from my yoga class students and yoga therapy clients. Years later, I learned that this was good not only for me but for them; the science of consumer behavior teaches us that as people invest more financially in a problem, they are more committed to solving it.  By asking for more from my paying clients, I also have more ability to ‘give back’ through my service work and philanthropic efforts. 

MUIH’s Master of Science in Yoga Therapy Program

MUIH offers the first and only master’s degree in yoga therapy in the U.S. Graduates are prepared with the comprehensive foundation in the theoretical, scientific, and experiential training of yogic teachings and practices needed to provide a therapeutic relationship in conventional health care and medical settings. Graduates apply and integrate the teachings and practices of yoga with contemporary science and evidence-informed practice to evaluate the needs of clients and to design balanced and effective programs tailored to address their individual health challenges. This program is accredited by the Accreditation Committee of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Top 10 Easy Ways to Stay Healthy This Winter by Amy Riolo

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stay healthy this winter

In our recent live discussion, How to be Healthy This Winter, Sean Rose, Sarajean Rudman, and Sherryl Van Lare from the Maryland University of Integrative Health shared numerous ways to feel healthy in winter.  This blog reveals 10 easy ways to use herbal medicine, Ayurveda, and nutrition to stay in top shape all season long and beyond!  

As temperatures turn colder, strategies to stay healthy become even more critical. The global medical community is currently challenged with curing new viruses and conditions without known cures. Boosting our immunity is a powerful way to take charge of our health and prevent illnesses. Whether you are looking to stay healthy or recover from an illness, herbal medicine, Ayurveda, and good nutrition can help. 

Try making the following tips a part of your daily ritual: 

  1. According to Ayurvedic principles, consume more warm and oily foods during winter to balance the cold, windy, and dry season. It is essential to eat at the warmest time of day – at midday – when the sun is brightest.  
  1. Make meals a ritual – mindful and intentional eating will aid your body’s digestion and allow you to absorb nutrients. 
  1. Herbal Medicine tries to counteract the coldness and dryness of winter by boosting metabolism and increasing circulation to stay warm. If you often have cold hands and feet, boost your circulation by moving your body, and drink warm foods and tea or tisanes to warm yourself from the inside out.
  1. Food provides our body with the nutrients and information it needs to function. Carotenes, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, and Vitamin D help to stimulate our immune response in several ways. Eat foods that contain all colors of the rainbow to receive the variety of nutrients that you need to stay healthy, and consult your nutritionist or health care professional to see if supplements are right for you. 
  1. Use herbs in steams and potpourris. Simmer a mixture of cinnamon sticks, citrus peels, clove buds, and star of anise on the stove and let the scent permeate your space. Evidence shows that the volatile oils released into the air from steam could have antimicrobial effects if someone feels sick.
  1. Cinnamon and ginger are spicy and warm, and those tastes tell us they will warm us up. They can be used often in your daily winter recipes or as needed!
  1. Drink warming herbs and spices! Cardamom, black pepper, rosemary, and turmeric have warming qualities and can be blended into tisanes. Adaptogens such as holy basil, ashwagandha, and medicinal mushrooms can help the body’s immune response.
  1. Control excess mucus with cooked oatmeal, flax seed tea, cinnamon, and mullein which contain mucilage and can help reduce excess mucus.
  1. Slowing down is important in winter. Nature goes dormant in winter because there is less energy in the air. It is important for us to do the same.
  1. Eat foods that are in season. If you reside in a colder environment, these might include onions and garlic, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, winter squash, apples, and citrus. Pumpkin seeds, elderberry, citrus peel, and rose hip also provide a variety of components that help us stay healthy in winter.

Please visit www.muih.edu for more information about our herbal medicine, nutrition, and Ayurveda programs. Be sure to access our recipes for more nutritious and delicious ideas as well.  

Why It’s So Difficult to Keep New Year’s Resolutions –and What You Should Do Instead

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Looking for ways to make and keep New Year’s Resolutions? The start of a new year is an excellent opportunity for reflection, evaluation, and recharging ourselves with the memories of all we have accomplished and learned during the last twelve months. This is also the perfect time to rethink, evaluate, and set new goals. In other words, it is the ideal time to build new habits and improve in many aspects of your life. So why do resolutions get such a bad rap?

We often struggle to keep our new year’s resolutions. Sometimes we get discouraged because setting resolutions can be easy but maintaining them and achieving them throughout the year can be tricky.  Still, setting a vision of what you want to accomplish during the new year can give us a clear map and guide us to a self-care plan. We must make time for ourselves to nurture our bodies and minds.

Why is it challenging to keep new year’s resolutions?

Often our resolutions are based on what we think we should do rather than what we really want to do or what is possible for us to do. We set goals that are impossible to achieve or that don’t align with our values. We may raise our expectations too high and wind up disappointed when we can’t meet them. Our brains are programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so it is difficult to modify old habits that are hardwired, fulfill a purpose, and generate satisfaction, even if they are no longer serving us. It is important to remember that change is challenging and staying motivated and disciplined can take time. 

Nowadays, there are many distractions, and maintaining a focused mindset to prioritize our goals can feel like you are swimming upstream. Some distractions generate joy and pleasure (hello, social media!). In this case, we must be strong and determined to overcome them, knowing that achieving our long-term goals is more important and meaningful.

Being organized and choosing a day of the week to plan your schedule and think about what you need to do to accomplish your resolutions can be extremely useful. 

First, we must aim to set our sights on a longing or a dream that makes us want to achieve our goals. Then, set specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely or that will help us make progress towards our goal. Think about setting short-term goals and ask yourself how and when you will achieve them. Consider rewarding yourself for accomplishing small steps to keep you motivated. We must also learn to recognize our own beliefs that limit us; and for this, meeting with a counselor or a health and wellness coach can be of significant help

The best thing about a new beginning is to start again, rethink past behaviors and experiences, deepen something we already like, or try something new.

Aspects of your life that may be good places to focus a New Year’s resolution include

  • Moving your body for energy and flexibility
  • Feeling safe and comfortable in the places where you work and live
  • Stepping out of your comfort zone for personal development
  • Consumption of food and fluids for nourishment
  • Finding ways to rest and recharge
  • Relationships with family, friends, and coworkers
  • Increasing your connection to spirit and soul
  • Harnessing the power of the mind for healing

In many ways, looking back on the past helps us understand ourselves better and make positive progress forward. It also aids in identifying skills we already possess but may not be aware of. Because of this, it’s never too late to get to know yourself and determine what changes may be good for you.

MUIH’s Professional Continuing Education has designed a FREE and Ultimate Resilience Reset Journal that can help you calibrate and organize your life with different planning methods, meaningful reflections, build healthy habits, and help you succeed with your goals throughout the year.

To deepen your personal development and help others along their journeys, Maryland University of Integrative Health offers two complementary master’s degrees. Our Master of Arts in Health and Wellness Coaching prepares students to aid individuals in introspection, goal setting, behavioral change, accountability, and goal achievement. Our Master of Science in Health Promotion prepares you to design, implement, and manage community and workplace health education programs and/or identify community health barriers and advocate for community health initiatives.

Creating Psychological Safety in Healthcare: Brain-Based Strategies that Cultivate a Space for Positive Change

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psychological safety

Introduction

The capacity to ignite the human spirit in favor of transformation and growth is a collective endeavor. To co-create a different future, people need to feel cared for and psychologically safe. Neuroscience research illustrates the social nature of our brains and what this has to do with motivating ourselves and others to mobilize positive change. Healthcare leaders and integrative health practitioners are better equipped to navigate complex social environments when they understand that social interactions profoundly shape how our brains respond throughout the day.

Social neuroscience and our need for connection

Findings from social neuroscience demonstrate humans are wired to connect so that we can make sense of others; the brain is designed to be our social organ so that we can survive as a species. This has profound implications for helping people and communities embrace new ways of thinking, feeling, and doing that result in psychological and physical well-being. Science supports a new paradigm for change- one that rests on an understanding of our deep interconnectedness. Brain science research indicates we impact each other biologically, illustrating the capacity for healthcare practitioners to influence the decisions and choices clients make about their healthcare. Humans are mammals, and mammals work cooperatively toward a common goal through connection facilitated by an emotional bond. Our relationships mold how we think and behave, as well as the functioning of our immune systems. Modern brain science shows us we create each other through relationship.  

Human behavior is regulated by the overarching principle of the human brain to minimize threat and maximize reward. Approximately five times per second, the limbic system, a region of the brain often referred to as the emotional center, decides that something is either threatening (bad) or rewarding (good). When a threat response is triggered, the learning centers of the brain are impaired. Recent discoveries show the brain responds to social threats and rewards the same as it does to physical threats and rewards. Social needs are treated like survival needs in the human brain.  

Social needs domains

Five core social needs have been indicated as domains where we can be activated into a state of threat/avoid or reward/approach – esteem, understanding, choice, relatedness, and equity.  

  • Esteem is about our perceived importance to other people – or where we rank. 
  • Understanding refers to having a sense of certainty and our ability to predict the future. 
  • Choice relates to a sense of control over situations and events, or a sense of autonomy. 
  • Relatedness concerns feelings of safety with others based or whether someone is perceived as a friend or an enemy.  The brain classifies people into threat or reward, just like it does with situations, and foe is the default state unless diffused early on in interpersonal interactions.   
  • Equity is about exchanges between people being perceived as fair. The brain scans to assess if there is a level playing field. The perception that things are not fair activates the anterior insula, a region of the brain triggered during feelings of disgust. Translate this into a healthcare context, when clients feel that information is not being shared, it signals a threat response in the need for equity, decreasing the client’s thinking resources.  

The practitioner-client/patient relationship enables wellness.

When a practitioner perceives another healthcare professional to be working in isolation outside of the team process, it could arouse the limbic system and increases a threat response in the relatedness domain, breaking trust and the feeling that everybody is sharing the same goal. If a practitioner is not able to provide sufficient details about options for treatment, it may activate a danger response in the understanding social need driver, decreasing creativity, insight, and the ability to develop an effective plan for improved health outcomes. On the other hand, when clients are given choice and their voices are elicited in the decision-making process, an approach response is activated in the choice and understanding domains, increasing creative thinking and cognitive resources needed for complex problem solving. When healthcare leaders and practitioners focus their attention on progress it is socially rewarding in the human brain, especially in the social need for esteem. In the animal kingdom survival is closely linked to high status. Even the smallest recognition and acknowledgement of improvement ignites the reward circuitry at a neurobiological level, allowing access to areas in the brain associated with learning and growth.   

To effectively partner with clients, the human brain requires that social needs be met. Otherwise it will be directing its attention to figuring out how to survive versus engaging in higher order thinking necessary for navigating complex situations related to wellness goals. 

Facilitating a psychologically safe space for clients to learn and grow is not possible without the practitioner feeling psychologically safe.  

This underscores the importance of self-regulation.  

Studies highlight multiple avenues for how we communicate and influence each other’s emotions and capacity to engage in a vision for change.  One way is through our mirror neuron system.  Mirror neurons are a set of brain cells that get activated when we observe other people’s intentional behaviors.  This affords us the opportunity to ‘mirror’ what someone else is doing and saying at a neural level.  It is a component of our resonance circuitry, giving us the capability to map the emotional states and intended behaviors of others.  In a healthcare setting, the emotional disposition of the practitioner has a considerable impact on the client’s emotional status.  For instance, if the practitioner’s tone is pessimistic, it will activate the same neural circuits in the brain of the client, impairing the mental resources needed to engage in care planning.  We are neurochemically linked and moods are contagious, especially the mood of someone who may be perceived in a position of power or influence.  If a practitioner’s nervous system is in a dysregulated state, this can be mirrored in the client’s nervous system, shutting down the learning centers in the brain and shuttling resources to engage survival physiology.  Self-regulation supports co-regulation in a practitioner-client relationship.  This same dynamic occurs between leadership and practitioners in a healthcare organization, illustrating the importance of creating a culture that supports mindfulness and the cultivation of emotion regulation skills

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Based on how the human brain works, here are three strategies for cultivating a space for positive change in healthcare environments:

  • As a healthcare practitioner, create psychological safety by managing threats and rewards in the five social needs when interacting with your clients.
  • As a healthcare leader, ask yourself what you want your team to feel safe to do.  Then identify which type of threat you need to manage in order to create a sense of safety in your organization. 
  • Practice self-regulation rituals daily to cultivate physiological resilience to stress and the capacity to shift your nervous system to a state of regulation during interactions that call for higher order thinking, partnership, and creative problem solving. 

To engage further with this topic, we invite you to explore our Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) online programs below, or contact us to deliver a customized training program for your organization!

From Empathy to Compassion: The Science of Self-Care and Well-Being in Healthcare Settings

Healthcare Leader as Coach: A Brain-Based Approach to High Impact Conversations 

The Physiology of Building Stress Resilience Masterclass 

A Brain Based Approach to Upgrading Human Interactions Masterclass

PCE Resilience & Wellbeing Course Bundle

 

Author:

Laurie Ellington

MUIH Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) Faculty 

Laurie is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ancient Science, Inc., a leading-edge Integrative NeuroSomatic® human flourishing organization. Laurie uses science to radically expand consciousness, rewire the human nervous system for wellness, and transform the world with kindness and compassion. She is among the pioneers dedicated to cultivating positive social change by harnessing the power of the mind-body-brain-spirit connection. Combining ancient wisdom teachings with findings from modern neuroscience, mind-body research, functional medicine, epigenetics, and flow she helps individuals, leaders, and organizations elevate the way they think, feel, and show up in the world.

Laurie has over 25 years of experience in coaching, teaching, consulting, leadership, facilitation, and mind-body medicine. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Brain-Based Coach, Master Certified Coach, Registered Yoga Teacher, and National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Laurie is appreciated for her ability to evoke untapped capacities and eliminate outdated habits that get in the way of transformation, healing, and growth. Her philosophy is that change happens from the inside out versus the outside in, and people have unleashed capacities to self-regulate, connect deeply as a human family, and heal. She is Associate Faculty within the Health and Wellness Coaching program at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) and Associate Faculty for the Professional and Continuing Education department at MUIH, with subject matter expertise on the neuroscience of human relationships and stress resilience. Laurie is also Associate Faculty with University of California- Davis, Office of Personnel Management Center for Leadership, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention University. She is currently completing her Ph.D. in Mind-Body Medicine from Saybrook University.

Laurie is a living example of everything she teaches. She enjoys being in nature, inspiring stories, good food and wine, and spreading joy and kindness.

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