Yoga: Ancient Cure for Modern Stress -- with John Schumacher

By John Schumacher
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript

Yoga was a mind and body workout long before stress became a household word, but its combination of stretching and meditation make it an ideal antidote to today's chaotic world. And you don't need to be as flexible as a bendy straw to do it! John Schumacher, founder and director of Unity Woods Yoga Center, joined us on Nov. 18, 2004, to get your yoga journey off on the right foot.

If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MODERATOR: Welcome, John. What makes yoga such a good choice for stress management?

SCHUMACHER: The main reason is that it's holistic in nature. It doesn't deal with only one aspect of the person, but all aspects of their being.

Yoga has physical components, emotional components, mental components, and spiritual components. And each of us is in an amalgam of all these qualities. So to address stress most effectively, one really does best by engaging in some comprehensive activity or discipline, like yoga.

MODERATOR: So it's not just about the stretching?

SCHUMACHER: No, although stretching is obviously an important part. Other aspects, particularly the breathing, and one's mental attitude, are crucial factors.

MEMBER QUESTION: How do we choose which classes to take and which instructors to follow?

SCHUMACHER: That's an excellent question, because the quality of instruction varies tremendously. One of the first things you should do is inquire about the training of the instructor.

One often reads or hears that studying with a certified instructor is important. To a certain extent that's true, but the nature of the certification is important. Some certificates can be acquired in a weekend or a month, without any previous yoga training or experience.

Compare this with certifications that require a minimum of two years of study and rigorous examination, as in Iyengar yoga. So the training of the instructor and the amount of experience the instructor has is a really important factor. Probably the second most important aspect of choosing a teacher is your gut feeling about that person.

A person can have lots of information, but if you don't resonate with them, it's going to be hard for you to receive their teaching. Plus, who wants to spend an hour or 90 minutes with someone you don't particularly care for?

So try to find someone that you feel comfortable with, and someone who seems to you to embody the qualities you're looking for from yoga classes.

MODERATOR: Can the amount of personal attention you get vary widely? It seems you would want more direction and guidance than from, say, a spinning or aerobics instructor.

SCHUMACHER: Yes, the amount of individual attention does vary, and generally it's best to have someone who is observing you carefully and guiding you. Being guided, being paid attention to, can take several forms:

  • The instructor shows you what they want you to do.
  • The instructor tells you what they want you to do.
  • The instructor physically adjusts you in a pose.
    (Some people do not want to be touched in a class. In that case they should inform the instructor ahead of time. By the same token, if an instructor does physical adjustments, he or she should let the students know that and make sure that it's okay, either with a general statement at the beginning, or at the time of the adjustment.)

Although it's desirable and beneficial to have individual attention, don't assume that because you aren't getting step-by-step direction that attention is not being paid. Sometimes the instructor decides that in a particular instance it's better for the student to discover for him or herself the best way. This can be very empowering for the student, and when you find something on your own, you treasure it better sometimes than when it's just given to you. Still, some specific guidance should take place in a good yoga class.

MEMBER QUESTION: Is one kind of yoga routine better for stress than others?

SCHUMACHER: That depends on the source of the stress. If the stress source is psychological, perhaps a deadline, one particular routine might be recommended. If the stress source is physical, as in the case of an illness or injury, another routine or sequence might be recommended. So it depends.

MEMBER QUESTION: You mentioned different routines for different sources of stress. I'm curious about how it can help deal with chronic illnesses like IBS or GERD, which can cause a lot of stress.

SCHUMACHER: One of the initial ways that yoga can help deal with gastrointestinal-oriented illnesses, such as you mention, is through relaxation. Tension in the abdomen, tension in the gut, tension in the bowels, is often a source of irritation and inflammation that can create gastrointestinal problems.



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