ABOUT YOGA FOR ARTHRITIS
A note from our Founder
I started Yoga for Arthritis in 2010 after completing my PhD in public health at Johns Hopkins University. During the previous 7 years, I had been conducting research on the effects of yoga for people living with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. The effects were profound, both in terms of what we were measuring as researchers and what I was observing as a yoga teacher. I realized that there was a growing interest in yoga among people with arthritis, but a lack of available yoga classes that would be safe and appropriate for them. My first impulse was to take what we had done in the study and train yoga teachers so that they could offer evidence-based classes for people with arthritis. I also knew that people with arthritis needed more information and guidance about how to find an appropriate class and how to build a home practice. And lastly, I knew that the clinicians serving these populations would need a better understanding of the differences between yoga offerings, so they could guide their patients about the use of yoga as part of arthritis management. What began as a one-woman show quickly grew to a more substantial operation and a single training evolved into three sequential levels for greater specialization. Around the same time, the field of yoga therapy was expanding and taking steps toward greater professionalization. As a doctoral student, I envisioned a network of yoga professionals across the country and beyond who were qualified to safely and responsibly welcome people with any form of arthritis into their classes. The reality of how Yoga for Arthritis has become part of an international movement toward greater access to yoga teaching and yoga therapy is beyond what I could have imagined. I continue to conduct yoga research and am grateful that it can directly inform what happens in the fields of yoga teaching and yoga therapy. I suspect it is every researcher’s wish that our work touches the lives of the real people in the world for whom we are doing it in the first place.
To assist people who are feeling disconnected from their bodies so that they can rediscover freedom of movement, and the inner power to live life on their terms. To foster a new concept of the possibilities for people living with arthritis. To free our students from pain, if only for a moment, so that they might experience pure joy and know that it is their true nature. To foster a change in our relationship to pain so that it might serve as a vehicle for discovering meaning, purpose, priorities and even greater joy.
HOW DO WE IMPLEMENT OUR MISSION?
Training and Supporting Yoga Professionals
We provide continuing education across the country and online to increase the number of yoga teachers and therapists qualified to work with people of all abilities with arthritis. Read how our trainings fulfill our mission and see our training calendar HERE. After the Level I training, we continue to support yoga professionals through the YFA community, mentorship, and certification.
We provide books, DVDs, training materials, yoga props & gear in our store.
“Your work is so wonderful! I have been using much of what we applied (and that was the absolute beauty and what made your course SO FAR ABOVE any other training course)! We did not memorize tons of stuff we could easily look up. We spent the time really applying the work and in the group settings so that everyone was comfortable and could not help but learn it!!!! And we could then bring it home and apply it immediately! THANK YOU !!!!!!” - Judy Blankenship, RYT
We provide resources to people with arthritis and clinicians. For even more resources such as classes, social forums and practice advice you can join our YFA community. We provide a registry of YFA teachers around the country and a calendar of YFA classes and YFA related events.
Our Partner organizations
Provide products and services that align with our mission and add value for our audiences.
“I just want to say thanks again for the dvd; it’s awesome! Your family is must so proud of you; what you are doing is changing lives for the better! I know my family is grateful that you have given me the gift of yoga; my practice is very much customized to my arthritis and I am glad you showed me how to do that. In addition to the physical component, the spirituality that has opened to me has been such a blessing. Keep up the game changing for those of us who were living in pain and despair. I will always be grateful to you.”- Jan Kohler
Steffany Moonaz, Ph.D., CMA, MFA, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500
Founder, Yoga for Arthritis
Dr. Steffany Moonaz is a yoga therapist and researcher in Baltimore, MD and serves as Director of Clinical and Academic Research at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She became curious about importance of mind-body activities at a young age, and has always had a passion and a curiosity about the healing power of mindful movement. She completed undergraduate work in biology and dance at Oberlin College, earned a MFA from University of Maryland as well as a CMA from the Laban Institute and spent eight years at Johns Hopkins University, helping to develop and evaluate a yoga program for individuals with the chronic diseases of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, which became the basis for her PhD in public health.
Along with ongoing research collaborations at the National Institutes of Health, Einstein, Sinai and Montefiore Hospitals in New York, and University of Maryland, Dr. Moonaz is working to bring yoga to people with arthritis in communities around the country, as well as educating yoga teachers and yoga therapists about the unique needs of this population. She currently leads Yoga for Arthritis teacher training programs nationwide and serves as a mentor for several emerging researchers who are working to study the effects of yoga for various health conditions.
Dr. Moonaz’s work has been covered by Time, HuffPost, the Baltimore Sun, and U.S. News and World Report. She has been invited to speak at Emory University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Johns Hopkins Palliative Care, and the Smithsonian. Her Arthritis-Friendly Yoga DVD, produced by the Arthritis Foundation, has been their best-selling product since its release in 2013. Her book, Yoga Therapy for Arthritis: A whole-person approach to movement and lifestyle, was published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in 2018.
If you'd like to schedule a private session with Dr. Moonaz, please go HERE.
Posey Daves, M.A. in Mental Health Counseling, RYT200
Business Manager for Yoga for Arthritis
Posey began her yoga journey 14 years ago during her competitive sports career. After a while, yoga became much more than just the physical practice, it became a way of life on and off the mat. Due to years of competitive sports Posey has ongoing knee & shoulder challenges, however the physical practice of yoga has helped manage the injuries by stretching, strengthening, and stabilizing the muscles around the areas. Posey's passion for yoga inspired her to become a full time yoga teacher. Her philosophy is "yoga for all, yoga for every body." No matter your background, gender, race, size, flexibility, age, or condition, everyone has the ability to practice yoga. Yoga looks different from one person to the next, but that is a beautiful and powerful thing. Posey's philosophy fits well with Yoga for Arthritis. Posey has her Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling, so she applies her knowledge of the human psyche and emotions into her yoga teaching. She encourages people to smile & laugh in her classes, private lessons, and in general. Smiling and laughter are good for the mind, body, and spirit.
Natalie Cummings, RYT200
Digital Media Supervisor for Yoga for Arthritis
Natalie Cummings brings a robust skillset to the team by aligning her Yoga Business Connection marketing and web design talents with Yoga for Arthritis. It has been her intention to bring yoga to diverse communities that may not feel welcome in the average group yoga class. This heart-centered mission is evident not only in her yoga teachings but in her work as a marketing and web design professional. She shares inclusive language and imagery and writes for our community devoid of the glossy edits that are all too common in today's yoga media. Natalie purposefully associates herself with yoga non-profits and mission driven organizations. She is a member of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition Leadership Team and offers web design and marketing services for the YBIC and for Puresa Humanitarian, a NPO who's mission is to rescue women and children from human trafficking in India. She also offers her services with flexible payment structures to people of all abilities with a strong focus on assisting members of the Accessible Yoga community. Joining the Yoga for Arthritis team is a natural fit as it is a beautiful and seamless extension of what Natalie sets out to do in this world, make yoga a practice that is equally available to all.
Melanie Williams, RYT200
Social Media Supervisor for Yoga for Arthritis
Melanie Williams is an East-Coast-based, fat, queer, non-binary yoga teacher and self-love advocate, called to create profoundly
accessible spaces for self-inquiry and the inward journey by integrating mindfulness and adaptive movement practices with the spirit of social justice. They believe that the goal of yoga, as of life, is collective liberation and in turn challenge contemporary yogis to dismantle the systems and beliefs that hold us all back. In addition to teaching group and private yoga classes, Melanie offers workshops that explore queer identity and body image, leads adaptive yoga teacher trainings, helps coordinate trainings internationally for Accessible Yoga, champions diversity and inclusion in the yoga industry as a member of the Yoga & Body Image Coalition leadership team, and serves leading industry groups as an expert advisor on diversity and accessibility.
Ann Swanson, M.S. in Yoga Therapy, E-RYT500, LMT
Master Yoga for Arthritis Trainer, Regional director: CO, Midwest & West
Ann Swanson’s journey started after art school with a trip around the world-- studying yoga and massage in the Himalayas of India and tai chi/qi gong in China. She returned to the U.S. to study the science of the human body, taking the college courses like anatomy, physiology, biomechanics. She then combined her passions by joining the first Masters of Science program in Yoga Therapy at Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH). During this time, she worked extensively under the mentorship of Steffany Moonaz, PhD. Currently, she is involved in private practice (including Skype sessions), teacher training, mentoring other teachers, consulting, and is faculty in the master's degree at MUIH. Ann makes mind/body more accessible for people who need extra attention for arthritis, chronic pain, balance, and fall prevention. Ann shares the art and science of yoga therapy and mind/body practices with those who need more options because everybody can use some empowerment--including her centenarian students.
Nancy O'brien, E-RYT 500
Master Yoga for Arthritis Trainer, Leader NY YFA Sangha
Nancy O’Brien, who credits therapeutic and restorative yoga with her ongoing recovery from serious illness, is a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, a certified Integral Yoga Hatha I, Hatha II, and Restorative Yoga teacher and graduate of Therapeutic Yoga Training and Yoga for Arthritis. She is an advisor for the Arthritis Foundation on the Arthritis-Friendly Yoga video and trains certified yoga teachers in Yoga for Arthritis. She is helped Integral Yoga Institute in New York launch groundbreaking twice-weekly Yoga for Arthritis and Chronic Pain classes taught by Nancy and other YFA trained, experienced teachers.
Jennifer Daks, B.S., RYT 200, Certified Yoga for Arthritis Instructor
Regional Director: Upstate New York & Eastern Ontario
Jenn is a currently pursuing doctoral studies in Clinical Psychology at the University of Rochester, studying the effects of mindfulness practices on romantic relationship health, with a focus on individuals with arthritis and chronic pain. She was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as a toddler and has benefited from yoga in the ongoing management of her disease. Jenn began practicing yoga to approach her treatment plan from an integrative care standpoint. She is excited and eager to expand the Yoga for Arthritis community into upstate NY and parts of Canada. Jenn began her work with Yoga for Arthritis in 2014 as program director and has since worked closely to disseminate the evidence-based teachings of YFA through teaching weekly classes, working one-on-one with clients, mentoring teachers, building community and professional partnerships and co-leading teacher trainings. Jenn is available to mentor long distance or locally in the Rochester area. Jenn is inspired by the teachings of yoga as a way of life, and the pursuit of relationship health - individually and collectively is an endeavor she is continually developing through mentorship and training of yoga professionals, innovative research and the therapeutic applications of yoga.