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  • 9 Mar 2020 7:05 AM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)

    Reprinted with permission from the Caring of the New York City Chapter of The Transition Network (TTN). 

    The Transition Network is an inclusive community of professional women, 50 and forward, whose changing life situations lead them to seek new connections, resources and opportunities.  Through small group interactions, programs and workshops, members inspire and support eachother to continue a life of learning, engagement and leadership in the world.  As a national organization, The Transition Network is a voice for women who continue to change the rules.  For more information, go to www.ttn-nyc.org.

    As women reach the age of 60 and beyond, our sense of ourselves as strong, independent and capable women can be shaken by the onset of Arthritis   It is useful to know this possibility -- and to be prepared with at least a rudimentary plan of action – should anything happen to ourselves, or to our friends.  So, what do we actually know about Arthritis? And why would Yoga be relevant?

    Arthritis is the Number One cause of disability in the United States. Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) are the most common of the over 100 forms of Arthritis, and both can affect every aspect of our lives -- from our mobility to our ability to be with those we love, or even to simply be by ourselves – in peace. Yoga is relatively well known to most of us, but less well known as an effective therapy to address the symptoms of Arthritis.  In the past two decades American Yoga has developed a strong, and research-based therapeutic branch, and Arthritis was one of the first conditions to benefit from that research.  

    The ethical, spiritual and energetic components of classical Yoga provide relief for the pain and stress Arthritis patients undergo.  The physical poses, or asana, are very gentle movements that lubricate the joints, strengthen and stretch muscles and increase balance.  They lead the body to relaxation. Another Yoga practice, meditation, meditation contributes to the stress relief and relaxation that arthritis patients need to be able to cope with their challenges. It’s not “just exercise.” Further, classical Yoga philosophy is based on non-harming of self and others and is focused on seeking contentment, peace of mind and compassion for oneself and well as for others.  A Yoga for Arthritis class contribute to a fundamental nervous system shift -- from the stressed out “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system of a body tensed up by inflammation and anxiety, to the tranquility offered by the “rest and digest,” para-sympathetic nervous system. It is this repeated transition – and education in how to make the transition -- to a relaxed body with peace of mind that allows for hope among the students, as well as acceptance of what is.  

    This is so important, because there is no cure for Arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) develops with life; an athletic lifestyle, a traumatic injury or excess weight might contribute more to the wear and tear of the cartilage in the joints, than might a different lifestyle, but osteoarthritis seems to be a part of the life of all vertebrates, from fish to humans. Among us the joints affected by OA are the weight-bearing and working joints, such as hips, knees, shoulders and hands. The cartilage in the joints weakens, the joints become inflamed and lead to pain, limited mobility and psychic distress.   

    Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) also affects the joints, but RA has a different source: it is an autoimmune disease, in which the patient’s own immune system attacks and inflames her joints. In general, women are more prone than men to suffer from all immune diseases, including RA.  The joints affected are usually hands and wrists, feet and ankles and elbows and knees, but RA can also affect other body systems, such as the respiratory and cardiac systems. RA tends to strike at a younger age, sometimes even in early childhood. RA can be especially disabling, not only because of multiple joint inflammation, but also because it starts so much earlier and gets worse with age.  Notably, by the time women are over 50, both OA and RA have become women’s diseases, because after menopause, when women lose the cushioning effects of estrogen, they start to account for the majority (60%) of OA cases. While there may be a genetic component to both OA and RA, the genetic mechanisms are not known.

    Since all forms of arthritis are chronic, “management” is the only recourse for arthritis patients. They experience more depression than the general population, and in general, depressed people experience more pain along with more anxiety, sleeplessness and stress.  Medical management of arthritis includes medications, and gentle exercise is usually recommended for its physical and psychological benefits. The exercises mentioned on the Arthritis Foundation website include two-minute workouts, walking, bicycle riding, Tai Chi and yoga.  

    Clearly, everyone should be as active as they can and as long as they can, with the activities of their choice.  But Yoga offers an array of strategies to manage Arthritis that is simply unmatched.

    In the past 15 years or so the yoga landscape changed dramatically for older adults, as Yoga teacher training shifted to Yoga therapy teacher training.  Now, Yoga therapists who would teach Yoga classes to the elderly learned not how to teach their students to achieve classical Yoga asana, or poses, but to adapt the poses, or even pieces of the poses, to the capacities of the students. Also, Yoga therapists were required to understand the health challenges facing older populations, among them Arthritis, osteoporosis, heart disease, chronic pain and stroke, and to adjust their teaching accordingly. 

    As a result of this new, therapeutic ‘branch’ of American yoga, Yoga for Arthritis is the first program to specifically address the needs of arthritis and to offer complete yoga practice specifically designed for the individual needs of people with OA and RA. 

    The Yoga for Arthritis program is available in New York City as Yoga for Arthritis and Chronic Pain the Integral Yoga Institute of New York (IYINY) on West 13th Street. The teachers are a team of graduates from the program, well versed in the physical aspects of the disease, skilled in adapting poses to individual needs and in helping students learn how to shift their own nervous systems from the stressed sympathetic to the relaxed parasympathetic nervous system.  Books that would be useful to arthritis patients include: Yoga Therapy for Arthritis, A Whole Person Approach to Movement and Lifestyle, by Steffany Moonaz; Yoga for Arthritis by Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall, and Relax into Yoga for Chronic Pain, by Jim Carson, Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff.  

    But how significant – or scientific -- are positive self-reports by Yoga practitioners, students and teachers alike?  For many years positive Yoga therapy research results were acknowledged, but were followed by “howevers,” referring to small sample size, lack of objective outcome measures (as opposed to participant self-reports) and specification of the biological mechanism at work. Nonetheless, the shift to Yoga therapy for the elderly attracted the interest and support of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).  Now, the scientific bar has been raised, and yoga research is hot and sophisticated!

    Thus, for example, at the 2019 NCCIH-supported Symposium on Yoga Research (SYR), there were three projects that studied the effects of Yoga on RA patients.  All three trials had over 100 participants, randomized into Yoga and control groups; and each trial cited different but specific physiological markers in the immune and neuroendocrine systems that showed statistically significant reduction of inflammation in the Yoga groups -- the “neuro-biological mechanism of effectiveness.”   The rigor and sophistication of trials and results like these validate all those self-reports by students whose pain, stress and anxiety were relieved by their yoga for Arthritis practice.   

    Commenting on the value of Yoga in the face of improvements in the medical care for Arthritis, Dr. Loren Fishman, the New York City physiatrist with a specialty in Yoga, observes, “Even so, medications do have side effects and surgery, well, it’s always good to avoid surgery if possible. Yoga offers a pleasurable alternative – and at the very least it can minimize the use of medications and delay consideration of surgery.”  My own thought is that if you are lucky enough not to have Arthritis, tell your friends who do about this article. They will love you more!

    Elizabeth de G. R. Hansen, Ph.D., C-IAYT.

    Yoga teacher and Yoga Therapist in New York City with focus on yoga for the elderly. Yoga research on arthritis and diabetes. Publications in Journal of International Association of Yoga Therapists. Current interests, yoga and the disabilities of age.

  • 24 Feb 2020 11:29 AM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)

    Welcome to the Yoga for Arthritis monthly blog series that features our YFA members hard work, dedication, & passion. Without the ongoing efforts of these standout members, we would not be where we are today. 

    Why were you personally drawn to Yoga for Arthritis?

    I began my yoga career teaching older adults in community settings. I found much of what I had learned in my Power Yoga training was not appropriate for my senior students due to arthritis and other health issues. Yoga for Arthritis showed me how to adapt yoga poses in a way that was safe and beneficial for my students. Recently I was diagnosed with arthritis in my knees. By using my Yoga for Arthritis training, I have been able to maintain a healthy and safe practice for myself as well.

    What lessons have you learned through your Yoga for Arthritis journey?

    I have learned that the symptoms of arthritis can be greatly reduced through the practice of Yoga.

    How has Yoga for Arthritis impacted your life? 

    The Yoga for Arthritis training helped me make yoga accessible to all my students. It also helped me understand the many different types of arthritis, how the disease symptoms manifest, and how to use research to inform my teaching. 

    When and where others can we find your classes?

    I am currently teaching a Wednesday evening Yoga for Arthritis class at CORE Physical Therapy in Washington DC. For more details and to register for a class, click the link on my website yogastretchandmove.com

    Dana HalkowskiI, C-IAYT, RYT500, YFA Certified Instructor

    Dana has been practicing yoga for 30 years. She is a RYT500 and a certified yoga therapist with a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. In addition to her Level II certification in Yoga for Arthritis, she is also certified in Yoga for Depression.

  • 3 Feb 2020 1:01 PM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)

    The following article has been written for Yoga for Arthritis by Christa Fairbrother. See exciting changes announced on February 4th, 2020 by the AEA here.

    As a Yoga for Arthritis teacher and former staff member, I’m passionate about helping people with arthritis gain more comfort and movement in their lives. I do that through sharing yoga and especially aqua yoga.

    The Arthritis Foundation’s Exercise Program was taken over by the Aquatic Exercise Association(AEA) several years ago. Being a YFA instructor, an AEA instructor, and so passionate about aqua yoga for arthritis, I needed to step up and take the Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Professional training offered through AEA. I was really curious about how the different perspectives on arthritis and movement on land vs in water were expressed in the training.

    These are some observations I had, in case you’re thinking this training represents learning potentials for you as well or are looking for larger perspective on movement for arthritis.

    First some general background on the Program. The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program is a group exercise program for seniors living with arthritis. The classes are usually offered at community/rec centers, senior centers or YMCA’s. There are land-based and aquatics-based classes in the Program.

    Some background information and research support on the land component of the Program can be found at HERE.

    To become a trained instructor for the AF Program, the AEA offers a training course for people who are already trained fitness professionals. After finishing the course, upon passing the exam, you’re either an AFEP (Arthritis Foundation Exercise Professional for the land component) or an AFAP (Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Professional for the aquatics component). I participated in the online training course and will be addressing my comments towards that. Because YFA instructors are interested in the land-based exercise component of the program I’m just speaking to that here.

    The purpose of the AFEP program is to increase or improve the participant’sbalance, coordination, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and ROM, muscular strength and endurance, posture, relaxation and weight bearing of participants.

    It does this through an exercise program that can be done freestanding or in a chair.

    The AFEP training course teaches the Program through a manual and video instruction. The manual has been recently redone and is very well illustrated and referenced. The videos cover individual exercises as well as background videos on the purpose of the program, information about arthritis and teaching tips.

    “Only use the exercises or combinations of exercises included in the AFEP/AFAP manual. Remember to STICK TO THE BOOK”. The capitalization is mine to highlight that the Program emphasizes exercises over exploration. The yoga idea of teaching to the purpose of the pose versus achievement of form has no room here. The program is about achievement of form.

    As yoga teachers we see people move in unergonomic, habitually poor movement patterns all the time. Getting people to move more efficiently for their bodies helps people get out of pain. If someone moves in the same old poorly aligned, inefficient way, big surprise it might hurt. Trying to get people moving with better alignment is one way of the ways we can help people reduce pain as yoga teachers. The AFEP program stresses exercises over ergonomics or customization so it doesn’t allow room to develop the svadhyaya of better ergonomics.

    “Don’t allow participants to ‘invent’ their own exercises or perform exercises they may have learned elsewhere.” Unfortunately, that undermines people’s ability to develop self-knowledge, awareness, and agency which are integral to the eight limbs of yoga.

    A huge plus of the Program is its emphasis on breath and mindfulness which is often not included in fitness programs. It encourages deep breathing for relaxation. They encourage body check-ins and awareness in a mindful way. They advise including a relaxation component in every class such as deep breathing, progressive relaxation, visualizations and guided imagery, or autogenic training.

    The Program doesn’t address some of the more current theories in pain research such as the impact of pyscho-emotional states on pain or how chronic pain transforms our neural networks. As yoga teachers we’re looking to address pain on all the koshas; this Program focuses on the traditional interpretation of pain as a static physical concept.

    “Stop an exercise if it increases knee/hand/back (there’s a long list of body parts here) pain”. As yoga teachers we don’t want to cause or increase people’s pain. That’s a given. But the AFEP Program doesn’t address two big elements of living with chronic pain that people with arthritis face.

    If you’re in pain all the time and you move a painful joint and it’s painful, does that really mean it’s making anything worse? Chronic pain rewires our circuitry to be overly sensitized to pain. New movement needs to be introduced with caution walking the fine line of ahimsa vs tapas. The encouragement to really get to know your pain and get creative in your relationship with it to help you manage better in all aspects, not just exercise, isn’t addressed.

    We’re not blobs and we can’t sit around and do nothing ever again because it hurts to move. Getting ‘fit” is about overtaxing something and causing the appropriate amount of stress for growth. Living with arthritis isn’t any different. We need strong muscles to support weak joints. It might be a little uncomfortable in the moment to do a new exercise but where is it uncomfortable? We don’t want joint pain or joint stress; we want to develop muscles. We need to develop some discernment around our pain to be able to separate where the pain is occurring. The AFEP Program doesn’t emphasize body awareness enough to drill down into this idea of good pain that’s helping me get healthy/fit/more limber/build cardiovascular endurance vs bad pain which is aggravating swollen/damaged joints.

    The course does include a great diversity of arm movements you can include in chair yoga classes and is quite extensive for an online program. It’s a great introduction to the fitness needs of people living with arthritis for fitness professionals who’ve worked with more able-bodied adults or who want to start teaching these types of classes at gyms or senior centers.

    As a yoga teacher, I’m obviously biased towards the benefits and structure of yoga, however I do think as yoga teachers we have some real advantages compared to other fitness professionals.

    Yoga provides us with a clear scope of practice, the 8 limbs. Those 8 limbs provide us with a wealth of resources to help people beyond physical movements. Not everyone is willing to go to a yoga class and this program is a great, safe substitute, but there’s a lot more power in the full Yoga for Arthritis program for this population. Yoga for people with arthritis empowers them to live fully in their bodies in all its aspects, including the ones that hurt, not just move their limbs.

    me round.jpg


    Christa Fairbrother

    E-RYT 200/RYT-500

    Aquatic Therapy Rehab Institute Certified

    Aquatic Fitness Professional & AFAP

    Autoimmune Yogi Warrior

    Lover of tea and books

    Certified Aqua Yoga Specialist

    Certified Yoga for Arthritis Instructor

  • 15 Oct 2019 10:39 AM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)

    Welcome to Conversations with Dr. Steffany Moonaz, a new series of chats with folks sharing their expertise and insights into all things yoga and Arthritis.  Our first guest is Amber Karnes of Body Positive Yoga. Dr. Moonaz and Amber dive into the world of the effects of body weight on Arthritis and how stigma can create barriers between the research and the lived experience of practicing yoga with arthritis and in a larger body. Amber shares the perspective of some research, the history behind the BMI (Body Mass Index) chart and some tools in navigating a yoga class as well as a doctors office with a fat positive and empowered perspective.

    Amber Karnes is the founder of Body Positive Yoga. She’s a ruckus maker, yoga teacher, social justice advocate, and a lifelong student of her body. Amber trains yoga teachers and studio owners how to create accessible and equitable spaces for wellness and liberation. She also coaches with human beings who want to build unshakable confidence and learn to live without shame or apology in the bodies they have today. She’s the co-creator of Yoga For All Teacher Training, an Accessible Yoga trainer, and a sought-after expert on the topics of accessibility, authentic marketing, culture-shifting, and community-building. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband Jimmy. You can find her at bodypositiveyoga.com.

    Link to Ragen Chastain's Article: What to Say at the Doctors Office

  • 30 Aug 2019 8:25 AM | Anonymous

    Photo by Cinthya Zuniga

    Melanie Williams currently serves as the Social Media Manager for Yoga for Arthritis. In this post, they share a bit about their relationship with yoga and where you can find their teaching! We are grateful for Melanie and their dedication to this important work.

    Content Note: This post contains mentions of disordered eating.

    Melanie first encountered yoga when they were 14 years old. The experience wasn't spiritual, inspirational, or even particularly memorable--it was a "Yoga for Fat Loss" DVD that they worked out along with on the carpeted floor of their parents' living room during the initial flare of a long-lasting eating disorder and episodic exercise obsession. Their initial conceptualization of yoga aligned with that experience: it was a physical practice intended to build lean muscle and burn calories.

    Of course, their initial conception was all wrong, but that realization would take a decade to set in.

    Popular Western media primarily presents yoga as a fitness regimen. When spiritual references are inserted, it's often done minimally and appropriatively, in ways that prop the presentation of yoga as a workout for thin, white, affluent women seeking to be their "best selves." Melanie internalized this. They did not go back to yoga for many years, and when they did, it was with the goals of cross-training and continued weight loss in mind.

    At 23, while struggling with their eating disorder and co-morbid alcohol dependence, Melanie began attending Vinyasa classes at a studio in San Francisco. While their initial goals were primarily physical, the presence of an excellent teacher made the experience of yoga in a class setting drastically different from that of moving with a video aimed at weight loss. They were lucky to have a first teacher who was kind and inclusive and who demonstrated a deep and inquisitive understanding of the context in which asana practice resides within the yoga teachings. Over time as Melanie practiced, new feelings started to arise. Physically, they started to feel sensations and body signals they had long been tuning out. Mirroring that increased interoception, they found themselves more able to view themselves and their behavior with a lovingly critical and discerning eye. While initial recovery took several more years and additional resources like therapy, the tools of yoga proved foundational in their healing process. Those first classes were integral.

    After a move to Washington D.C., Melanie completed a 200-hour teacher training in 2016. They began working in yoga studios and wellness spaces and volunteered with the Yoga & Body Image Coalition. They also began doing the hard work of healing. Throughout their initial recovery process, their body changed, and so did their practice and priorities. It became clear that they needed to center their teaching and later advocacy work around those who were being left out of contemporary yoga spaces. In recognizing how important those first Vinyasa classes were in their own healing and development, Melanie aims to make sure that all students are able to access an inclusive and supportive environment in which to practice and explore.

    Since that initial training, Melanie has completed certifications through Yoga For All and Accessible Yoga as well as trainings in trauma-sensitive yoga, biomechanics, and teaching methodology. They'll begin a 300-hour program in January 2020. They teach group and private classes in D.C., workshops that investigate body image, queer and trans identity, pleasure and agency, and embodying change, and adaptive yoga teacher trainings. They co-lead the Yoga & Body Image Coalition, work with both YFA and Accessible Yoga, and have served local and national professional organizations in advisory roles. You can hear them speak at the upcoming Accessible Yoga Conference in New York City in October 2019.

    You can find more of Melanie's writing, upcoming workshops, and their regular teaching schedule at foundspaceyoga.com.

  • 30 Jul 2019 2:20 PM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)

    Posey Daves currently serves as the Business Manager for Yoga for Arthritis. In this post, she shares a bit about her relationship with yoga and where you can find her teaching! We are grateful for Posey and her dedication to this important work.

    Posey started her yoga journey when she was 16 years old. She started practicing yoga to simply remain flexible during her athletic career as a tennis, soccer, volleyball player. As the years went on yoga become much more than just the asana (physical) practice. It became a way of life – on and off the mat.

    After her brother’s diagnose of Stage IV pancreatic cancer, Posey found herself going to her mat more often, connecting with herself in a deeper way, and finding deeper connection with her fellow yogis. She started to truly realize the full impact of yoga. The light bulb moment was to realize that yoga was helping her through hard times. Once her brother passed away from cancer, yoga was her saving grace- it gave her the greatest insight to what was happening in her mind, body, and spirit. Her yoga community helped her come out of an emotional funk.

    A few months later, Posey decided to become a yoga teacher because she wanted to help others connect with themselves through the power of yoga. Posey believes that everyone can practice yoga- no matter your age, gender, race, size, athletic ability, or otherwise- and it is a beautiful thing that everyone’s practices look different. She passionately believes in the power of yoga to transform lives – physically, mentally, and spiritually.

    Posey loves teaching yoga from beginner to advanced yogis. She genuinely loves sharing the practice of yoga with others. She believes everyone deserves to shine brightly and gain inner peace within themselves. As a teacher, Posey creates an environment for her students to shine and reconnect with their inner beings in a judgment free space. She is honored to help others reconnect with themselves through the power of yoga.

    Currently, Posey teaches at Foundations Island Yoga (Kent Island, MD) and Main Street Yoga Healing & Wellness (Ellicott City, MD). She teaches: Vinyasa (All Levels), Yin, Restorative, Yoga Nidra, and Gentle Yoga. She is also an Usui Reiki Practitioner. You can reach Posey at posey@arthritis.yoga.

  • 8 Jul 2019 11:40 AM | Anonymous

    In the fall of 2017, I left Baltimore with my daughter and moved in with my parents in Doylestown, PA. My mother was in her 5th year of a cancer that was predicted to take her life after just 18 months. We left my husband and son in Baltimore and drove back to spend every weekend with them. I set up a makeshift office space in their rec room, which is why many of my videos that year have Eagles signs and/or a bar in the background. That was the year I wrote my book, the year I was hit by a truck, the year I lost my mother. In the fall of 2018, after a summer back in Baltimore, I brought both kids to Doylestown. They adjusted to a new school, new community, new activities. We continued to spend every weekend in Baltimore with my husband. This time, I set up in my mother’s office, now left empty.

    I felt surrounded by her energy in that office--her many years of design accolades handing on the walls, her image at a lectern or shaking a hand. The room was lovely with a view of the front lawn and a bookcase behind me--far more suitable a backdrop for video conferences and recordings.

    Last week, I packed up again and moved back to Baltimore for the summer. It was bittersweet. My own family would be again reunited for the summer. I would be spared the grueling drive to Baltimore in Friday rush hour traffic. I could show up to my university for meetings instead of calling in by phone or Skype or Zoom.

    But I also left behind the chapter in which I showed up for my mother and cared for her until she passed. The chapter in which my father and I supported each other through our greatest loss. The chapter in which I returned every morning to my mother’s office chair.

    For those of you in the Baltimore area, I am glad to be closer to you again this summer. Please connect with me if you’d like to schedule a meeting or a session of any kind. I will also be traveling quite a bit this summer, with trainings scheduled in New York, Madison, San Francisco and Santa Barbara. I hope to see some of you there, and if you live near any of those locations, please reach out or come visit. For those of you who are only able to connect remotely, you will once again see the pillars of my Baltimore row house in the background.

    As I will be doing, I hope that each of you can find time this summer to reconnect with the people and activities that feed your soul and make you feel most alive, no matter where you are.

    With Love from Baltimore,


  • 25 Jun 2019 4:09 PM | Anonymous

    Jenn, pictured above, was diagnosed with arthritis at just two years old. Her pediatric rheumatologist recommended yoga.

    In our research, we have found that yoga decreases pain, improved mood, and bolsters quality of life for adults with arthritis. Less quantified, but perhaps more importantly, we have heard many stories describing how yoga can transform one’s relationship to the disease, to the body, to life with arthritis and even to life overall. While some of this transformation may happen in the natural course of living with arthritis, imagine growing up with arthritis--yes, from childhood--and with all of the tools of yoga right from the beginning.

    The first research study I was involved with after undergrad was a sibling-donor cord blood program. When a family had a young child with a transplant-treatable illness and was pregnant with a second child, we facilitated cord blood collection at birth and, if the blood was a match, it was used for a transplant in the older child. I learned a lot during that project about the challenges of multi-site research, the importance of standard operating procedures, and the power of research to save lives. I also learned about the remarkable resiliency of children with chronic diseases.

    In the decades since, I have been actively involved in Arthritis Foundation events targeted toward the 300,000 American children with arthritis and their families. July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. While most people are familiar with osteoarthritis, which increases in prevalence with age, injury, repetitive motion, and body weight, systemic forms of arthritis are more likely to emerge in middle-age or younger. In addition to these events, which focus on arthritis from birth to young adulthood, I’ve also worked with adults who have had arthritis since their youth.

    One thing that strikes me about these children is their level of comfort with medical care and the healthcare system. While my 11-year-old daughter still cries in anticipation of an occasional vaccine and has to be held during the procedure, I recall very small children holding out an arm for a routine blood draw or the insertion of an IV needle as though it were nothing. This bravery strikes me as both remarkable and quite sad.

    The other observation I’ve made about such children is the wisdom they carry, far beyond their years. Their illness has forced them to accept certain realities and challenges that most children will never consider, let alone endure. A friend in her early 30s who has had arthritis since age 2 told me that she was more prepared for aging than her peers because early in life she has already dealt with most of the physical and emotional ramifications of aging. 

    The Arthritis Foundation did not always have mechanisms for bringing young people with arthritis together. A former student recalled that when she was diagnosed as a teen, she would have been grateful just to know that there was someone else out there like her. Today, there are many ways to do so. 

    When I attend events for children with arthritis, I don’t just walk them through yoga poses with animal names. I teach them how changing their breathing can change their pain. I show them poses that can help them feel strong during challenges, I talk them through a relaxation practice that can help them with sleep and practices to use when they are feeling fatigued. I teach them about listening to their bodies, making choices that are non-harming, and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. 

    I once asked a middle-aged woman with rheumatoid arthritis why she hadn’t tried yoga sooner, because it had changed her life so profoundly. She responded that no one ever told her she could. Working with children is my way of showing them they can. They can practice self-care along with their medical care, and they can even teach their parents how to use these practices. 

    Whether you are a yoga professional or an adult with arthritis, consider contacting your local Arthritis Foundation office to find out how you can serve kids with arthritis near you. I promise that you will learn more than you teach.

  • 6 Mar 2019 6:39 PM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)

    Dear YFA Sangha,

    For those of you who are new to this community or just starting to explore, welcome. We look forward to serving you and getting to know you better. For those who have been following us for a while, you may have noticed that our 3 levels of training recently attained status as Approved Professional Development (APD) courses with the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). This matters, and I’ll tell you why.

    If you are a yoga student, it means that our teachers can be trusted. We offer high quality training programs that are grounded in both scientific evidence and ancient traditions. These trainings started with cutting edge research and have continued to develop and evolve over time to stay current and continue improving. The same, of course, can be said about the resources we offer to students- our DVD, book, online classes, and student manual. If you haven’t explored those, consider doing so.

    If you’re a certified yoga therapist, if means that you can use our trainings as continuing education as it becomes a requirement with IAYT. This is true for all 3 of our training programs, which I will explain below. If you decide to continue growing with us and become a mentor or a teacher trainer, you can trust that we will continue to expand our offerings and therefore your opportunities going forward.

    If you’re a yoga teacher, it means that our trainings are more likely to be accepted as transfer credits in yoga therapy programs, should you consider pursuing that in the future. It also means that more yoga therapy programs are likely to consider including our content as a training module.

    Because of this, we have decided to rename the program levels for clarity. The content has not changed, just the names. Whatever status you now enjoy with YFA will continue. Below are the changes:

     Previous  Present

    Level I: Teacher’s Intensive

    Yoga for Arthritis Level I
    Mentored Practicum

    Yoga for Arthritis Level II- Mentored Practicum

    Level II: Certification Course Yoga for Arthritis

    Level III- Advanced Training

    As you can see, the Mentored Practicum is now considered Level II, while the former Level II is now Level III. This is to make it clear that the Mentored Practicum is required between the other two trainings and is an essential component of our comprehensive training. Level III is will still result in YFA certification, but we changed the name to avoid confusion with IAYT certification. You’ll now see these changes reflected on the website and on our promotional materials. Please see here for more detail about each training, and email me directly with any questions you may have.

    Thank you for being a part of our evolution.

    Love and Light,


  • 30 Nov 2018 1:20 PM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)
    I’m a book lover. I love the contents of books, but I also love the objects themselves- the paper and ink. Perhaps it’s because I came of age before e-books, tablets, social media, and digital everything. Because of that, my fondest memories of discovery are from finding new information in the library archives or the Encyclopedia Britannica. I remember looking for something to do and wandering the shelves of my father’s office bookcase full of psychology texts of every era. When my grandparents passed and we went through their shared belongings, I took more books home than anything else. I especially appreciated the books with handwritten messages inside the front cover. This was a world into my grandparents’ lives and experience. It made the book somehow more special- more of a window into the past. And when the book was signed by the author, I wondered about my grandparents’ relationship to the author and what could be revealed from the way it was signed.

    Having written many articles, chapters, and now a full book, I know how much of an authors’ personhood resides within the book itself. I worked on that book every weekday morning from 5:30-7:30am before the rest of the household awoke- through a major move for my family, a serious car accident and traumatic brain injury, the passing of my mother. Every weekday morning, I sat quietly at my desk and poured my knowledge, experience, and ideas onto the page. There are pieces of me in the ink of every single book.

    And if you are reading this now, it means that my journey and yours are linked in some special way. I hope that you will find something unexpected and wondrous in the pages of this book, and I hope you will let me personalize it with a signature and a message just for you. Whether our paths have crossed personally, virtually, or simply energetically, I wrote this book for you. I hope that whatever is written inside the cover adds meaning to the book. And just maybe someday your grandkids will find it and have another little window into your beautiful life.


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