HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS
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
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.
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 email@example.com.
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,
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.
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:
Level I: Teacher’s Intensive
Yoga for Arthritis Level II- Mentored Practicum
Level II: Certification Course Yoga for Arthritis
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,
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.
SHOP NOW! AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK & E-BOOK
I joined the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center in fall of 2003. At that time, plans were underway for a small pilot study of yoga for people with rheumatoid arthritis. I came to help design and execute what would eventually expand to become the largest randomized controlled trial of yoga for arthritis and the topic of my doctoral dissertation. As the study expanded, we were able to bring in additional yoga instructors so that I wasn’t the only interventionist leading the 16-class series we had developed. In an effort to ensure the class was consistent, I put together a simple manual with poses and adaptations.
My husband took photos of me with his point-and-click camera (this is before phones had cameras in them) in our row house living room. We later realized that the manual could be adapted for students in order to assist with home practice. This manual has been in use for the past 15 years as Yoga for Arthritis became an organization with professional training programs around the country.
With its widespread use, I realized that the research training manual needed an upgrade. I also wanted more chair variations and images of the diverse people who live with arthritis- men and women, young and old, large and small, dark and light. Ann Swanson took the lead in arranging two photos shoots. We brought it people with arthritis who were willing to serve as our models, and we worked to revise the formatting and language for each pose. We also updated the articles in the back that serve as “homework” for students in the 8-week course.
If you are a yoga professional, we hope this new manual gives you more ideas of pose variations to use with your students and clients. If you are teaching the evidence-based 8-week series, this manual is a must-have for your students. It also is a nice tool for supporting their home practice in between yoga sessions.
If you are a yoga student, we hope the manual is informative and inspiring. Ask your yoga teacher/therapist which variations might be a good fit for you, and use your own internal compass to play with how they manifest in your unique body-mind. Consider reading the articles for more information about the science and practice of this work, and share it with your doctor as a way to discuss your self-care strategies.
This new student manual has been a long time coming. We appreciate everyone’s patience through the years it took us to get there. It is just one of the many upgrades you’ll be seeing as we go through a phase of growth and expansion. Let us know what you think of the manual and how you are using it. And please share more ideas of how we can continue to serve you best.
ORDER YOUR YOGA FOR ARTHRITIS STUDENT MANUAL
Ever since I was a young girl I knew I wanted to help others. However, I didn't know how I could make that a career. During high school I discovered psychology. I absolutely fell in love with the field. I even chose my college, Washington College, because of their psychology department. I have my B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in clinical counseling. After college, I attended Lynn University where I received my Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. I worked as an intern counselor and realized counseling was not my calling. I met incredible people and was actually a good counselor, however, my heart and soul wasn't fully committed. I needed to change, but to what?
I took a break from psychology and jumped into construction... because that makes sense! People laugh all the time about that career transition, simply because I never showed interest in construction before then. I knew very little about construction when I started, but now I know the ins and outs of the industry. I spent nearly 3 years working in construction as a Project Coordinator. There were many highs and lows. It was quite stressful, so I connected with my yoga practice again. I had been practicing yoga on and off for 14 years at that point.
I discovered my passion - my purpose. My purpose was to help others through the power of yoga. I found a 200 hour yoga teacher training program at Zeal Yoga Studio in Jupiter, FL. Immediately, I knew this was my calling. I put in my notice at the construction company, graduated yoga teacher training and a week later, I was on my journey to become a full-time yoga teacher.
I am currently teaching in Annapolis, MD at at Blue Lotus Yoga & Barre Studio and on Kent Island, MD at Foundations Island Yoga. I also offer private individual and group lessons in the Annapolis area. I am fortunate because I have students of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. My teaching styles are slow flow vinyasa, gentle, yin, and restorative yoga.
I am a firm believer in "Yoga for All." Anyone and everyone can practice yoga. Yes, it will look different from one person to the next, but how powerful and beautiful is that? Yoga helped me become the person I am today. I want to help others discover their OWN power through yoga.
I've met some of the most remarkable people in various yoga communities. I am looking forward to meeting and helping even more people with the yoga community through Yoga for Arthritis.
You can connect with me directly at poseytheyogi.com or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ever since I was a young girl I knew I wanted to help others. However, I didn't know how I could make that a career. During high school I discovered psychology. I absolutely fell in love with the field. I even chose my college, Washington College, because of their psychology department. I have my B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in clinical counseling. After college, I attended Lynn University where I received my Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling. I worked as a intern counselor and realized counseling was not my calling. I met incredible people and was actually a good counselor, however my heart and soul wasn't fully committed. I needed to change, but to what?
I took a break from psychology and jumped into construction, because that makes sense. People laugh all the time about that career transition, simply because I never showed interest in construction before then. I knew very little about construction when I started, but now I know the ins and outs of the industry. I spent nearly 3 years working in construction as a Project Coordinator. There were many highs and lows. It was quite stressful, so I connected with my yoga practice again. I had been practicing yoga on and off for 14 years at that point.
I discovered my passion - my purpose. My purpose was to help others through the power of yoga. I found a 200 hour yoga teacher training program at Zeal Yoga Studio in Jupiter, FL. Immediately, I knew this was my calling. I put in my notice at the construction company, graduated yoga teacher training and a week later, I was on my journey to become a full time yoga teacher.
I am currently teaching in Annapolis, MD at Blue Lotus Yoga & Barre Studio and on Kent Island, MD at Foundations Island Yoga. I also offer private individual and group lessons in the Annapolis area. I am fortunate because I have students of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. My teaching styles are slow flow vinyasa, gentle, yin, and restorative yoga.
I am firm believer in "Yoga for All." Anyone and everyone can practice yoga. Yes, it will look differently from one person to the next, but how powerful and beautiful is that? Yoga helped me become the person I am today. I want to help others discover their OWN power through yoga.
I've met some of the most remarkable people in various yoga communities. I am looking forward to meeting and helping even more people with the yoga community through Yoga for Arthritis.
It has been my 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 my yoga teachings but in my work as a marketing and web design professional. I share inclusive language and imagery and write for our community devoid of the glossy edits that are all too common in today's yoga media.
My home studio is 359° Yoga in Wyandotte, Michigan where I teach Yin Yoga and head up Community Outreach Programs. As a trauma survivor, I have become an advocate for at-risk youth by joining the Connection Coalition team of certified trauma-informed yoga teachers. My teachings reflect a path of healing through yoga by including mindfulness practices and gentleness. With a beginners heart, I always teach to my students at any given time allowing for a dynamic flow that is intuitive and ties in elements of playfulness and laughter.
I am a mother of two and I am active in bringing yoga to community schools offering kids yoga clubs, family yoga by donation and trauma informed teen yoga at the community high school.
I purposefully associate myself with yoga non profits and mission driven organizations. I am a proud member of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition Leadership Team and I offer 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. I also offer my 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 I set out to do in this world, make yoga a practice that is equally available to all.
You can connect with me directly at yogabusinessconnection.com or send me an email at email@example.com.
Center Photo Credit: Cassie Padula