Yogic techniques for HIV-Aids
It takes a great deal of courage to face a disease that seems to have no cure as yet. Many people with HIV experience intense feelings of fear, hopelessness, anxiety, loneliness, and depression. Yoga cannot take the place of professional counseling in dealing with severe distress, but Yoga techniques can do much to help one reduce excessive fear and anxiety, learn stress-coping skills, and build inner strength through the relaxation and self-awareness training of meditation.
Yoga is the practice of an ancient system of breathing exercises, postures, stretching exercises, and meditations based on Ayurvedic medicine and Indian philosophy and religion. The aim of Yoga is to help the individual balance the body`s chakras or energy centers. Its practitioners believe that yoga can aid in detoxification, strengthen particular organs, improve stamina, and alleviate chronic fatigue. Although it is certainly not necessary for someone who is HIV positive to take a specially designed yoga class, it could be beneficial. Yoga is quickly gaining ground as an important complementary therapy in the treatment of HIV and AIDS because of its adaptability and its physiological and psychological benefits.
Stress, whether chronic or acute, produces biological changes that are not only damaging, but can be lethal for anybody, especially someone whose immune system is compromised. With all this stress, tuning out the world through yoga, even for a few minutes, can be difficult. That`s where HIV/AIDS yoga classes come in. "To support the yoga practices, we need sangha, a community of like-minded people. This is especially true in healing, when pain and depression can so easily interfere," says Jivana Heyman, yoga instructor at Integral Yoga Institute and Macy`s Living Well Program at California Pacific Medical Center, both in San Francisco.
Heyman`s classes not only utilize poses and yoga philosophy that are aimed at alleviating the stress associated with HIV and AIDS, but also combine meditation and group sharing as a way to deal with "latent emotions", which he believes can cause or expedite the progression of illness.
Brooke Myers, yoga instructor at the Iyengar Institute of New York, in New York City, emphasizes a more physical style of yoga in her class for people living with HIV and AIDS. The Iyengar approach rests on the belief that through the physical body you can quiet the mind. Most of the poses are chest expanding, often referred to as "open postures", and require some type of prop, such as a bolster or chair.
Myers believes that there are four poses that everyone should do each day, especially individuals affected by HIV. These are the headstand, shoulderstand, the bridge, and the plough. This group of poses promotes strength, flexibility, relief from pressure on the abdominal organs, and enhancement of circulation.
Phil, a yoga student at The Yoga Group in Denver, Colorado, says that yoga helps to keep his outlook positive, an important part of dealing with HIV.
Jean Boulte has been taking yoga class at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City once a week since he was first diagnosed with AIDS in 1986. Boulte has a sincere belief that his commitment to a holistic approach is what saved his life. "You need to do many good things for yourself—take the medication, eat healthy, get plenty of rest, and pay attention to the mind and body," he says. "Yoga lets me disconnect from everything," he says. "It is purifying, and the body thrives on purity."
Steve McCeney takes yoga classes in Denver, Colorado, at The Yoga Group. He has lived with HIV for over fourteen years and believes that yoga has helped him in many ways. "There are all sorts of things you gain from yoga," he says, "strength, flexibility, concentration, increased se)lf-awareness." Yoga has also helped McCeney to manage the symptoms of HIV, along with the side effects of his medication. "As you become more adept at yoga, you learn which poses can help you, depending on how you are feeling physically. There are certain poses that assist in relieving fatigue, diarrhea, anxiety, depression."
The centers mentioned here offer yoga classes specially tailored for people living with HIV and AIDS :
• Integral Yoga Institute of New York, 227 West Thirteenth Street, New York, New York, (212) 929-0586
• San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute, 770 Dolores Street, San Francisco, California, (415) 821-1117
• Iyengar Institute of New York, 27 West 24th Street, Suite 800, New York, New York, (212) 691-9642
• The Yoga Group, Denver, Colorado, classes held at various locations, (303) 575-1673, http://www.yogagroup.org/
• For more information regarding HIV/AIDS and yoga: Macy`s Living Well Program at the California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco, California, (415) 923-3106
In Iyengar Yoga, the sequencing of postures is important. Below are two sequences of postures for HIV/AIDS.
Primary Sequence of Poses for HIV/ AIDS 1. Handstand (Adho Mukha Vkrasana)
2. Peacock pose (Pinca Mayurasana) (optional pose, to be done only if student is strong enough and can perform other poses).
3. Supported downwards dog (Ado Mukha Svanasana) (with head supported by a block).
4. Headstand (Sirsasana) (students with neck problems or weakness may try chair headstand).
5. Inverted staff pose (Viparita Dandasana) (supported with chair).
6. Supported bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) (supported by setu bandha bench or blocks).
7. Simple cross leg pose (Sukhasana) (leaning forward, head supported by chair).
8. Supported shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) (use chair or halasana bench for support).
9. Supported plow pose (Ardha Halasana) (use chair or halasana bench for support).
10. Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) (with buttocks supported by blankets or bolsters).
11. Supine bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) (with back and head supported by blankets or bolsters)
12. Supported relaxation pose (Savasana) (with back and head supported by blankets or blosters).
Alternative Sequence of Poses for HIV/ AIDS
This sequence is for students who should not perform the full inversions, but it can be done by others as well.
1.Supported downwards dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) (with head supported by a block).
2. Supported head/knee forward bend (Janu Sirsasana) (support head with blankets or blosters).
3. Three part forward bend (Triang Mukhaikapada Pascimottanasana) (support head with blankets or blosters).
4. Seated forward bend, or Halasana (use chair or halasana bench for support).
5. Supported half bound lotus forward bend (Ardha Baddha Padma Pascimottanasana) ( support head with blankets or blosters).
6. Supported shoulderstand (West stretch) (Pascimottanasana) (support head with blankets or blosters).
7. Supported plow pose (Ardha Salamba Sarvangasana) (use chair for support).
8. Supported bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) (supported by setu bandha bench or blocks).
9. Legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) (with buttocks supported by blankets or blosters).
10. Supine bound angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) (with back and head supported by blankets and blosters).
11. Supported relaxation pose (Savasana) (with back and head supported by blankets or blosters).
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AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician using certain clinical or laboratory standards.
American Institute of Preventive Medicine