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Sharp Health News

Making yoga accessible to all

Nov. 12, 2020

Dr. Ingrid Yang, author of the newly published book Adaptive Yoga, with one of her students.

Dr. Ingrid Yang, author of the newly published book Adaptive Yoga, with one of her students.

Dr. Ingrid Yang, a Sharp Rees-Stealy hospitalist at Sharp Memorial Hospital, has already experienced and accomplished so much in her life, it makes you wonder what’s left for her to conquer. After all, when you’re a doctor, intellectual property attorney, yoga instructor and jazz singer, it raises the question, “What hasn’t she accomplished?”

“I only do what I love. When you do what you love, your energy is limitless,” says Dr. Yang. “These have all been distinct chapters in my life, none of which are completely closed. I focus mostly on ‘doctor-ing’ and ‘yoga-ing’ now. For me, the key is to wholeheartedly enjoy the activity in which I am engaged.”

Adaptive yoga for a range of disabilities
Now, she can add one more item to her list of achievements: published author. Her labor of love is a comprehensive book called Adaptive Yoga, released Nov. 11, 2020. The 360-page book addresses nine specific conditions: low back pain, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, amputations, spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.

Where some might see challenges or obstacles, Dr. Yang sees opportunity. “I think most people with disabilities believe that yoga is not available to them because they don't look like the billboard yoga models,” she says. “First of all, no one does. Not even the models in real life. Secondly, I believe that yoga will benefit those with disabilities more than anyone else. Yoga is designed to be modified with a whole host of props and breathing techniques, not to mention the selection of yoga style. Because modifications are intrinsic in the yoga practice, yoga is meant for people of all abilities.”

Designed for students, yoga teachers and physical therapists seeking to teach these students, each chapter of the book focuses on an in-depth analysis of the kinesiology and physiology of how yoga helps a particular condition. Included are poses selected specifically for each condition, complete with benefits, precautions, detailed instructions, photos, modifications and challenge variations.

Yoga as rehabilitation
“I initially began my residency as a rehab doctor, specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation,” says Dr. Yang. “When prescribing treatment plans, I would often incorporate yoga postures and techniques. Once I discovered a growing interest in the yoga aspect of treatment plans, I began to introduce mindfulness-based practices and breath work. It was gratifying to observe how much these practices helped patients get through their rehab programs with grace and acceptance. I saw a need within traditional rehabilitation programs for yoga and wanted to help fill those gaps.”

When describing the appeal of yoga, she shares a simple philosophy. “It’s the movement and subsequent freedom in the physical body,” says Dr. Yang, who has been practicing yoga for 23 years and teaching for 21 years. “There’s also the linkage of movement and breath, which allows us to be grounded in the present moment. The aspect of yoga that most appeals to me is the mindfulness. I always joke that yoga is the gateway drug to mindfulness.”

Not surprisingly, Dr. Yang has embraced this latest project in the same manner in which she has tackled all of her pursuits — wholeheartedly.

“I hope that it heralds a new chapter for yoga therapy in utilizing the intersection of yoga and medicine to enable individuals to live with better health and more fulfillment,” she says.

In conjunction with the release of her book, Dr. Yang will conduct a full-day, livestream workshop on adaptive yoga on Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021, along with Dr. Jenn Chang, DPT, certified yoga therapist and founder of The Movement Mechanic. For more information, visit ingridyang.com.

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