Hey everybody! Today, I want to talk to you about bridging the gap between functional medicine and yoga. Last week I was enjoying myself in The Bahamas. I had the most amazing time there. It was quite interesting, during our vacation we met an anesthesiologist, who was a big Bikram fan. As we got talking, I was able to give him a little bit of coaching on the yoga.
He let me know that for five years he’s been going. He said he’s always a beginner, nothing ever improves. There’s not enough coaching or adjustments being made in the way they teach. They do the same sequence over and over again. After five years, he laughed and said, “I’m quite proud of myself because I keep going after five years.” Everybody asks if he’s a beginner, when he should be more flexible, more strong. But, with two laminectomies in his lumnar spine, he was quite tight in his pelvic structures, lumbar fascia, and everything else.
More importantly, nobody really taught him how to connect his mind to the body. I could tell, as smart as he was, he was connecting those dots that really got him into thinking, “Oh my goodness, I’ve been doing it all wrong!” That’s how our bodies work. We’re so habituated. Habituated in doing the thing, because that’s what we’ve always done. We don’t really question the underlying belief. He sincerely believe the Bikram yoga was healing, when, in fact, it can be creating more damage than good if you’re not brining awareness and self learning skills to tap into your own body and enjoy the journey.
Yoga is a Journey, Not a Destination
It’s not about external validation or getting into a certain pose. It’s more about the journey of how you are being and showing up in specific poses. That’s more important than the pose itself. It’s not always the destination. We never really reach the destination in life. So, that’s something I want to talk to you about today. How do you bridge the gap between functional medicine and yoga? How do we do that within the realm of the Functional Yoga Medicine Certification we offer through our program?
As you know, I went through the Institute of Functional Medicine. It was a long, windy process. It took me probably about eight year to complete from start to finish to learn everything and become fully board certified through the Institute of Functional Medicine. To me, it was the highest standard of education that I was willing to put forth the time, effort, and money to learn and get certified in.
I have no regrets about it, but I will tell you I had higher hopes. In retrospect, I think a lot about the things that I learned and how how they are applicable. Just like anything, because I’ve been in school for so long, I know we are taught a certain way of conducting ourselves when treating our patients. But, that’s the premise that I want to argue against and challenge.
Yoga is a Vehicle for Quieting the Mind
That’s why I set up and created functional yoga medicine. What I found is that a lot of the practitioners are busy treating, being technicians in the field. I don’t care if it’s acupuncture, holistic medicine, integrative nutrition, functional medicine, chiropractic, whatever the case may be. We’re busy being technicians. We do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. As a patient of autoimmunity for over 20 years, I can tell you that there is no such thing as one size fits all. There are no two patients that are the same.
Also, I have a doctorate degree in physical therapy. I can tell you a lot the structures in the human anatomy, but it’s not really about the structures, per se. It’s about the adaptive, habitual neurological patterns that govern how we move. So, movement is very important. That’s why yoga is really a movement to quiet the mind so that the mind can settle down in the body, long enough to have silence. Complete silence for meditation is why yoga came about, and some thing with Qigong and Tai Chi.
It’s all about silencing the mind and moving all of the kinks and metabolic wastes out of the body, so that we feel completely sound and silent, enough for our souls to take a seat in our body. But, nobody teaches us how our bodies are designed to function. I’m learning more and more about the new field of psychoneuroimmunology, where we talk a lot about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, collectively the autonomic nervous system.
Mind-Body Mastery is the Ultimate Gift
What we’re learning is that, while there is fight or flight in the sympathetic nervous system and common zen in the parasympathetic, there’s also a freeze option. When we go through certain traumas in our lifetimes, we’re not able to metabolize the trauma that happened to us, so it resides in our body. That chemical pool kind of creates this reactiveness to trigger a certain response. When similar conditions are met in our daily lives, it locks us up into this stressful situation.
So, knowing that, if we don’t teach our practitioners how to allow our clients to move through being stuck in those highly stressful patterns in the autonomic nervous system, how can we do anything and call ourselves holistic practitioners? I don’t care if you’re a yoga teacher, Qigong teacher, pilates instructor, fitness instructor, functional medical doctor, or whatever the case may be. You really have to bring lifestyle solutions to teach our patients how to really connect their mind to their body. The ultimate gift we can give them is mind-body mastery.
So, functional medicine, by definition, is all about getting to the root cause of your disease and taking and individualistic approach to natural healing. This involves utilizing all the things, East to the West, yin to the yang, whatever makes sense for the patient. There’s a certain way that we look at the systems based approach that’s we’re taught a certain way.
Giving the Gift of Mind-Body Mastery
But, my personal experience, as I became IFYMCP, which is Institute of Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner, was one that was overly focused on science and theoretical understanding, versus truly living this solution. As an autoimmune patient, I have to contend with all of the thoughts and feelings that come with living with an autoimmune condition. I also have a traumatic past, and something my autonomic nervous system just gets stuck in that cycle of suffering. It’s almost like my mind doesn’t know any better than to get stuck in that suffering cycle.
Unless I’m taught how to move beyond and through, to metabolize this stuck response, I’ll never fully absorb the vastness and healing that’s available to me. We teach patients to be dependent on a practitioner. That’s what we do, and that’s how we make the money. We want sick patients so that we can have a practice. I believe that is doing a disservice to our patients. That’s why I changed the model and started utilizing the Alkaline Method. That’s what I teach in my Functional Yoga Medicine Certification program.
The ultimate goal should be to allow our patients and clients to master their own body and mind. I knew that I wanted the practitioners to experience the healing impacts that are available to them first and foremost, not try to heal the patients from their brain, especially their left, analytical brain. There’s a lot of feelings, fear, and unspoken things that your patients are working with. I kid you not, during my training program it was touched upon, but we never really went deep into it. We were basically drinking all of the information and theoretical understandings out of a fire hose.
Healing is an Inside Job
So, what does it really mean to master your own body and mind? Why is that so important? Well, it means we learn how our body systems work, not to be trained as the practitioners to figure it out for the patients. What I’ve learned, is that every single patient or client has their own experience of life, patterns, conditioning, traumas, and tendencies that they bring to their own lives. When we focus on the root cause, we must understand our patients as much more than the systems based approach, like we’re taught in the Institute of Functional Medicine.
The root cause is much more than a theory. It’s an unhealthy relationship that’s perpetuated. It’s a deregulated autonomic nervous system that causes dysbiosis and digestive issues, stress response from our past traumas, reactiveness, and the habitual cycle and ongoing system failure that perpetuates the disease. Unless that is addressed, nothing will alter the patient’s prognosis.
Long-term, at best most practitioners are guessing about what to do with their patients. This is where I really want many practitioners like you and me to come forward and really talk about what’s not being addressed. We can’t put blinders on and just focus on what we know and what our expertise is. Healing is an inside job.
Taken from somebody who’s been really sick, it doesn’t matter what a great doctor you are, telling me exactly what I need. Unless I step into my own power and decide to help myself as a patient, nothing happen. This is why I created the Functional Yoga Medicine Certification program. It’s more than theoretical understanding. I wanted practitioners to understand their role in healthcare. You’re not a technician, expert, or healer. You’re the powerful mentor who helps your patients get into their own bodies.
Bridging the Gap Between Functional Medicine and Yoga
Start to really teach them how to gain mind-body mastery. Too many of you are practicing what you’ve learned in various programs. But, we all know that conventional methods of treating patients don’t work long-term. We must empower our patients to heal themselves. This means giving them the tools to their nervous system, through the practice of yoga and breathing. That affects their enteric nervous system stress response, which ultimately affects the inflammation in their body and calms that deregulated autonomic nervous system back down to the baseline.
The whole system needs to consider the psychoneuroimmunology in its entirety. Not in parts, not to just understand the theoretical basis, but to provide the living solutions, ultimately teaching our patients to tap into their own body’s signals, gaining mastery over their own body and mind. Healing really is an inside job. So, in the Functional Yoga Medicine Certification program, we bridge the gap in functional medicine, which has three pillars within the Alkaline Method framework.
The first pillar is the HPA axis and stress brain response. The second is the enteric nervous system and gut brain response. Then, the third pillar is the psychoneuroimmunology and immune brain response. We learn how to modulate our nervous system through the practice of yoga. In our FYMCP program, we define yoga as your opportunity for growth and abundance. It’s the ultimate connecting tool to the breath through movement. Through a series of poses, we turn inward to really connect the body to the mind.
Yoga is a State of Being
Yoga, remember, is a state of being, not doing. The poses don’t matter. It’s about the being and the journey. Yoga is an opportunity for growth and abundance, enhancing our relationship with ourselves and understanding ourselves first and foremost. It’s about science coming together with the timeless wisdom of yoga, tapping into the energy, meditation, breath, and silence to raise awareness and consciousness. Yoga allows our body and mind to expand beyond all possibilities. You are a truly powerful healing mentor, versus the health technician that you are taught to be.
That’s what we stand for and how we bridge the gap. We give clinicians and patients the necessary tools to read into their bodies and turn inward for the ultimate healing experience. healing is a journey, and a journey of a thousand miles starts with that one step. We must break the cycle of our commitment and habitual patterns of sick behaviors. That learned behavior needs to be shifted and changed.
All we can do, as clinicians, is empower our patients. That’s the biggest gift we can give them. You can be the one that changes lives forever. So, if that interests you, come join me in our Facebook group, Functional Yoga Medicine. We are accepting applications for FYMCP, so get on a call with me to learn more about the program. Subscribe to our podcast, the Functional Yoga Medicine Show, which is available on all platforms. I would be eternally grateful if you left us a positive review. It really helps with the algorithm and spreads the word to other practitioners. Thank you so much for listening today, I will talk to you next week.