COVID & My Yoga Retreat Fantasy (Blog)
By Kristine Kaoverii Weber | March 5, 2021
As we round the corner to a full year of COVID mayhem I notice I’m having more and more yoga retreat fantasies.
I think about long days of practice and learning and how much fun it would be to be with yoga people again for an extended period – either as a teacher or a student.
Sometimes my fantasy ends there, other times it gets more elaborate.
I get to be a student and I get to handpick my teachers. We all get tested and/or vaccinated first and then we escape somewhere for a week with no internet and no interruptions.
In real life, I don’t personally know any of these folks, but since I’m the one fantasizing, here goes: I’m the only student and these are all my old friends and teachers: Drs. Catherine Bushnell, Helene Langevin, and Holger Kramer – three researchers who’ve published extensively about the use of yoga for mental health and chronic illnesses.
So, I get to hang out with them for a week and ask them whatever I want.
Catherine works for the NIH and mostly studies pain – and she has been the principal investigator in many yoga studies and a super producer of pain and aging studies (and she looks like a fun person who would be totally up for my retreat!)
Helene is the director of NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and has published many articles on fascia and the role of stretching in reducing inflammation. She’s brilliant (and also adorable). In this video (starts around 13:40) she talks about how she did a study about fascia by stretching rats (which also involved petting them). Spoiler alert: the rats loved it.
And then there’s Holger, a young German researcher who cranks out meta-analysis about yoga like he’s making photo copies.
It’s summer and we go glamping on a lake somewhere. We practice silently in the morning, then we swim, take walks, eat delicious food, and chat.
We spend the evenings sitting around a campfire, drinking tea and making s’mores, and I get to hear all their stories about how they got into yoga research and listen to them gossip about conferences and the nutty people they’ve had to put up with in academia. They talk about what the latest studies are showing, where the research is going, and how they think yoga can be integrated into the health care conversation.
At the end of the week we’ve had so much fun that we make plans to do it all again next year.
I realize this is a geek-on-acid fantasy. But, until my fantasy karmically ripens into reality (never say never) I can always hang out with their writing.
Catherine recently published an exciting article. She looked at the effect of yoga as a potential complementary treatment for COVID-19.
Because inflammation is a huge factor in the disease and because we know that asanas, pranayama and meditation can mediate the inflammatory response, it makes sense to look at yoga as a possible adjunctive treatment.
Catherine’s study argues that inflammation can be modulated by various yoga practices. Yoga can also have a general, systemic regulating effect on cytokines (important in immunity and inflammation), can improve vagal tone (very important in mediating the stress response), and enhance melatonin activity (related to sleep, mood, affect, emotion and mental health functioning.)
High stress over time (allostatic overload) is problematic in just about any illness – so getting stress under control should be a top priority for health care (and of course for the health care workers who are under an inordinate amount at the moment). Catherine’s research shows why yoga should be part of the treatment plan.
I have been somewhat hesitant to make assertions about the benefits of yoga during COVID because there’s a huge, virtual, screaming juggernaut that warns us all to stay in our lanes and leave it to the experts.
But, after reading Catherine’s study, it’s patently clear that I, that we, ARE the experts when it comes to helping folks learn to regulate their nervous systems and mediate the stress response. Frankly, unless they’ve been trained in nervous system focused yoga, most health care professionals don’t have the skill set that a well-trained, experienced yoga professional has to help people learn to endogenously shift their nervous system.
Feel free to step up here. If you are a yoga professional, what you do is important at this moment in history, much more important than the health care system can see yet. Cite this research. And, during these trying times, help the world build greater resilience.
Reference: Bushell, W., Castle, R., Williams, M., Brouwer, K., Tanzi, R., Chopra,D., & Mills, P. (2020).The Meditation and Yoga Practices as Potential Adjunctive Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 Infection and COVID-19: A Brief Overview of Key Subjects. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 26 (7), 547-556. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2020.0177
Please check out my online course “The Science of Slow” which will help you explain the benefits of slow, mindful practice and help them understand why the time they spend with you is just as important as any other fitness or self-care activity they regularly engage in.
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This! Says this Clinical Research RN + Women’s Wellness Educator + Yoga Teacher. Please, please, please ping me for your retreat when fantasy becomes reality!
Will do, I have a feeling this retreat is going to get a little bigger. 😊
I’m so ready for your retreat! Sounds just lovely. Thank you for all the information.
Thanks Linda – please join us! 😊
awesome! You’re doing great work Lisa – would love to hang out with you too!
Lovely fantasy! Can you provide the citation for Catherine’s study? Thanks!
Thank you! I just updated the blog, pretty hilarious that I left that out LOL! Here it is:
Bushell, W., Castle, R., Williams, M., Brouwer, K., Tanzi, R., Chopra,D., & Mills, P. (2020).The Meditation and Yoga Practices as Potential Adjunctive Treatment of SARS-CoV-2 Infection and COVID-19: A Brief Overview of Key Subjects. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 26 (7), 547-556. http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2020.0177
A brave and important blog. Thanks for pointing us towards this research as validation of what we as Yoga teachers know is so good for human health and wellbeing. I have a feeling your “fantasy” may become your reality, Christine 🙏🏻
Sign me, up, baby!
I would love love to be a part of your retreat when it becomes a reality!! Keep me in the loop. I am a mental health therapist.. working in behavioral health integration in primary care..and a yoga enthusiast and teacher.
Ah, you’re doing great work Sharon – yes please join us!
Kristine, your dreams, intuition and karma are so vivid and vibrant ! Yes, sign me up also for this retreat🙏🕉
Great Jane – we’ll have a blast!
Yes and yes and yes!
Have you invited them yet?!!!
This blog was so fun to wake up to and read and laugh with and anticipate! Can not wait to read the research next and share with friends, yoga teachers and yoga students. Also, just got a note that one of my 81 year old students has appointment for her J and J COVID Vaccine this month! This is a great day! and “a great life if you don’t weaken”, as my grandmother used to say. (?) Great plan Kristine. Thanks.
Thank you Carol!
not yet. I’m still fantasizing!😊😊😊
Wow! I love this fantasy. If we can build up on it, we can add some yoga thaï massage during this wonderful retreat and it will be perfect. 🙏
This blog post sits deep with me this morning. As a yoga teacher, my personal covid recovery has impacted all I do. I am excited and intrigued by this research!
That’s great Emily and I hope you are feeling better by the day. take good care.
Love this post and thank you as always for selecting and sharing the key research with us yoga teachers. Your work fills that massive, needless, frustrating gap in the YTT world. Count me in on the retreat!!
Great Beth! We’ll have a blast and thank you for your kind words – I am really grateful – and agree that there is a gap for sure!
Count me in!
Yes, please come!
I’m also fantasising about yoga retreats, with less emphasis on the retreat aspect and more on the connection with other yoga people aspect. Had enough retreat and solitude for the time being! Great post.
So true! Thanks Caroline!
Great article and yes bet that retreat will come about in no time. As a Yoga teacher in Ireland, now online to anywhere in the world I am super excited to hear of those studies. It will be fantastic to show to the world what we know to be a natural way to improve health and wellbeing. Thanks so much Kristine for your blogs.
Aw thanks Brenda! And I’m so glad you are teaching online – great work!
Yes! Yes! Yes!
As a speech pathologist working with seniors post-COVID diagnosis, chair yoga would be an incredible addition to healing. I too have a vision for implementing yoga into therapy. Please, let’s all fantasize/envision/dream together until this becomes a REALITY!
“Without a vision, people perish.” Literally. ❤️🙏❤️
thank you Kim – and yes I agree – we need vision!
I love your retreat fantasy, and appreciate your sharing it! I will definitely look into the articles you mentioned in this blog. Thank you Kristine!
You’re so welcome Karen!
Hey! I know some of those faces! I too have been dreaming about a yoga retreat, and wishing for the day we can all be in the same room together.
Thanks for sharing Kristine!
Thanks Priscila! i hope you are doing well. xo