Bringing Yoga to Diverse Populations

A lot of folks hold strong stereotypes when they hear I’m a yoga instructor. They assume I work at a studio and teach asana based yoga classes. When I clarify, saying I’m a trauma-sensitive yoga instructor, many people are confused. The conversation usually goes one of two ways, I describe what trauma-sensitive yoga is in detail or I’m asked what the difference is between what I do and what “mainstream” yoga is. When I further describe sites I work at, such as addiction treatment programs and jail programs, it seems even more confusing for some. I get asked why these populations need yoga, why people who have “done something wrong” need it.

Instead of typing out a clarifying blog post, I’m going to let me own words speak for themselves. Here’s a recent interview I did for the Beyond Theory podcast, a podcast for The Meadows Behavioral Health.

Beyond Theory Podcast | S1 E12: Aditi Desai on Bringing Yoga to Diverse Populations

Check it out and let me know what you think! I hope this clarifies a lot of what I do and also what yoga can do for the world.

New Year – Opportunity to Restart

Another new year, another new year’s resolution…right?

Maybe not so much! We don’t have to wait until the new year to restart our dedication to our yoga practice. Each day is a new day and a new opportunity to restart your daily yoga practice.

This year, I began the new year with a 30 day yoga journey created by Yoga with Adriene! Each year a new year’s restart is offered up, allowing us all to start the new year on a new track. It’s important to note, however, that we are not restricted to January to start a new year. Adriene offers monthly calendars on her website, allowing each month to become a restart.


So get out there – find the calendar for you and restart your life! You’ll only have yourself to thank.

Yoga as Pain Treatment

Opioids are all over the news these days. Whether talking about them in an addiction context or as a form of pain treatment, medications are constantly being discussed and debated. Should we be using opioids for pain? What is the risk of addiction? How can we stop addiction from happening? Are there alternatives to drugs for pain?

While I’m not a medical physician, I have a great deal of personal experience with pain and know for a fact that yoga has helped me not only deal with the pain, but even alleviate it.

The first step, for me, was becoming aware of the pain and exactly where it was located. Simply taking a deep breath and focusing on where I was feeling the pain, what kind of pain it was, and determining whether I had to deal with it or if I could live with it. From there, I found yoga poses that targeted that specific spot, for me it was the lower back. After a few months, I noticed my pain steadily decrease. After a few more months, I even noticed I rarely felt the pain at all.

It takes some time and effort, but yoga does work. Recent studies and articles have shown that yoga can not only supplement a tradition pain treatment regimen which involved medications, but in some cases it can actually replace that regimen.

For specific poses, see a previous post: Yoga for Chronic Pain

*Please see a medical physician before starting any regimen for pain treatment.


Yoga for Chronic Pain

Recent studies have been coming forward suggesting that yoga and mindfulness meditation can help alleviate chronic pain. In some cases, studies have shown that these practices may be more effective than prescription pain killers.

Here are a few poses that may be helpful in alleviating chronic pain. Note: Please follow any advise by a licensed physician when dealing with chronic pain.

Deep Breathing

Place hands on belly and feel the physical sensation of the breath as it fills your stomach, lungs, and chest. Focus on any physical and emotional sensations that arise.

Mindfulness Meditation

Sit in a comfortable position. Maintain good posture with your back straight, shoulders rolled back and away from your neck. Begin breathing deeply and intentionally. Maintain focus on the breath. As thoughts or emotions arise, meet them where they are at without judgment. Give them minimal attention, then let them go, returning focus on the breath.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Lay on your back. Tense muscle groups throughout your body, starting with the feet. Hold the tension, focusing on that tension and the physical sensations that arise with the tension. Release the tension in that muscle group before proceeding to the next muscle group. Being with the feet and slowing move up the body, ending in the face/head. The last activity is to tense all muscles in the body, holding the tension, then releasing all muscles in the body. (Guided video Progressive Muscle Relaxation Meditation)

Seated Side Bends

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Seated Spinal Twists

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Child’s Pose

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Downward Facing Dog

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Mountain Pose

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Standing Side Stretches

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Warrior One

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Warrior Two

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Locus Pose

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Seated Forward Fold

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Supported Bridge Pose

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Legs Up the Wall

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Supine Twist

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Why Doctors Are Endorsing Yoga Instead of Opioids for Lower Back Pain

Yoga and Chronic Pain Have Opposite Effects on Brain Gray Matter

How Does Yoga Relieve Chronic Pain?


*All images from Google Images

Yoga for Back Pain

Chronic back pain is a common issue attended to by many physicians. While there are many medications available to manage pain, there are also very simple, low impact exercises that can reduce or even eliminate mild back pain all together.

Yoga is a great form of exercise that can ease pain and discomfort throughout the body. The great thing about yoga is that it allows one to focus on specific areas of the body if needed. There are many yoga poses that focus on stretching out the back muscles, thus potentially easing or eliminating back pain.

Here are some poses that can ease and reduce back pain (images from Google images):


Start on your hands and knees with your spine neutral (think of your back as a table top). Use your breath to move between the two poses, breathing in during cow pose and out during cat pose. Move slowly and with intention.

Benefits of cat-cow:

  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Strengthens and stretches the spine and neck
  • Stretches the hips, abdomen and back
  • Massages and stimulates the kidneys and adrenal glands
  • Relieves stress and calms the mind

Downward facing dog

Press equally between your hands and feet. Press back, pulling your chest towards your thighs. Bend the knees and elbows to reduce pressure in the shoulders. Pull your heels towards the mat or floor (it is not required for your heels to touch the mat/floor).

Benefits of downward facing dog:

  • Calms the brain, relieves stress
  • Energizes the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs

Half Pigeon (do pose on each side)

From downward facing dog take your right leg towards your arms and bring the leg down flat with your foot on the outer edge, facing the left hand. Square your hips and bend your right knee as much as is comfortable. Keep your torso up or fold it to the ground, being sure to listen to your body and making sure that your body isn’t feeling any pain. Repeat this pose with the left leg.

Benefits of half pigeon:

  • Stretches out hip rotators and flexors
  • Stretches out lower back and spine
  • Relieves tension

Standing forward fold

Stand with your feet together or slightly apart (about two fists distance), whichever feels more balanced. Gently fold from your hips, bending your knees as much as feels good. Take your hands to the floor or hold opposite elbows, using your arms to frame your head. Sway from side to side, slightly twisting at the waist. Settle into the forward fold, allowing gravity to pull your head and spine towards the ground. Stand in this pose as long as feels good. Roll your spine up slowly, one vertebrae at a time, coming into mountain pose (tadasana).

Benefits of forward fold:

  • Helps relieve stress
  • Stimulates the liver and kidneys
  • Stretches the hamstrings, calves, and hips
  • Strengthens the thighs and knees
  • Reduces anxiety

Supine twist (do pose on each side)

Lay flat on your back. Keep your left leg straight, take your right knee into your torso, and use your left arm to pull your knee to the left side. Take your right arm out to the right side, keeping your right shoulder blade to the floor, turning your head towards the right. You can take both knees bent together and twist them as well, whichever feels better for your lower back. Repeat this pose with the left leg.

Benefits of supine twist:

  • Helps release the lower back
  • Opens tight shoulders
  • Elongates spinal muscles
  • Calms the mind

Ease into each pose and create your own flow. Take time in each pose. Be sure to breathe deeply into each pose and if there is any pain adjust or come out of the pose.

Be sure to get professional medical advise before using these poses to treat any chronic or severe back pain.

Cervical Traction: One of Many Benefits

Neck pain has become a growing problem in our modern day society as we humans become more sedentary. As people are working more on computers, our necks are being maintained in more sedentary and flexed forward positions for long periods of time. This flexed forward position puts continual pressure on the front part of the inter-vertebral disc in the neck see. This continuous and constant pressure at the front of the disc leads to mechanical failure of the disc. This mechanical failure causes degenerative disc disease and can cause the disc to bulge to the sides and backwards into the spinal nerves and into the spinal canal and sometimes can lead to compression of the spinal cord. This degeneration can then cause increased pressure on the facet joints at the back of the spine which can lead to degeneration or arthritis in the facet joints leading to more neck pain. Gravity then causes a continuous downward pressure reinforcing the degeneration in the cervical spine of the neck.

Moving the neck in the opposite direction, opposing the downward force of gravity with an upward force, can take the pressure off of the disc and take pressure off of the cervical facet joints. This will not only relieve pressure and pain but can assist with reversing the disc bulging and degeneration.
There is no blood flow into the cervical facet joints or into the cervical disc. The disc are known to be the largest avascular structures in the body. This means they are the largest structures in the body that do not have blood flowing to them. Almost all the structures in the human body (the organs, bones, skin, etc.) receive their nutrients from the blood and get rid of their waste products into the blood. The cervical disc and the discs throughout the spine receive their nutrients from diffusion from surrounding tissue. This occurs when there is negative pressure in the disc such as when the spine is stretched. When the neck is moved in the opposite direction of gravity or upwards this creates a negative pressure in the disc allowing the nutrients to be reabsorbed into the disc and the negative pressure will also cause reabsorption of bulging or protruding disc.
How can the neck removed in the opposite direction appropriately and safely?

Cervical Traction. Cervical traction can effectively and safely provide just the right amount of force and pressure relief in the appropriate direction to assist with reducing and relieving neck pains, improving degenerative cervical spine conditions, and potentially preventing the disabling neck problems which are becoming common in our modern day society.

Comfortably relaxing in a cervical traction unit for 15 to 20 minutes per day just 2 to 3 days a week is all that may be needed.