MediYoga improves health

By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun

Photo submitted by Helen Miller Lynch.
MediYoga classes will be offered to valley residents free of charge through a partnership with Kern County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services and MediYoga USA Education Director Helen Miller Lynch. The simple breathing and relaxation exercises can be done in a chair or on a floor mat with healthcare benefits of reducing anxiety and improving quality of life.

Whether it be in a chair or on a mat on the floor, most MediYoga participants feel the same after practicing its techniques: much better.

A study conducted last year in the Kern River Valley verified an improved quality of life after just 12 weeks of classes for those with symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Through a new grant, additional MediYoga classes will be offered free of charge beginning the first week in January so more residents can take advantage of its healthcare benefits.

MediYoga is a discipline of using simple yoga techniques as a therapeutic tool to treat and prevent health problems. This is done primarily by learning how to control breathing using gentle breathing exercises and relaxation from a chair, bed, or floor mat depending on the individual’s condition. It has been so successful at reducing the risk of heart attacks that the program has been incorporated into the healthcare systems in Sweden and Norway.

In September 2017, Kern Valley Healthcare District (KVHD) received a grant from Dignity Health to examine the effects of MediYoga on the quality of life for 80 adults who had symptoms of cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure and heart problems. The set of classes were taught by local resident Helen Miller Lynch, the internationally recognized Director of Education for MediYoga USA, who has been investigating the possibility of integrating the program into the American healthcare system.

The participants were taught to consciously change their way of breathing and become mindful of themselves by meditating to allow greater physical, mental, and emotional control over their bodies. Miller Lynch stated that focusing on the body and mind together creates a balance that can be therapeutic by helping people control their own health issues. Some of the participants stated that because they were more relaxed, they could breathe better, reduce their blood pressure, manage pain levels, and sleep better.

Questionnaires were collected from the participants before and after the program. After 12 once-per-week group sessions and 4 days per week of practice at home, the data showed that their perceived cardiovascular healthcare problems were minimized and their quality of life had improved. They reported having less fatigue and more energy for everyday life.

Diane Holcomb, a physical therapist at KVHD, has already integrated MediYoga techniques into her therapy sessions for patients with a wide variety of conditions, including pulmonary, cardiac, orthopedic and stroke. She stated that deep-conscious breathing calms them, and knowing that they have the ability to control their anxiety gives them confidence and hope. Holcomb has taken MediYoga classes herself as a way to reduce anxiety levels caused by personal family caregiving duties, and has referred other family caregivers and patients to the MediYoga classes for its widely recognized benefits.

For 2019, Kern County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services is partnering with Miller Lynch through its own grant to provide free MediYoga classes which are open to all adult residents in the Kern River Valley. The goal is to not only improve physical health, but to aid in the reduction of stress and anxiety to improve mental health, as well.

The first set of 12-week classes will run from the first week in January to the third week in March. There will be four sets of MediYoga classes to choose from:
Kern County Library in Lake Isabella
Fridays 12:30-1:45 p.m. on floor mats from 1/4-3/22
Tuesdays 10:00-11:00 a.m. on chairs from 1/8-3/26
Senior Center in Lake Isabella
Wednesdays 5:00-6:15 p.m. on floor mats from 1/2-3/20
Fridays 10:00-11:00 a.m. on chairs from 1/4-3/22

The classes are small at only 15-20 people, so participants are urged to preregister. For the Library classes, call the Lake Isabella branch at (760) 549-2083 by December 22 (it is closed for the holidays from December 23 through January 1.) For the Senior Center classes, there is a sign-up sheet on the lobby bulletin board outside the KRV Senior Citizens office, or call that office at (760) 379-1428.

A second set of four classes will be offered from March 20 to June 11 with sign-up information to be provided in March.