December 6, 2017

Through Yoga, SCU Teaches Clinicians to Heal the Mind and Body

Yoga Foundations for Healthcare Professionals” course starts Jan. 8

“Yoga Foundations for Healthcare Professionals” course starts January 8, 2018.

From cat cafes offering vinyasa sessions with feline friends, to Beyonce-themed classes that encourage participants to “Namasbey,” modern-day yoga trends are a testament to America’s growing love affair with the 5,000-year-old practice.

What many may not realize is that yoga can provide much more than a mid-week mood boost: It can better your health.

Studies have found that yoga can reduce anxiety, depression and insomnia. The practice has also been shown to improve quality of life in cancer patients and to treat chronic pain.

“Yoga therapy is a new field that is only about 30 years old. Many healthcare providers recognize that yoga could be beneficial for their patients, but they may not really know what a yoga therapist is or how to recommend treatment for a patient’s particular needs,” says Amy Wheeler, a psychologist and certified yoga therapist with over 25 years of experience in her field. Now, along with faculty member Matthew J. Taylor and program director Laura Schmalzl, Wheeler is leading a first-of-its-kind yoga training program at Southern California University of Health Sciences.

Yoga Foundations for Healthcare Professionals” is a 200-hour program that includes four online courses and four weekend-intensive, in-person trainings. It will prepare current and budding healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive assessments, diagnoses and therapeutic plans for their patients.

Courses are tailored to address both physical and mental health, and designed to benefit a wide range of professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, nurses, physical therapists, physician assistants and psychologists. The 200-hours of coursework can also provide a stepping-stone for those who are interested in pursuing a full yoga therapy training with the International Association for Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

With a focus on holistic medicine, patient-centered care and hands-on learning, SCU is a fitting institution to offer this unique, multidisciplinary curriculum, according to Wheeler. “To our knowledge, this is the only yoga program of its kind geared specifically toward healthcare practitioners,” she says.

Matthew Taylor first became a yoga “believer” after he opened a rehabilitation clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona over a decade ago. His clinic hired a yoga instructor and Taylor began attending classes. After just a few sessions, the back pain he had dealt with for years disappeared. “Well, that really caught my attention,” he says. Now, the medical evidence backing yoga as therapy for a number of chronic issues has grown exponentially.

How does it work? Yoga, Taylor says, taps into the autonomic nervous system, which controls the body’s unconscious functions, like breathing and digestion. The system has two main divisions: sympathetic, the body’s “fight or flight” response, and parasympathetic, which slows the heart and conserves energy. While the parasympathetic system is important for stressful situations, often people are “stuck” in this heightened place, which can lead to increased heart rate, anxiety, tight muscles and more. By contrast, yoga focuses on slowing the heart rate in order to activate the body’s parasympathetic system.

“The tools of yoga—not just postures, but breathing and meditation—are being shown to help reset the autonomic nervous system and turn on that relaxation response,” Taylor says. Taylor hopes that the “Yoga Foundations” program will aid in molding future practitioners who can address the “Triple Aim” of healthcare, a framework developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

“When we talk about the ‘Triple Aim,’ we want to improve patient experience, improve population health and reduce the cost of healthcare,” Taylor says. “Those are three things that the integration of yoga therapy into any health practice can help to achieve.”

We are now accepting applications for the Yoga Foundations for Healthcare Professionals course launching January 8, 2018.

About Southern California University of Health Sciences

Founded in 1911, Southern California University of Health Sciences is located on a 25-acre campus in Whittier, California. SCU, one of the nation’s leading universities for integrative health, recently launched the first interprofessional, integrative Masters in Physician Assistant program of its kind. SCU is comprised of Los Angeles College of Chiropractic (LACC), College of Eastern Medicine, College of Science and Integrative Health, and School of Professional Studies. A pioneer in interprofessional, integrative health education, SCU offers programs leading students to successful and significant careers in patient care. For over a century, SCU faculty has drawn upon their experience and their passion for teaching to educate practitioners who are transforming the face of healthcare around the world.


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