WEST OCEAN CITY– A new yoga practice aims to help those dealing with cancer and chronic illness.
Yoga therapist Chantal Birch Ashton has opened an office in the OC Wellness Center to offer private sessions to patients struggling with chronic illness or pain.
“Everything is catered to the individual,” she said. “It’s not a cookie cutter-type practice.”
Ashton, who has a background in holistic health, has been teaching yoga for years. She studied integrative yoga therapy and worked with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a board certified holistic health coach.
When Atlantic General Hospital (AGH) launched its integrative health program last year, Ashton was quick to get involved. The program, according to AGH officials, is meant to provide the hospital’s patients with a list of vetted alternative therapy providers. Dawn Denton, the hospital’s community education coordinator, says medical professionals have come to realize that “one more pill” isn’t always the right answer.
“We don’t always have a magical medical formula to cure what somebody’s dealing with,” Denton said. “You have to look outside the box.”
And so AGH now has a list of roughly 20 alternative therapy preferred providers—people who offer services such as yoga therapy, reflexology, reiki, acupuncture and massage—to give to patients. Alternative therapies can prove particularly helpful to those dealing with prolonged illnesses.
“As we’re living longer people are having more and more difficulties with chronic conditions,” Denton said.
Ashton says yoga therapy, which incorporates yoga and Ayurveda—yoga’s sister science, which works to heal the body and mind through balancing the basic constitution—can help those dealing with medical conditions in a variety of ways.
“Holistic practices see the whole person, beyond the symptoms of the disease,” Ashton said. “Sometimes traditional medicine will tend to focus solely on the physical aspects of the illness.”
Yoga therapy can also help individuals deal with the stress of being ill. Because Ashton’s sessions are one-on-one, they can be adjusted to target the needs of an individual.
“As a yoga therapist and Ayurvedic consultant, rather than offering a diagnosis or treatment plan for a specific condition I create a safe learning environment where the client can discover his or her own innate healing resources,” she said.
That, she explained, occurs by addressing the layers of the individual known in yoga philosophy as the five koshas—physical body, energy body, psycho emotional body, wisdom body and bliss body.
“In yoga, you’re a multi-dimensional being,” Ashton said.
With a client struggling with asthma, for example, Ashton would focus on the energy body.
“We might do some breathing practices with the postures to improve the quality of the breath,” she said.
And regardless of the specific ailment a person is suffering from, Ashton says yoga therapy can help with “general mindfulness, awareness and appreciation for the present moment and the potential it holds for self healing.”
“The mind can play a big role in being able to heal,” she said.
In addition to working with AGH, Ashton also recently teamed up with the Delmarva Free School and psychotherapist Kelly McMullen. Their goal is to provide people in early recovery with “lasting stress and life management skills” by offering yoga in conjunction with addiction recovery counseling.
For more information on Ashton visit www.chantalbirch.com. For information on AGH’s integrative health program, visit www.atlanticgeneral.org.