HeatherwithHerbertBenson

Heather does a lot of travelling between running professional trainings and giving lectures. This month, the world of yoga, yoga therapy and research came to her home city of Boston.

“The conference was in two parts,” says Heather Mason. “The first, Symposium on Yoga Research (SYR) and then there was the SYTAR Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research conference. I was fortunate enough to speak at the second half of the conference.”

“I went because I always want to know about the most cutting edge research and connect with my colleagues. Recently, I’ve been reading the most up to date research in the field of yoga therapy and was familiar with a lot of what was presented, so it was nice to hear lecturers explain their papers in ways that you could never access by just reading them.”

Heather also enjoyed the Poster Sessions: “In addition to having key note and minor speakers, conferences usually have poster sessions to present relevant research in a poster format. Often posters involve research that is not yet published so it was really exciting to see what was developing. Embodied Health, the course I teach at Boston University School of Medicine, had its own poster on increasing medical school compassion and I really enjoyed chatting with those who had similar interests in medical school education.”

“I saw a lot of good stuff. Yoga researchers are improving methodology and it’s becoming increasingly cutting edge.”

Meeting others in the field, like Harvard cardiologist who discovered the Relaxation Response, Herbert Benson (pictured above with Heather) offered many highlights. “Herbert Benson had a 2013 paper on genomic expression with practices that induce the relaxation response, categorising the elements involved. They were trying to create a nexus by which we can understand the benefits of mind-body practices. Mark Greenberg’s dovetailed on this theme sharing a slide on the tree contemplative practices. I was really impressed to see how open yoga researchers were to other modes of healing. It’s a big step when those who practice a certain discipline willingly embrace others.”

“I also met Daniel Libby, I wanted to meet him for a while as he uses yoga to work with PTSD and I like to connect to others in the field,” she says. “He’s involved in yoga and PTSD work for veterans. Previously he was at Yale doing research. His program demonstrates his understanding of PTSD at a profound level and I am impressed with his program and his work.”

During the Yoga Therapy part of the conference, community interest sessions were divided into physical and mental health. “My session was chaired by Bo Forbes and Paul Copeland. My focus was on yoga therapy and PTSD, looking at body based approaches in the treatment of PTSD. It was extremely well received. People are really hungry for that information. I enjoyed it and I think people really got something out of it.”

“The following day, speakers continued to be extremely inspirational. For example, the Cleveland Clinic has introduced a yoga program throughout the hospital providing four types of yoga with more than 60 classes a week for staff. It sounds phenomenal!!! The Cleveland Clinic often ranks as the 4th best hospital in the world. They’re really trying to practice what they preach: Healers need to be healthy themselves. What a wonderful and important move in US healthcare.”

“Loren Fishman gave a great presentation on how to work with doctors. It was an incredibly dynamic lecture. Likewise I was really impressed by Göran Boll, founder of Mediyoga, working in Sweden, who managed to get yoga into 60 hospitals there! Basically, it is becoming clear that yoga is penetrating the health care system at an increasing rate.”

“The conference was great. I felt so much warmth and real goodness around me. I also got to spend time with Drs Pat Gerbarg and Dick Brown who I love so much, so that’s always a highlight for me. I enjoyed connecting with the community.”

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