The First Ever Yoga Retreat for Women with Bleeding Disorders

Published December 10, 2009

 

Horizons in Hemophilia, December, 2009

By Cathy Hulbert, Social Worker

Yoga 2Women with bleeding disorders helped break new ground this fall when Hemophilia of Georgia staff teamed with two exceptional yoga teachers to create a client workshop like no other. It was called the “Restorative Yoga Weekend” and judging from the glowing faces and positive feedback, it was a huge success. The weekend was co-sponsored by HoG and CSL Behring, which provided an educational grant.

Shannon Veronesi, HoG Health Educator, discovered early in the planning process that while much is known about the general health benefits of yoga, no real research had been done to determine if specific yoga techniques could alleviate some of the monthly discomfort experienced by women with bleeding disorders. While yoga classes have been a big hit with teens at Camp Wannaklot, it was clear that women needed their own strategies and techniques, as well as a quiet place to practice them.

The weekend was designed with two goals in mind.  It was created to be a gift that would last a lifetime if participants choose to use it this way. It is also an exciting starting point to real research on this subject. Participants were asked to make a year-long commitment to yoga practice and to report monthly to HoG on whether they are experiencing tangible benefits.

In planning this project, it was important to give the women a space away from day-to-day obligations so that full attention could be placed on learning each gentle technique. Two highly skilled and very enthusiastic yoga instructors were recruited: Beth Passehl, MS, CPT, RYT, and her yoga mentor, the Rev. Othene Munson, owner of the Woodstock-based Center for Yoga. After much discussion and hard work, the October weekend unfolded at the lovely Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort in Stone Mountain, where fall was in full glory. There was lots of laughter and some serious sharing, too. The women talked about the barriers to caring for themselves and expressed a commitment to find more time to focus on their own health.

yoga 1To increase the chances of continuing the practice, each client was asked to bring a friend or family member as a yoga buddy. Everyone received yoga mats and other props to make the practice as safe as possible. Othene created a high quality instructional CD highlighting the poses and stretches that were taught over the weekend. It is called “It’s All About Love,” and it was made to help make sure that the poses are practiced properly at home.

It was exciting to see how all of the HoG clients and buddies were so completely determined to give it their all. Othene and Beth shared that the group exceeded their expectations. After all, most in the group had never tried yoga and yet there was so much grace and determination in the room! Everyone looked younger and healthier by the end of each day.  And even before the weekend was over, some clients shared that they were experiencing positive shifts in their physical comfort. By stretching, increasing circulation, breathing properly, holding gentle poses and taking time to notice what was going on inside their bodies the women realized something very important. They have the ability to improve the quality of their own lives, particularly during their monthly cycles.

Nutritional education and healthy eating strategies were taught. A fun and interactive session on basic bleeding disorder education was taught by HoG nurse Penny Kumpf, RN, who helped the women to move and get the blood flowing while they were learning.

Here are just some of the comments from participants:

  • “This was a great weekend filled with valuable information and an opportunity to meet and discuss bleeding disorders with others who understand our issues.”
  • “The best way to see if something works is to try it.  Yesterday my shoulders and back were aching – after yoga it went away.”
  • “I can already tell the difference just by simply adding yoga and a nice walk this morning, my body feels so much better.”