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Mind-body connection
Yoga therapy empowers the health-challenged

By NAN BIALEK
Photos by Dan Bishop

January 2014

For yoga and mind-body instructor Todd Dybul of Mequon, yoga has become much more than "letís get together and do some poses."

When he first started teaching yoga in 2006, Dybul says his work was almost exclusively with group classes, but he had a few private clients as time went on. One of those private clients was a breast cancer survivor recovering from surgery: "It turned out that she was an occupational therapist, and she said, ĎThe things you are doing for me are more than I could be doing for myself.í"

"Thatís when the light went on for me," Dybul says. "This personís in occupational therapy and Iím telling them how to move. This was working. And that gave me the courage to work with clients who have health conditions."

Dybul began teaching yoga techniques to people with health conditions such as multiple sclerosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and chronic migraine headaches.

He doesnít claim to have invented yoga as a therapy ó far from it. Only recently has yoga become more defined as a therapy and more accepted as an actual treatment, he says. He is a registered yoga instructor, and is currently completing work that will qualify him as a certified yoga therapist. He says yoga therapy can enhance clinical therapeutic techniques.

Dybul says a turning point in his practice was attending a yoga journaling conference. One of the presenters was a man who was paralyzed from the waist down and easily could get in and out of his wheelchair from the floor.

"He did things that doctors didnít think he could do," Dybul says. "He was such a dynamic teacher, and he told us the people who really needed yoga are people who canít go to a class." Dybul says that touched him deeply.

The "tools" Dybul uses to help people can include not just yoga, but tai chi, Reiki, postures, breathing techniques, sensory awareness, guided relaxation, visualization and meditation. Specific approaches to therapy depend on the needs of the individual, he notes.

"They may just want to talk. There are things going on socially, or at work or school," he says.

Dybul says the approach is to treat the whole person, not just symptoms of illness: "Itís getting into their life stories, really, and seeing why theyíre having whatever challenges theyíre having. There are so many levels ó spiritual, psychological or emotional."

Thatís why Dybul focuses on helping people dealing with a health condition begin to see their situation from a new perspective.

"Everybody has physical or emotional obstacles, or some kind of inner dissatisfaction. Iím trying to offer some kind of connection to potential, the opening of possibilities in their life."

He often makes house calls and also visits patients in the hospital.

"Sometimes people are bed-bound, and you give them tools like breath work and they are somehow empowered," he says. "Itís almost like you gave them permission, like itís OK now to be physical again or look fear in the eye.

"Once that empowerment kicks in, it is amazing to me. Sometimes my jaw just drops open."

 

 

 


This story ran in the January 2014 issue of: