Interview for LA Yoga Magazine ~ September edition 2013
Like most people who are drawn to the work of Urban Zen I was already a good way down the path of exploring alternative healing arts by the time I got involved.
What meeting Rodney and Colleen and going through the Urban Zen training gave me was a way to seamlessly blend all my existing skills into a session tailored to address symptoms suffered by almost everyone at one time or another.
The power of this work is in realizing that however much time we have left, there exists the possibility of ease and freedom co-existing alongside whatever else we may be experiencing.
In giving an Urban Zen session, the therapist is not looking to fix anyone, but to bring compassionate attention to the reality of each present moment.
I have a wonderful student who working at a Simi Valley residential hospice. The nursing staff were blown away by the shift that occurred in a very agitated patient who after 15 minutes of Reiki and compassionate witness-baring attention was sleeping peacefully and seemed to have released a long lifetime's accumulation of torment and pain. This patient later that night passed away gently without anguish.
My own experience with chemo and post surgical patients is that no matter the severity of the situation, after each UZ session they report amazing improvements in a broad range of aspects from state of mind, to pain, to digestion and elimination.
Studies in the hospitals are showing that when these simple therapies can be brought to the patients, there is a considerable reduction in the need for pain and mood altering medications. It is results like this that are opening the doors of mainstream medical establishments to this parallel treatment system.
The time seems to be ripe for a shift. Hospitals want to provide excellent customer service. They are seeing that when the human side of a patient is addressed, the healing process is greatly enhanced.
That is how Urban Zen came into being; Donna Karan in witnessing her beloved husband's experience in hospitals as he fought his terminal lung cancer saw that what was being addressed was the disease not the person. What she and her husband also saw was a system that fails to take care of the caregivers, in this case namely the nurses.
Our society in general rewards overworking and neglect of adequate self-care. We pay overtime to depleted nurses as if money could make up for long term exhaustion.
We do not provide proper relief to family members struggling to care for the sick and elderly. Instead we smile upon their selflessness. These prevailing attitudes expand out and influence us to over work and ignore our basic needs.
So Urban Zen 101 is establishing good self care practices. This requires some self inquiry, assessment and honesty.
By first establishing this as a foundation we will always come from a place of balance and present attention. So we begin by taking care of our own needs by practicing mindfulness of body and breath. From there we can bring a whole person into our work with our clients. It just makes sense.
The reality is that Urban Zen is for everyone whether its to rebalance after the stresses of travel, work or family life or to help make a short or long term hospital stay more comfortable.
The therapeutic modalities work beautifully together in bringing relief to a broad spectrum of symptoms;
The essential oils used are of a therapeutic grade quality and are like the life blood of the plant. As such they bring into our modern sick rooms the ancient wisdom of plant medicine.
Reiki, the power of touch, allows the therapist to provide comfort on a deeply felt human level and it is the most requested aspect of the UZ session.
In bed movements can be adapted to any range of ability and although they originate in yoga asana may not necessarily resemble poses as we might think of them in a studio setting. Movement is beneficial to healing in the majority of patients and is wherever possible encouraged and led in each UZ session.
Restorative yoga poses, often skillfully utilizing props, facilitate better function of the internal organs.
Breath awareness is guided without need for jargon or complicated techniques. Breath being the vital bridge between body and mind and health.
The body scans employed in UZ function to point out the actuality of physical sensation rather than creating imagery, fantasy or escape. They allow the client to experience more in their physical body than the perceived discomfort of their ailment.
Bearing witness is a subtle skill we cultivate to provide unobtrusive contemplative space to the patient.
Practicing and teaching Urban Zen has proven to be very rewarding to me because of the genuine connection I feel with my students and the people who are attracted to taking this program.
I see that there is a great need for this kind of work. Bringing a weekly class into the yoga studio I get to feel the incredible exchange of love and kindness that can occur in a safe space filled with human beings. I am always floored by how needed this kind of opportunity to restore is, and so grateful to be able to hold that space for my students.
I currently teach a weekly 10.45am class on Sundays at Tarzana YogaWorks, we are adding another class at 1pm at the Westlake YWks beginning October 6th 2013.
I will be leading my next Level 1 at Westlake Village YogaWorks begining in October. The training while especially suited to nurses, physiotherapists, educators, psychotherapists as well as yoga teachers, will also be open for public enrollment.
The next step is Level 2 which is scheduled for Spring 2014, and will lead UZ therapists into working in a more specifically clinical setting. It's very exciting to take this work to the next level as it is almost infinite in its potential to radically improve levels of care and positive outcomes in modern clinical settings.
So far in 3 sessions at UCLA we have trained 150 of their wonderful medical staff to become Urban Zen Integrative Therapists. These UZITs are now actively bringing the work to their patients. In this time, I have had feedback of really significant benefits to the nurses themselves, as well as hearing some incredibly moving stories of healing in their patients. The nurses are perfect candidates for the UZ training, they are already attuned to care giving, they learn quickly and they immediately apply their new skills on the job.
My hope is that UZ integrative therapies will soon become a required track in all nursing schools throughout the world.