Riding the Wave at Duke Integrative Medicine

What a long strange trip its been” Jerry Garcia

I was fortunate to embark on a learning adventure at Duke University Integrative Medicine in June, completing the Mindful Yoga for Cancer Professional Training course. Lead by Kimberly and Jim Carson, myself and 7 wonderful ladies had the journey of a lifetime.  Seriously – a drool worthy professional and personal experience.

This program was developed by Jim Carson, PhD and Kimberly Carson, MPH, C-IAYT, E-RYT:

Mindful Yoga for Cancer Professional Training is a professional training program offered to registered yoga instructors. It introduces the Mindful Yoga program developed by founders Jim and Kimberly Carson, based upon clinical trials of the Yoga of Awareness intervention conducted with cancer patients at Duke. The program incorporates discussion, practice, and instruction on the ideal yoga practices for people healing from cancer.

Mindful Yoga, as applied in clinical trials of the Yoga of Awareness intervention, has been shown to help patients at both early and advanced stages of the cancer experience to minimize pain and fatigue while increasing vigor, acceptance, and relaxation. Mindful Yoga draws on the principles of integrative medicine, using a whole-person approach to address the mind, body, and spirit.

Topics include: 

·  Safely and effectively teaching yoga to people living with cancer

·  Evidence-based modules for cancer-related symptoms

·  Tailoring asana (posture) and pranayama (breath) to specific symptoms

·  Putting yogic principles in context for people from various faith traditions

·  Effective and clear ways of presenting models of stress

·  Appropriate guidance for working with the mind

·  Partnering with the medical community

*Duke Integrative Medicine course description

Kimberly and Jim are warm, kind, incredible people with astounding backgrounds.   They led us in physical and mindful practices daily, provided tissues where tears were shared, and enveloped us in hugs, both physically and spiritually on this adventure. We were fully immersed in data-driven and documented learning, challenged to lean in, and simply ride the waves of this experience.

As part of this journey, we had presentations and intimate discussions with world-class experts/researchers:

Cancer 101 – Kelly E Westbrook, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology

Dr. Westbrook led a data-based discussion on cancer, focused primarily on breast cancer, of the various types and stages, treatments, concerns, and case studies.  She offered her thoughts on the reality of the disease and treatments, how it impacts lives, and examples of working with patients and their families.

Coping with Cancer-Related Pain – Francis J. Keefe Director, Pain Prevention and Treatment Research Program

Dr. Keefe facilitated a discussion on ‘unpacking’ pain and related biological and social issues, discussed data-driven ways to alleviate, concerns with current medical and practical realties, and shared where the research is happening.  As a world renown researcher, he spoke the human side of pain.  He initially sponsored the work of Kimberly and Jim, and regularly participates in current and ongoing research.

Movement Considerations – Jennifer Thornton-Jones, CLT, PT

Jeni, a world traveler and registered yoga teacher herself, shared her knowledge and experiences using physical therapy and yogic physical practices to help people open themselves physically and mentally while undergoing treatments.  She broke down the immediate- and long-term goals of movement-based therapies, using practical experiences and data-driven findings.

Psychological aspects of cancer – Laura S. Porter, PhD Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Porter broke down the psychology of the diagnosis and reality of the impact of cancer on the mind, body, and spirit.  Using documented medical research, she shared what has been found to work and what is being researched in all parts of the experience, from both the patient and to the caregivers.  She also shared her data- driven findings of how yoga can integrate as part of the therapies to help with the experience.

Palliative Care – Arif H. Kamal, MD Medical Oncologist, Palliative Medicine Specialist

Dr. Kamal broke down palliative care and how it focuses on those facing a serious illness, not necessarily a terminal illness. He led us through how he meets with patients to determine what their definition of quality of life is, and works to map out how to best treat the individual.  This type of medicine is both independent and inclusive of hospice. He shared some of the breakdowns of funding and challenges, the emotional issues and where the research and work is needed.

In the next few weeks, I’ll continue to share more of my experience from this program, as well as how it can benefit yoga students – regardless of whether they have cancer.

We humans have a way of touching each other’s lives deeply even despite ourselves. In finding our way to each other, we find what is, after all, already there, waiting to be found, wanting to be found.” Andrew Cooper