UPENN

a yoga class for Upenn CHIBE retreat in Cape May

Photography: Hoag Levins
Now I know why teachers who have been studying and practicing for well over a decade say, "after you've been working at this for about 15 years, then you can teach it." Great teacher said.


CHIBE-ROYBAL Retreat with UPENN at Congress Hall in Cape May gave me the chance to lead a group of scientists in the art and medicine of yoga.



What a courageous group of intelligent and empowered women.
I got my feet wet with guiding a group in yoga. Sort of.

It showed me how far I have to go and how far I've come.
Teaching has taught me.

My practice of disciplined ashtanga study and asanas, is in its infancy and leading me to the foundations of Hatha practice.

I tried to lead them, for an hour, at 6:30 am. after a night of bonding beach side with plenty of martini's.

The class began regardless of my emotion, sleepiness or otherwise.
Alcohol does not increase bendiness (Lucas.)

I found myself faced with the eyes of 10 others- looking for instruction. I was prompted to begin immediately despite thinking to myself quickly, "why are they looking at me, do what you do usually..." There was an intensity to their eyes I won't soon forget.

I tried to bring them with me, on this most gorgeous of mornings on a blissful beach, to a journey I have come to adore. Emily demonstrated sun salutations and we infused a little Rodney Yee, pigeon and Ustrasana towards the end.

Emily Kane demonstrated, while I walked around to each individual assisting and adjusting their postures- I could not actually do yoga and talk at the same time. That is a fine art of flow, for sure.

I gave them each a stone to hold onto, some grasped it for dear life, while others wondered what they should do with it.
I immediately saw in each person the subtle shifts that could help them with these asana's going forward, as they plunged ahead with such power and might. Later asking, "what's the secret? It's just to relax isn't it?" There are so many "secrets" and none at the same time.

Dana got into Ustrasana quite boldly. I loved seeing her impressed with herself when she saw it was all in the method.
Pam Shaw, I saw in the elevator this morning and she took up another yoga class the next day, determined! She has such life in her eyes that one.
Alison held a beautiful practice with a deep connection to herself and her independence just before plunging into the ocean and delivering a lecture on her massively impressive research project.
Emily has such a united flow about her and helped lead this class and me, without her fearless youth and confidence it would not have been the same.

Joelle is determined and her focus uninterrupted- those students challenge the teachers.
She is a force and is the one who brought this group together. Joelle & Beth the gatherers.

Most importantly we all now share a special bond from this morning on the beach. When we see each other in the med school the light returns to us for an instant.


Reminding each student as  Liana reminded me, "nothing is right or wrong here today- do what comes naturally to you."










Acupuncture Research lecture at UPENN

A strong presence and a plush accent dusted with the remains of her worldly travel are only a few of the stunning attributes that made Dr. Claudia Witt’s recent lecture stand above the fray. She came to the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine to inform us that Acupuncture combined with Primary Care has brought about a “new era in Conventional Medicine.” The research is being done, getting funded and people are getting much better with the combination of the two worlds of care.


As a guest of our Integrative Medicine Pioneer, MD and Acupuncture physician here at Penn Jun Mao, Dr. Claudia Witt talked to us about Acupuncture Research around the world and how it’s infusing the practice of Acupuncture medicine at home and abroad.

Currently a resident of Switzerland where acupuncture is covered by insurance when practiced by a Medical doctor, Witt describes the large variety of regulations that swirl through Acupuncture practice. It all relies on one factor, how much has been proven and among how large of a sample size it has been proven with.

Simply put, we need more people recruited for the studies, more funding for more research studies to be conducted to continue to prove the multitude of benefits that people are experiencing with this penetrating practice of Acupuncture medicine.

Witt says regarding increasing the size of the population these studies are conducted on, “Often it is a cultural issue. During a clinic holding pediatric acupuncture research, to see a room filled with children with a lot of needles sticking out of their heads, for some cultures this would be strange, but not for others. It has been difficult to recruit for these studies. Large sample sizes in the US are needed to ramp up the research. It’s mostly small scale studies that have taken place thus far as opposed to the Meta analysis coming out of other countries.”

Most people I know have had a good experience with acupuncture. For them, that is the proof. It makes them feel better, that proves that it works. However this will not help to get Acupuncture practitioners paid as they deserve insurance companies to reimburse so patients can get more acupuncture, research studies funded, or other physicians to refer their patients for treatments. In China Acupuncture is free and you can get as much as you need.

Research on preventing disease, Immunology research, measuring Qi and functional imaging to prove pain (possibly through PET) were among the topics that were discussed among the viewers. According to Witt, prevention research may be taking place in China; however in the US this would be a costly endeavor considering the long term observation that would be required.

For tension headaches (HA) research shows that needling points do not matter. “No matter where you put the needle, the headaches get better” says Witt. Sham research, needling points and mechanisms such as turning the needle and making deeper skin penetration (always done in China- “I beg for the western style Acupuncture when I am in China because it is quite painful,”) as well as trigger point acupuncture (palpating points to find pain and find the points) are huge topics amongst researchers and Acupuncturists.



Placebo always has to be considered. According to Witt this is one of the largest areas of research going on right now, Placebo research. An individual’s expectation of a treatment to work and make them feel better, has seen to impact patients with chronic pain, who are receiving acupuncture treatments.

Patient- Doctor Interaction’s research in Zurich showed that it mattered more the type of relationship that was being developed between patient and doctor, than the treatments themselves. Studies on arthritis, tension headaches, migraines, pain, Bells-Palsy are among what we have currently published in JAMA, Lancet and Journal of Clinical Oncology. Stronger needle stimulation was seen to help for Bells-Palsy. Mao recently published research for those suffering from the side effects of breast cancer treatment. Breast cancer Surgical Oncologist, Dr. Brian Czerniecki is referring his patients to Mao for acupuncture since the recently published study came out. “He’s been sending his patients more and more for Acupuncture” Says NP of Czerniecki.

One topic I meant to bring up was the use of pulsation. Monitoring the pulse to determine diagnosis and treatment is practiced among one fully trained pulsation practitioner that I know of in Philadelphia, but also by other Acupuncturists on a smaller scale. According to Witt, “Diagnosing and individualized care is not showing much evidence to make a difference e.” The Acupuncturist at Five Virtues mixes her own herbal formulas and went through specialized Chinese medicine training to do so. “If we use fixed formulas, standard care for everyone we are no better than western medicine.” Five Virtues Acupuncturist sees a remarkable difference in her patients when treating with emphasis on diagnosis and individualized treatments. Fixed formulas and standardized care vs. individualized care have not yielded much research, as of yet. Another Acupuncturist working out of Society Hill says, “The standard formulas have shown to be very beneficial for my clients. I use them and pulse points to approach the types of treatments I deliver.”

Witt conducts both Clinical Research and experimental research while also practicing Acupuncture medicine in Switzerland, where Acupuncture is covered by insurance if the practitioner is also a Medical Doctor. We hope she will come back and keep talking to us. I will be assisting flood Jun Mao with patients for his two active research studies on breathing and pain, taking place at Penn’s Perelman Center.