As ladies start to file in at noon for Dao Flow for Women yoga class at the Asheville Yoga Donation Studio, they are met with a large smile and inquiries about their current emotional and physical state from the class instructor, Dr. Robin Saraswati Markus. An hour of asana, education about vitality for women and meditation soon follows.
But her education and guidance for women's health is not limited to the yoga studio.
Markus is a resource for women’s health in Asheville. As a Chinese medicine doctor, yoga instructor and acupuncturist, she opens the communication for doctor and patient through several healing modalities. “There is a bridge between creativity based on your experience of the world around you and what is patiently sitting in front of you,” Markus says about her patients. The holistic gynecologist focuses on individualized medicine oriented to body energetics. “We access energy in our own being,” the practitioner says. “How do we reel and harness the energy we possess to use towards our own betterment at all levels?”
Though not a physician, she has a clinical doctorate degree in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. “Some of my first patients were women who had infertility marked conditions and were told by conventional doctors that they would never conceive. Within six months, both women were pregnant,” Markus says. “We have epidemic of external hormones, pesticides found in food, water and pills. It is a swell of hormonal imbalance.” Since moving to Asheville six years ago, Markus offers acupuncture, herbal medicine, lifestyle counseling, diet and sleep therapy. She recommends a nutritionally dense diet and stress reduction practices to help balance hormone levels. “This is a platform for healing,” she says.
As an athlete, gymnast and dancer she was naturally drawn to yoga. “I was aware of energy systems through Chinese medicine. The channels and lines from yoga are the same as the meridians in acupuncture. I speak through the language of acupuncture.”
Markus has spent the last 10 years formulating the holistic system she offers to patients through her integrative practice, Nourishing Life Center, which will open in Woodfin in early 2013. The center will have several practitioners, and plans to offer Dao flow yoga, Qi Gong, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, integrative care for women’s health and asana and pranayama (yoga poses and breathing practices).
Markus says this is because healthy aging is the whole life cycle, not just the menstrual years. As an example, she shares that she is working with a 72-year-old patient on vitality, cognitive ability, bone, heart and sexual health.
“A lot of women don’t realize the confusion that comes with menopause,” Markus says. “This is education, both in private fertility sessions and in the yoga class. “We spend 5-10 minutes talking about a certain women’s health topic to orient the class. Women are clamoring for information. They want to be inspired and find solutions that move in a healing direction.”
She explains that women can get used to feeling unwell, and believe that it is not bothersome enough to do something about it. Her patients struggle with fatigue, low libido, weight gain, anxiety, depression, clinical headaches, food cravings and lack of impulse control — all of which Markus says could relate to hormonal imbalance. “We have to relearn what self care really is,” the 48-year-old says. “Women are in opposition with their environment. It brings a cascade of stress, skipping meals, not having restorative sleep, over-stimulation and overworking. Growth and nourishment is the basis for Dao Flow Yoga for Women’s Health.” In this class, students open the blood flow through the bundas (energy locks) and mudras (hand symbols) to create energy flow. They channel healing through pranayama and the energy lines, Markus explains.
“We need to shift gears to nourishment. We practice deep belly breathing, balance poses and learn to value our inner resources,” the yoga instructor says. “Outer accomplishments are transitory. We need to turn on from the inside, and map it out to find something stable. The question is, how do we rediscover the sacred?”
Markus teaches Dao Flow Tuesday from noon-1 p.m. at the Asheville Yoga Donation Studio and Thursday 2:15 p.m.-3:15 p.m. at the Asheville Yoga Center. She also has a yoga video coming out in early 2013 that follows the lunar cycle and is split into four phases that mirror and optimize hormonal shifts for women.
Kate Lundquist is a yoga instructor and freelance writer in Asheville, N.C.
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