My heart is kind, my mind is fierce, and my spirit is brave

June 21st marks the International Day of Yoga, (the longest day of the year and the start of summer), envision how you can incorporate yoga into your life with a new or evolving goal.  Do you aim to bring more balance to your emotions? Do you strive to sleep better? Are you looking to have more joy in your day to day life? As a naturopathic doctor and yoga teacher devoted to a regular yoga practice, I often recommend yoga to my patients.

Celebrating the Union of Yoga and Naturopathic Medicine

Developed as a pathway to achieve harmony between the soul and heart on the path to enlightenment, yoga began in India, circa 3000 B.C.  While its roots are steeped in its spiritual benefits, yoga has been practiced just as long for the physical benefits it provides, including reduced disease states and recovery from physical ailments. Yoga is now popularized in the West by its ability to relieve stress and provide balanced fitness. Depending on the type of yoga chosen (Vinyasa flow, Power, Scaravelli, Kundalini, etc.) we can strength train, increase breath awareness, create lean body mass, balance chakras, increase cardiovascular health, and increase physical and emotional resiliency.

“A single session of yoga was found to reduce self-reported anxiety by one third and stress hormone levels by 14%. Encouragingly, similar findings were made at both the first and final session of the 8-week intervention.”

Journal of Depression & Anxiety

In naturopathic medicine, yoga can be a powerful tool in addressing multiple facets of health that determine a patient’s sense of wellbeing. Below are the six fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine and how they are illustrated and supported by the practice of yoga.

The Healing Power of Nature

This refers to the understanding and trust NDs have in the body’s inherent wisdom to heal itself.

Yoga asanas (poses) allow us to trust our bodies and our breath, only moving as far into each posture as feels safe and encouraging the flow of energy to heal both emotional and physical pain.

Kai Buoncristiano demonstrates how yoga can be practiced at all ages.

Identify and Treat the Causes

NDs look beyond only symptoms and work to identify and treat the underlying cause of a patient’s complaint.

In yoga, we find postures that release areas of emotional and physical tension, giving insight into the roots of pain or illness. For example, heart opening poses can feel tight in the chest due to symptoms of high blood pressure or rapid heartbeat (tachycardia). The underlying cause of those symptoms may be chronic stress and anxiety. Releasing tension through breath and gentle chest muscle expansion allows for the emotional heart to reduce anxiety and stress. It also reduces blood pressure and increases vascular circulation, supporting the physical heart.

Kali Alexander, pose depicting a heart-opening asana called fallen triangle.

First Do No Harm

NDs aim to utilize the most natural, least invasive and least toxic therapies.

In yoga, we only go as far into postures as is supportive and safe for our bodies and our spirits. As advanced yoga postures have been popularized by social media and marketing, it is important to remember that yoga is first a practice of the soul and the heart and that the physical postures are only one manifestation of the practice and come later, if at all. When beginning with yoga and deep into a yoga practice, care and safety is paramount.

Doctor as Teacher

Naturopathic doctors advise patients on incorporating movement, exercise, and stress relief into everyday life so as to help patients achieve optimal health.  Quite often in our busy daily schedules, we forget to incorporate self-care. The ND role as a teacher is to guide patients to consistently prioritize their health.

partner yoga
Yoga teachers Desi Bartlett and Kali Alexander demonstrating a partner pose.

Treat the Whole Person

NDs view the body as an integrated whole in all its physical and emotional dimensions.

Yoga not only leads to more emotional health and physical fitness but also supports the entire system by increasing circulation to vital organs so that hormones and metabolic processes attain and maintain balance. Yoga lubricates joints and brings more oxygen to the brain through focused compression, twists, and extension asanas.  Yoga stimulates the parasympathetic system allowing us to rest, digest, and feel at ease. This reduces cortisol (stress hormone), calms cranial nerves, and moves the lymph, moving toxins out of the body.

Research supports yoga as a healing modality that not only decreases stress significantly but also balances hormones, according to the Journal of Depression and Anxiety. A randomized group attended eight weekly prenatal Hatha yoga sessions, and researchers measured those participants’ saliva cortisol levels before and after the first and last classes of the intervention. A single session of yoga was found to reduce self-reported anxiety by one third and stress hormone levels by 14%. Encouragingly, similar findings were made at both the first and final session of the 8-week intervention.

Renowned Integrative Cardiologist Dr. Mimi Guarneri —who has a daily yoga and chanting practice—sees a steady acceptance of integrative and naturopathic medicine. “Soon it won’t be called alternative,” she says. “It will just be called medicine.”

Prevention

NDs focus on disease prevention and overall health and wellness.

“Yoga eases stress and quiets the sympathetic nervous system, promoting healing. It directly lowers blood pressure and heart rate”


Integrative Cardiologist Elizabeth Kaback, MD

Yoga is an ideal practice for preventing disease and increasing overall health and wellness and can be integrated into the essential naturopathic foundations of health which include: sleep/rest, food/digestion, community/love, movement/exercise. Both on and off the mat, yoga provides an emotional and physical balance that supports every aspect of our lives.  

Bobby Buoncristiano practices tree pose by the ocean.

I encourage my patients to create a mantra that embodies health goals, and to say that before and after a yoga class or on your mat at home or from a favorite hilltop! My personal mantra is:

My heart is kind, my mind is fierce, and my spirit is brave.


Natiya Guin, ND, MEd

-Namaste-

About the author and photographer:

Natiya Guin, ND, MEd is a mother of three, an avid yogini, and a licensed naturopathic physician who specializes in the foundations of health with a special interest in lifestyle medicine to protect and heal women’s hearts. This includes prioritizing nutrition, movement, and exercise, sleep support, and providing tools for confidence including art (including photography) therapy.

She believes in supporting families and providing tools that allow each member to thrive individually and together through their unique needs and health concerns.  Dr. Guin works closely with integrative cardiologists, internal medicine doctors, and other NDs, along with a team that includes osteopathy, acupuncture, massage, and Healing Touch™ under the leadership of renowned integrative cardiologist, Mimi Guarneri, MD, FACC, ABOIM and Rauni Prittinen King, RN, MIH, BSN, CHTP/I, HNB-BC.  

Cover image by Portrait of Health featuring Dr. Guin and family.

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

Get Involved!

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.