We found three yogis who are destigmatizing abortion and creating healing spaces for those who have experienced medically induced pregnancy loss.
If you’ve been watching the news, you’ve probably heard about Alabama’s recent abortion ban that makes it a felony for any doctor to perform an abortion during any stage of pregnancy—making no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. In solidarity of those affected by the ban, people are taking to social media to share their personal stories through the hashtags, #youknowme and #1in4 . We found three yogis who are destigmatizing abortion and creating healing spaces for those who have experienced medically induced pregnancy loss.
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1. Kassi Underwood
“For some of you who have experienced abortion, I know forgetting seems impossible, even for a few hours, even if you don’t feel bad or sad about it—it’s a thought that changes shape and finds new ways to drive you crazy.
Listen: you’re going to find something that works for you, a Practice, a prayer, a meditation, a habit of mind and shift in perception that makes you feel peaceful, confident, and free.
It might take time. It will probably take more than healing crystals and therapy. That’s okay.
Don’t fight the thoughts. Close your eyes and dare them to come. Get interested in what they have to say.
If you can’t stop thinking about it, know that’s a fear, and behind the fear there’s a lie, and behind the lie there’s a truth, and in that truth is your treasure trove of wisdom.
You are expected to feel silenced or to shout your abortion, either to regret or rejoice in your abortion, to label yourself a victim or a villain. Don’t fall for any of it. Trying to meet these expectations will block the wisdom wanting to flow through you.
People who’ve had an abortion have a treasure trove of wisdom that people who haven’t had an abortion simply don’t have access to.
I think I’m a way better mother than I would have been if I hadn’t had an abortion. If you’re a mom and haven’t had an abortion, well I just feel sorry for you. Kidding—but the abortion I had and the searching I did afterward gave me wisdom about myself and motherhood that I never would have learned without it. Grateful for it all. If you’re searching, keep searching. The daily spiritual practice is where the revolution begins.”
See also This Home Practice Will Help You Reconnect to Your Body After a Miscarriage
2. Sara Avant Stover
“We need to remember that pregnancy loss ALSO includes when a woman has an abortion. Not in every case (sometimes the decision to terminate is clear, easy, and doesn’t feel like a loss). But in many cases, abortion is also a mother saying goodbye to her child when she found she simply had no other option.
Please include us—with compassion and without judgement—in books, conversations, and support groups for women who have lost their babies. We’re grieving, just like you.”
See also Yoga After Miscarriage: A 6-Pose Healing Practice
3. Irene Morning
“TW: abortion, substance use, intimate partner violence
I HAD AN ABORTION. And if I could scream it any louder on IG right now, I would. I have the privilege to talk about it publicly without repercussion, and honestly, I’m sorry I haven’t sooner because I think silence around abortion is one part of why we’re backsliding so drastically right now.
I’m not going to tell my abortion story from a place of emotional strife because I don’t feel anger toward the experience anymore. There was a toxic relationship, deep love, abusive behavior, cocaine and alcohol use, borderline physical aggression, and a whole bunch of other things that are actually very normal when you’re a well-off white girl with poorly managed trauma.
My partner and I both had our plates overflowing with poorly managed trauma. We did not know how to show up for ourselves, let alone each other. We were both so wrapped up in (mis)managing the pain of our lives to that point that the only ways we knew to handle our relationship were manipulative and violent.
In the end, and in my body, I felt that taking on motherhood in those circumstances would create a legacy of manipulation and violence. To me, that posed a greater ethical challenge than terminating a pregnancy at 7 weeks.
This, by the way, is not to say I judge the woman in a similar situation who makes another choice. She has different reasons and feelings than I do, and I respect that. What I do feel anger toward is having men who cannot speak to these experiences make policies that send the message that our choices are neither normal nor moral.
We who get pregnant need the power to make our own choices. We know. There is innate wisdom inside of us that brings about what is right, weighing all the circumstances. It doesn’t always feel that way in the moment, but we are all always doing the best we can with what we have.
To anyone and everyone who has been impacted by this political battle, is currently impacted, and will be impacted in the future, I see you, I feel you, I love you, and I trust your relationship with your own body.”
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Why Isn’t Yoga Covered By Health Insurance?
The short answer is, it’s complicated.
We spoke with John Kepner, executive director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), and Courtney Butler-Robinson, stress management specialist and yoga therapist for the Dean Ornish Reversal Clinic at Saline Heart Group in Benton, Arkansas, to find out why yoga therapy is largely uncovered by health insurance companies. Dean Ornish, MD, made headlines in 2010 for convincing insurance companies that yoga and meditation, when combined with proper diet and exercise, could reverse heart disease. To date, yoga therapy is covered only under the Ornish Reversal Program for heart disease, but some affiliated clinics, such as Saline Heart Group, are beginning to offer cancer care.
Yoga Journal: With all of its proven benefits, why is it so hard to get yoga covered by insurance?
John Kepner: That’s the big question. IAYT is a self-regulated organization—it’s all voluntary. We have standards and an accrediting body, continued education, certification, and an enforceable code of ethics, but we don’t yet have a certification exam. All professional health fields have some kind of exam. IAYT has just launched that effort, and I expect it will take another two years to complete. Those are necessary but not sufficient pillars when you’re talking about insurance. In most cases, but not all, insurance coverage extends to licenced health care fields.
Courtney Butler-Robinson: We are a wellness center and offer different programing. We recently extended into cancer care. The Ornish Reversal Program is the only program I know of where the whole thing, including yoga therapy, is covered by Medicare. Oftentimes, people who have cancer or have been given chemo will end up with heart problems, and in that case, we can often bill under that.
JK: One of my personal goals is yoga therapy insurance coverage for people recovering from cancer care. Their bodies have been wrecked by chemo. They need something to bring body and mind back to well-being. There’s a lot of research showing yoga can help with that. IAYT is connected with the Society for Integrative Oncology, which is seriously exploring yoga now.
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YJ: How do you see this goal coming to fruition? Will insurance-covered yoga therapy be siloed by illness or ailment, beginning with cancer and heart disease?
JK: I just don’t know. We are feeling our way. As mentioned, the Society for Integrative Oncology has two committees looking to yoga. For now, they are working independently of us, although we communicate with them. We are also developing a way to have insurance cover yoga therapies by health condition. My personal thought is that cancer is a good disease to start with. There is a lot of research and general sympathy. Heart disease is already addressed by the Ornish program.
CBR: I think Ornish will get prostate cancer covered in the next five
years. We just need to prove to insurance that this therapy will save them money.
JK: There are plenty of creative possibilities for financing yoga therapy in a health care setting beyond insurance. I wrote about it in 2005, but it’s still relative today. Anyone interested can look to my paper, “Financial Support for Yoga Therapy: A Montage of Possibilities,” published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy.
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