Nina contacted me about an article for the Yoga for Healthy Aging Friday Q&A: Here is the article! Enjoy. Subscribe to Yoga for Healthy Aging. Great stuff on that yoga site! Gail
Q: One of your readers left a comment on Baxter’s post Friday Q&A: Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICD) and Yoga about a Facebook group for people who do yoga with pacemakers or ICDs. Can you tell me more about it?
A: For the answer to this question, I turned to the founder of the Yoga for Pacemakers & ICDs Facebook Group, Gail Pickens-Barger. —Nina
A: My cardiologist and I had been watching my slow heart rate for a number of years, and once my numbers got to be more than three seconds between heart beats, I was a candidate for pacemaker insertion. I had my pacemaker implantation in May of 2013. I was taking a break for the summer from teaching my regular yoga class at the gym, but continued to teach my adaptive chair yoga class for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at the church.
I went on the hunt to find other people who had this surgery and were yoga practitioners and/or teachers. After searching the internet, I came across a yoga therapist who works with the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease. She had an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) implantation (see LINK). After her surgery, she actually kept up her vigorous flow yoga practice, complete with weight-bearing arm balances. She went on to tell me that one day she was receiving little shocks as she was resting in Child’s pose. She knew that this wasn’t the normal thing to be happening and promptly went to the hospital. She found out then that she had pulled out the leads to her ICD with her continued flow practice and had to have the leads into her ICD replaced. Her advice to me was to avoid weight-bearing yoga poses where you take your arms behind your back (extension), such as Bow pose, Camel pose, Dancer’s pose, and Upward Plank pose.
She also took out the arm balances from her personal practice. Since that time, I did meet a very young lady at one of my recent yoga trainings, and due to her age, she had her ICD placed below her rib cage. Her challenges will be different due to the placement.
After my surgery, over the summer of 2013, I continued to teach the adaptive chair yoga classes. Prior to the surgery, in the adaptive chair yoga class, we’d do 20 minutes of yoga, then about 20-25 minutes of seated dance fitness, sometimes with light weights or not, and then additional balance poses, cool down, and meditative contemplation guided relaxation. After the surgery, I took the seated dance fitness and weights out of the adaptive chair yoga class. (It wasn’t until the fall, that I added those elements back in). And two two weeks after getting out of my arm sling, I went back to teaching my other classes. But I could not do my full range of motion on my left side for over a year.
Then in September of 2014 I created the Yoga for Pacemaker & ICDs Facebook group. I decided to this because I love to share what I learn—I give out handouts all the time in my chair yoga classes, and in the gentle beginning classes that I teach—and I figured that there would be people out there like me, who were looking for resources to help them on their path of continuing their physical practice of yoga. I had my daughter, Amber Barger (and she was a recent graduate of a 200 hour teacher training program) demonstrate the yoga poses with the modifications that I have found to be helpful in my practice and those photos are on the Facebook page.
Yoga teachers and practitioners alike are in the Facebook group, and we get into discussions about alternative ways to do poses. Lately there has been much discussion about Plough pose, Shoulderstand, Legs Up the Wall pose and just in general being inverted in poses.
For me, personally, I have rarely included Shoulderstand, Handstand, Forearm balances, or Plough pose in my practice, so giving those up as not been an issue for me. However, I do like to be inverted. I’ll do Legs on the Chair, Legs on the Resist-a-Ball, and Legs up the Wall. I more recently have purchased a Gravity Pal reclined bench, to allow me to rest in an inclined position. In that position, my pacemaker shifts a bit towards my collarbone, as it does in Downward-Facing Dog pose, but it doesn’t seem to affect it. However, for my beginner clients I have them do Half Downward-Facing Dog pose at the wall instead. And for my chair clients, I have them stand behind the chair and use the top of the chair for their hands in Downward-Facing Dog pose.
For more information like this, come join me on Facebook! Go tohttps://www.facebook.com/groups/691963750892696/ and click the Join Group button and I’ll add you to the group.
Gail Pickens-Barger, E-RYT 200, LVCYT, CRYT, YogaKiddos®, Get Fit Where You Sit® Fitness Teacher is a retired IT professional who started teaching yoga in 2001. A graduate of YogaFit International Training System, she currently teaches Beginners Yoga, Kids Yoga, and Adaptive Chair Yoga for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the Nederland, Texas area. She also has experience teaching prenatal yoga, and teaches yoga privately in people’s homes to help them with their issues of osteoporosis and osteopenia, using Dr. Loren Fishman’s YogaUOnline course, his books, and his DVD’s to assist folks in becoming stronger and more independent in their active older years. You can find her at yogawithgaileee.com or contact her at 409-727-3177.