Following a critical illness and the diagnosis of a disease with possible long-term physical and psychological complications, I have been able to return to a relatively normal and active lifestyle thanks to your thoughtful and professional instruction in yoga therapy.
Through the practice of breathing techniques, I have been able to control severe anxiety and panic attacks, develop improved breathing patterns and reduce or discontinue anxiety and sleep medications. I have also been able to noticeably improve my strength and stamina as well as achieve better balance which has allowed me to return to riding my bicycle.
Thank you for your excellent teaching and for your generosity of spirit, which has allowed me to develop skills to deal with my specific health issues while providing a template for the future.
“Radiation and the Mask”
I have completed my 35 radiation treatments. That I got through them with no panic attacks or any need to be tranquilized I owe largely to you. When my radiation oncologist first explained the whole procedure to me, I kept asking what machine they would put me in. She finally looked at me and said “it’s not about the machine, it’s about the mask.” That would be the skin tight mask from the top of the head to the shoulders which is put on and then fastened to the radiation bed to assure complete immobilization for the treated area.
I thought I could handle it—but at the “dry run” when they put the mask on it was nothing like what I imagined. I did go into a panic. Fortunately it was only a 4 minute trial run. But when they took the mask off I was soaked with sweat.
A neurologist friend of mine told me: “nothing you have experienced in life can prepare you for what you are about to go through.” He was generally right. Except for what you taught me and how you prepared me.
My greatest fear was that I would not be able to breathe for the 20 minute sessions. That is when I sent out an SOS to several yoga instructors, a profession I have to admit I had never been tempted to avail myself of. Your response was the most compelling. And even though my focus was very narrow—learning deep breathing techniques—you taught me much more than that in our very brief sessions. Had I not been confident that I could always rely on the techniques you taught me I could not have survived those sessions as well as I did. Both the doctors and the technicians told me I came through the treatments with remarkable fortitude and stamina. I drove myself to and from every session. And the mask actually came to feel comfortable, even though pressed against my nose and mouth. I never feared I would not be able to breathe naturally and actually came to think only of the breathing—as you and your tape suggested—during each session. I got quite good at holding the breath both at the inhale and exhale to reduce the number of breathes I took per minute.
I am also sure that the fact you yourself had been through this same process gave me immense confidence in all your observations and advice.
Thanks you again for being so immediately available and understanding from the first minute what I was about to go through and how you could equip me to not only survive it but lose my sense of dread and nightmares.
“As an Internal Medicine / Sports Medicine Physician, the complexity of physical health and / or illness that I see in my practice is diverse. It is important to match the needs of the patient with the skill and personality of the practitioner rendering service. Yoga provides an option for healing. It is with great regard that I choose to refer patients in the direction of Stephen Saunders (owner of Tulsa Yoga Therapy) as his skill and ability in teaching a Therapeutic style of yoga is exceptional. His strong attitude towards conscious living and guiding individuals in a direction of health warrants exploration. Stephens personal story of healing through the practice of Therapeutic yoga further enhances his strengths as a teacher.”
Michele L Neil, D.O., Tulsa
“A one-hour, weekly session with Stephen Saunders became an important investment in myself. He possesses that rare balance of a nurturing presence and technical knowledge that helped me become stronger, healthier and more centered. Anyone looking to start or deepen a yoga practice would benefit enormously from Stephen’s guidance.”
Lisa C, S. Tulsa
“For many years, I have referred my patients to Stephen Saunders because he has a clear understanding of the human anatomy and how yoga can benefit a practitioner – despite age, body type or physical challenges. His classes are instructive and challenging and teach students how to maintain a healthy yoga practice with great meditative benefits.”
Kelley B Singer, M.D.
“Working with Stephen Saunders weekly has helped both my mind and my body in so many positive ways. I have now integrated yoga into my daily life through posture, breathing, and coping without actually getting out a mat each day. (Although, Stephen says that would be even better!) Stephen has a unique way of enthusiastically presenting yoga philosophy and movement without intimidating the average Oklahoman.”
“I have always been a very active, athletic person. I kept an active gym membership, did power walking and Tae Kwon Do. After being diagnosed with a rare non fatal form of ALS, I was no longer able to keep up with any of my workout routine. I was so frustrated as I felt my body losing more and more muscle tone, balance and functionality. I never considered yoga as something that could challenge me as I was used to being challenged. However, I signed up for Elizabeth’s Therapeutic Yoga class, and it has been such a blessing for me. Elizabeth tailors the class so that each individual can do what their body can handle. It is not only a workout that my body can do, but also helps me to find meaning and understanding by listening to what my body is saying. With her help, I am gaining muscle tone, balance and even some functionality, which is helping my confidence. She has guided me in realizing that yoga is not only on the mat, but also in the mind and the soul.”
“I have severe scoliosis. When I first met Stephen I had been wearing a back brace for 5 years. The bracing process had corrected my curvature roughly twenty degrees, but I had become completely dependent on the brace. Working with Stephen has given me greater strength and flexibility, as well as an awareness of how I can do my daily activities without hurting myself. As I enter my senior years, I now have a means to maintain fluid movement well into old age.”
“Stephen Saunders is a wonderful teacher. Through his very knowledgeable guidance, yoga class is transforming in many ways. Just one of my positive experiences has been with a shoulder injury that was very painful and slowly severely limited my range of motion. After 2 months of yoga with Stephen, my range of motion has improved over 90% and the pain is gone. Yoga is so important for all of us on so many different levels that I tell everyone about Stephen’s classes. It truly makes a huge, positive difference.”
“With Stephen’s intelligent presentation of yoga and his gentle reminders of intent and form, I have become reacquainted with some long taken for granted and neglected body parts. He is the first instructor I have had in almost 40 years who has enabled me to “be in my body”, to clear my mind and focus on the breath. And I find myself conscious of posture and breath throughout my day. I have been able to correct a crooked walking pattern through the practice of balance, elongating, strengthening and breath that Stephen has shown me. He has taught me to honor my edges and to be patient with my body. I have injured myself in the past from Pilates and yoga with instructors who do not pay proper attention to alignment and form of a movement. Stephen has given me the confidence to know that stretching and holding movement in the correct manner will strengthen, not injure. Yoga centers me, slows me down, self adjusts and energizes me all at the same time. It gives me greater range of motion. It takes me out of my head and into my heart, feelings and breath. It just doesn’t get better than that. Namaste”
“I have been attending Elizabeth Barlow’s yoga classes for over 9 years. I am a 58 year old female and the results have been wonderful. My motivation was that I didn’t want to walk like an old lady. My posture has improved and my flexibility is amazing (to me, of course!). Last year, I dislocated my knee cap and as a result of Elizabeth’s yoga and her body work, I did not have to have any procedures on my knee. My local doctor scheduled with me to have fluid taken off of my knee the morning after the accident. After Elizabeth’s body work, the doctor decided against it, amazed that the fluid had reduced so much. The orthopedic specialist was also amazed and was very interested in the treatment I had been given. I have also struggled with lower back damage from children, car accidents, etc. It is my belief that yoga and body work have kept me from having back surgery. A back specialist in OKC commented that if it were not for yoga, I would have already had surgeries. Recently, I started working with a personal trainer. While I will not reveal how low I scored on all the strength tests (tee hee), I was in the top 98% on flexibility. He commented that he had not had anyone in his career with such flexibility. He also commented that the two clients he has who are yoga students are so easy to work with because they have such “body knowledge”. I also have 3 grand-children in Elizabeth’s yoga classes. They have learned so many self soothing techniques and have become more patient with themselves and with others. They have also gained their own body knowledge. I really feel I owe so much of my physical and mental health to Elizabeth’s yoga and body work and I am blessed to have her in my life and in my grand-children’s lives. Oh yes! My husband relies on Liz’s body work to get him through his stressful days. Namaste!”
“I have been taking therapeutic yoga from Elizabeth Barlow for four months and certainly intend to continue. I have severe arthritis in both hips and a history of back surgery. Elizabeth has worked with me on a individual basis to help me derive the most from my practice despite my disabilities. She has instructed me in ways to develop much needed strength in my core muscles and to maintain as much flexibility as possible. Her knowledge of human anatomy and physiology is such an asset to her in helping her students to benefit from their workout despite limitations and to incorporate the principles of yoga breathing and relaxation in their everyday lives.”
“My first experience with Yoga was seven years ago when I walked into Stephen’s class shortly after completing treatment for breast cancer. I had little hair and could barely reach my left arm above my shoulder. Through Stephen’s quiet and steady direction I have gained strength and flexibility in my arm in addition to a stronger healthier attitude. Stephen is a remarkable teacher. He begins each class in a manner that helps prepare your mind and body for the practice. He very carefully builds the class with activities that support a successful experience of the next posture or position. The progression is so gradual that all the class participates can feel a benefit. Stephen always has hints on how to protect your joints through careful explanation and example. He constantly encourages class members to “take care of their body”. Most of all Stephen cares about the mind body connection of Yoga. For him it is a way of life which permeates every class. Practicing Yoga under Stephen is so beneficial for my health and well being that I am willing to drive a distance to attend his classes.”
“Stephen is a highly knowledgeable yoga instructor. He facilitates each class in such a calm and compassionate manner but also with specific direction. His sense of humor is appreciated especially during more challenging poses. And he encourages his students to use yoga to facilitate major changes; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Stephen’s classes have taught me a lot that I can take home to my daily practice, but I enjoy his classes at Tulsa Yoga Therapy even more. I highly recommend Stephen’s classes to anyone looking for empowerment over pain in the body, anyone looking to take their yoga practice to the next level, or to any yoga beginner. It really is yoga for every body!”
Andrea, Tulsa, OK