The Mindful Yoga Journey of Dr. Ingrid Yang

This article was originally published in LA Yoga – read here.

Sharing a Mindful Yoga Journey as a Mindful Life Journey

The path to a meaningful life is far from straight and narrow. My professional career began as a stressed-out prelaw student-then-attorney, before I made the career leap to yoga teacher/studio owner in my mindful yoga journey.

While stepping away from law was a difficult decision, I realized that practicing medicine was my true calling, and the place where I could contribute most to the world. Even before I entered medical school, I knew in my heart that incorporating yoga could, and would be, beneficial and integral to how I would practice medicine.

Today, in my practice, I meld the wisdom and therapeutics of yoga with rigorous scientific investigation, creating the space for deeper healing and wellness.

Now, I am a physician and yoga therapist and two-time author. I use my skills as a former attorney to advocate for my patients. I am also an advisor for the tech wellness company obVus Solutions, where I design the breathing exercises featured in the award-winning minder® posture corrector + breathing coach app, lead health coaching, and host continuing education webinars for health professionals. It is an honor and a thrill to contribute to the world in such a unique and exciting way. And I have to say, gratefully, that I love my life. But a mindful yoga journey, or any journey, was not an easy path… It never is, is it?

The Path to Living my Purpose

Having participated in a few different careers, I feel I am truly living my purpose as a physician, advising and educating people on their health. I started practicing yoga because I needed it on a very personal level. Along this path, I had to ask myself really hard questions at times when the “right” answer seemed impossible to find.

In college, I was a type-A go-getter in New York City, full of ambition and energy. Yet, the stress and pressure I put on myself felt suffocating. I was anxious and rigid, both physically and spiritually. Luckily, a friend recommended yoga to help ease my emotional inflexibility. Yoga taught me that I could just breathe in each moment: I did not have to prove or accomplish anything. I could just breathe and exist. I had never felt so relieved.

In my medical practice, I have found that a blend of ancient and modern healing methods have proven to be highly effective as the Covid-19 pandemic crisis unfolded in 2020. As a frontline healthcare professional, my patients benefit from a unique blend of mindfulness, breathwork (pranayama), and yoga asana in ways that counter their unique challenges. I find that these techniques greatly benefit those who are suffering and recovering from the alarming effects of the virus and help create a deeper sense of calm, which facilitates healing.

A Mindful Yoga Journey Includes Breathwork

I believe that all my patients benefit from the inclusion of mindfulness and breathwork, and have observed that people generally experience more ease in recovery, both during their hospital stay and after they are discharged home. My hope is to see more of this type of awareness introduced to the general public, which is why I’ve taken on the role of advising tech-wellness company obVus Solutionson the breathing exercises featured on the minder app. It brings awareness to the general public on the importance of better posture and breathing, two components which are crucial to helping improve overall health. My mission is mindfulness, not just in fields of medicine and yoga, but for the wellbeing of our entire population.

My path as a physician and yoga therapist has allowed me to witness how a dedicated yoga practice, when made accessible to everybody, can truly change one’s path to wellness. My latest book, Adaptive Yoga, highlights a variety of physical and physiological conditions in populations who have historically felt that their disabilities precluded them from practicing physical yoga. The book illustrates variations and adaptations to poses, which provide therapeutic comfort and increased confidence to all yogis.

To that end, I teach weekend-long trainings on Adaptive Yoga, including at Prana Yoga Center in La Jolla, for both yoga and medical professionals. A highlight of the training is that it outlines the biomechanics of altered anatomy and physiology of numerous conditions and shows how best to adapt poses for these populations. The training also provides trauma informed mind-body principles and practices, which have been shown to help those with students lead healthier, fuller lives.  I am also presenting at the Global Yoga Therapy Conference, virtually, in August.

Cultivating Work/Life Balance

Despite all my responsibilities, I hold a healthy home/work balance high on my wellness checklist. As a yoga therapist, I understand first-hand how important a personal yoga practice is in helping to maintain this sometimes precarious balance. I like to get away to the LA retreat staple, Terranea, to practice yoga on the beach, commune with nature, and get away for quiet meditation while listening to the ocean waves. In my free time, I also turn to surfing, where I find solace in the mindfulness and presence of riding the waves.

“Surfing is simply another form of yoga practice, and the uncertainties and challenges of wave-riding mimic those experienced in everyday life; we breathe and flow in each moment, and as life presents itself to us and we allow ourselves the time and space to be aware, we can see that we flow in sync with nature’s intentions.”

In all of my years working with people on yoga mats and in hospital beds, I have seen firsthand that burnout and exhaustion are one of the major causes of physical illness and disease. I believe in the restorative power of stepping away from the chaos of our daily lives and the power of mindfully setting the intention of self-care; on a physical, mental and spiritual level.

Retreats with Dr Ingrid Yang

Over the past few years, I’ve led yoga and meditation retreats in various destinations, incorporating wellness and healthy living practices on all levels. I hope LA Yoga readers will join me for either or both of two upcoming destination retreats currently scheduled: One in Portugal, September 2021, and one in April 2022 located in beautiful Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

If there is one thing that makes us feel more alive, it is travel. I find travel takes me out of my comfort zone and helps me connect with nature, as well as old and new friends. I love to experience different cultures, which is why I lead yoga retreats in different countries around the world.