Yoga Therapy, Chronic Pain and Precision Medicine

Lilith Bailey-Kroll, Tue, 26 Feb, 2019

I started practicing yoga in my teens to address physical discomfort from scoliosis, which has greatly improved with the regular practice of Yoga. While it by no means has “cured” my scoliosis it has given me a tool for addressing the challenges both genetic and self-imposed that life has brought my way. I initially was drawn to the Iyengar method for its precision and focus on alignment. And, was so inspired by the method I decided to enroll in a 500-hour teacher training program at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco, graduating in 1999. In 2001 I moved to Pittsburgh, PA to attend a Masters of Fine Arts program at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), one of the top-ranked graduate programs in the country.

The program promotes an experimental approach to art making as a vital social, critical, and intellectual pursuit. My work as an artist has brought interdisciplinarity collaboration through which I have developed the ability to communicate effectively to many different types people and knowledge bases. I have also developed a strong research-based approach and critical problem-solving skill set that is vital to my work as a yoga therapist and more currently biotechnology student. During my time at CMU I fell in love with Pittsburgh and the city supported me with a career in yoga therapy, so I decided to stay after graduating.

By 2006 I had been working professionally as a yoga therapist for a handful of years and felt ready to open my first clinic, Pratique Therapeutic Yoga. My slogan and motto at the clinic was “Yoga Is My Health Insurance.” It was something that I had heard repeatedly from students who believed in participating in the process of their health care, rather than solely relying on doctors for sick care. One of my clients put it this way, “Before long, I was standing taller, walking longer and even breathing became easier.” That is the essence of Yoga Is My Health Insurance.

Working as a yoga therapist in private practice over the last decade brought more than 1,000 people through my door. I knew that yoga therapy worked, I saw first-hand the way in which it addressed the whole person on a profoundly complex level concerning the biopsychosocial-spiritual. I saw people integrate what I had taught them and transform their lives from physical pain and emotional suffering into resilience and gratitude.

My curious mind wanted more though. Over the course of my career I began integrating different methods and ancient wisdom traditions into my practice. From 2012-2017 I acted as my ex-husband’s research assistant looking at Chinese medicine through the lens of Medical Anthropology. I traveled around the globe, extensively throughout Europe and Asia, through 7 countries while I was pregnant! That time profoundly changed the way I understood health, medicine and governing bodies.

When I returned to the states I knew that I wanted to go back to school and participate in the biomedical science and as I started my research I began looking into chronic pain and precision medicine. Biotechnology was where I landed, as it is offering new possibilities for how to alleviate suffering. The excitement and fun I have now is integrating the knowledge base and new skill set I have in the biomedical science with the ancient wisdom traditions such as yoga and Chinese medicine. These traditions have long pointed to health not being something static but something that is in flux. The biomedical sciences are just starting to wrap their arms around this as they grasp the human microbiome and the complex way in which epigenetics plays out in DNA.

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Lilith is a San Francisco native and the first in her family to attend college and pursue a career in the sciences. She blends her passion for business, art and spirituality in her work as a social entrepreneur and yoga therapist. She lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA.

Lilith Bailey-Kroll, MFA, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500


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