An Interview with Robin Saraswati Markus, DAOM, LAc, ERYT200
Dr. Saraswati’s Dao Flow Yoga brings together Chinese Medicine energetics, the Dao, western medicine, and Yoga. She’s opened a studio clinic where she weaves this all together into one healing cord. She’s had remarkable successes in the fertility field and will be conducting a teacher training program in 2014 to cover women’s four milestones: menstruation, fertility, pregnancy/postpartum, and menopause. In this interview, she discusses the philosophy and practices that inspire her healing work and that are part of her new DVD, “Dao Flow Yoga for Fertility and Women’s Health.”
Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): What drew you to Yoga, Daoism, and women’s health issues?
Saraswati Markus (SM): The path found me. Sun Bu’er, the 7th century Daoist priestess talked about the ability to be on the blind path, which is healing; it’s a pregnant moment, where anything is possible. There’s a lot of tapas involved in the ability to not reach forward into the next moment or to hold onto the past. The ability to let go of raga/dvesha, attraction/aversion, and to release into the moment in itself is one practice that has the ability to regulate hormones.
Today, we live in a hectic world and have a 24/7 global lifestyle that is probably the #1 hormonal disruptor in women. From the Daoist point of view, we say that puts the woman’s set point toggled in the direction of yang energy, a kind of hyper-stimulation. We’re great multi-taskers and seem to have eyes all around our heads! That’s not to say that we only need to do yin, restorative practices, because we do—a lot of women are tired and we have to fill up our cups. But, we need to skillfully navigate these two energies. The yang part of the question becomes: Where do I point my energy and how do I interact with life? The yin expression of the question becomes: How do I make the time and what kind of practices nourish me? This is what most modern women are facing.
IYM: How did you integrate Yoga?
SM: As I would in my personal Hatha Yoga practice. When I practice, I begin to feel the energies that come down from the sky and up from the earth. I feel them in my body and how they become more active in certain poses. In the late 1990s, I started keeping a detailed journal that classified and categorized this and it developed into my Dao Flow Yoga system. Chinese Medicine divides the body into 12 primary internal organs that have a channel or pathway that sprouts from the organs and distributes energy. That’s the same premise behind how acupuncture, shiatsu, and Reiki work. As you touch the surface, that directly communicates with the deeper, internal organs. What we know from Yoga is that as we inhale, we absorb prana. Depending upon how we attach our concentration, we breathe in prana from the earth or from the sky. As we exhale we can direct the prana into a channel or body area. In Dao Flow Yoga, we use the triad method: a combination of asana, pranayama, and concentration, or awareness. We braid the three together so you can move energy through your body. It becomes like a self-acupuncture treatment.
IYM: What else did you discover to help in helping your patients heal?
SM: One of the most healing tools was finding the resonance with patients. When I was able to help them to want more of the life unfolding before them rather than that which was just out of reach, they tap into a deeper sense of authenticity. This started to speak to me. The healing aspects of Yoga philosophy were shining through, and I began having this whole kind of mystical sharing this with patients. I didn’t quite understand what was happening.
Rather than focusing on infertility issues and feeling, “If I have a baby, the perfect husband, the right job, then I’ll feel good on the inside,” my patients were starting to let their guards down—they were seeing the reality of their situations, being honest about their lives, and understanding what was out of balance. Yoga teaches us that the external world is impermanent and the riches are on the inside. So, the question I began to pose to my patients was: How can you cultivate that which is really sustainable? What was emerging led to me to realize I had to start to practice in a different way. I completed the doctorate, but then I sold my practice, quit teaching, moved to North Carolina and decided to take a sabbatical and develop what became Dao Flow Yoga. I wanted to find a way to create a program to help women develop the tools that enabled them to step back into their lives empowered.
IYM: How can they do that?
SM: Through the breath, internal locks or bandhas, asana, turning toward an inner cultivation, turning toward our own dharma, having our lives and hearts in alignment with the higher Self. Each woman in every moment has the ability to point her energy toward a healing path. A tag line is we have at my new studio clinic (Nourishing Life Center of Health in North Asheville, North Carolina) is: “Where health meets consciousness.” The more we can be in our moment to moment experience, the more present we can be to finding that alignment, that delicate sacred balance of yin and yang energy in each moment. . .
Read the rest of this article in the Fall 2013 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine