Mala Cunningham: Addressing Heart Disease with Medical Yoga
Please share what you do in 10-15 words. I have developed a model of medical yoga called Cardiac Medical Yoga that is used for patients with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Why do you do what you do? Heart disease is the number-one killer is most countries in the world. Diabetic and heart patients need a modified and medical emphasis for their yoga practice. It is deeply rewarding to see the impact that yoga has on the lives of patients who have a medical condition.
What are you currently fascinated by in your work? When I started yoga in 1971, it was considered a “fad”. Now, it has come full circle with hospitals and clinics around the world recognizing the tremendous benefit that yoga has to offer for both prevention and rehabilitation issues. It is a very exciting time to be involved in the area of medical yoga.
How did you come to your path? Any aha moments or key teachers? In the early 1980’s, a colleague of mine who was 40-years-old at the time had a heart attack and sadly within cardiac rehab, there was nothing available for him to deal with his stress. Since I was already a yoga teacher and was also studying for my PhD in psychology, I realized that yoga could be used for both mental health and medical issues. It was at that time that I began to format a medical yoga model of care for patients dealing with diabetes and heart disease.
What book(s) are you currently reading? “The Untethered Should” by Michael Singer.
Have you been to the Yoga Retreat before? It is always a great pleasure to teach at the Sivananda Ashram. I deeply respect the depth of dedication to the yoga practices by the students of Swami Vishnu. It is very inspiring and admirable to see the next generation of yogis being so dedicated and committed to the principles and philosophy of the ancient yoga practices.
Mala Cunningham, PhD, RYT-500, is a counseling psychologist and certified yoga therapist. A clinical assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Nursing, she teaches courses in medical yoga and mindfulness to health professionals. Mala is the president of Positive Health Solutions and founder and director of the Cardiac Medical Yoga Teacher Training Certification Program.
As co-director of Medical Yoga Initiatives at the University of Virginia, Mala researches the effects of yoga and mindfulness on lupus patients, as well as teaches professional formatting of medical yoga programs for health professionals. Mala is a senior disciple of Swami Satchidananda and has been practicing and teaching yoga for more than 35 years.