While teaching women’s-only Dao Flow Yoga class at Asheville Yoga Center, Dr. Saraswati Markus was approached by several women who were seeking natural solutions for their health problems. In response, Markus, a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine, decided it was time to open her own clinic locally. She opened the Nourishing Life Center to provide women with healing through yoga and qigong classes, workshops, acupuncture, Chinese medicine and herbalism. As the center approaches its one-year anniversary, Xpress sat down with Markus to learn more about her healing methods.
Mountain Xpress: What inspired you to work with women’s health?
When I started my acupuncture practice in 1995 [in southern California], I had two young women who were told they could not have children. One had severe endometriosis and the other uterine fibroids. Their doctors recommended hysterectomies. Many of their symptoms were resolved with acupuncture treatments. Not only that, but they both got pregnant and had multiple children. Word spread, and my practice filled with women.
Were you doing solely acupuncture at the time?
I was doing acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, breathwork, movement and guided meditation. It’s not enough to come in for the one hour of acupuncture. You have to begin to interact with your life differently, and that ultimately becomes the lifetime solution.
Do you have a strong gynecological focus in your practice?
My doctorate work in Chinese medicine was about hormones and the various treatments to boost them up. I work a lot with fertility enhancement. In 2002, a study showed the efficacy of using acupuncture with in vitro fertilization. If you do acupuncture in conjunction with IVF, your chances of conceiving go up 25 percent.
When you do an intake, are there specific questions that you ask?
I’ll ask them what they think is standing in their way of becoming a mother, if they have any insight on that. Sometimes they do, or sometimes it’s helpful to sit in the question. It’s amazing what resources are available when we turn to our own insight. We have to find some degree of retreat, our yin nature of receptivity. I always ask [patients]: How can you soften and open to the the life that you have right now?
What is the age range of most of your patients?
Most of the women I see are between 35 and 60 — fertility, premenopausal and menopausal patients. What I do for menopausal patients is not that different than what I do to enhance fertility.
You also incorporate yoga classes in your program for women’s health. Can you tell me about those?
It’s called Dao Flow Yoga. Dao is the ancient Chinese philosophy that connects the energies of nature and our bodies. As we line ourselves up with the rhythms of nature, the human body gets healthier and stronger because it goes with life rather than against it. It moves away from resistance and toward the flow. These concepts are embedded in Daoism and Chinese medicine. I also include qigong and tai chi at the center because these help us learn how to bring our bodies into balance. Those classes belong to the wellness side of our center. We have a wellness side, and we have a medicine side. I treat medical problems and teach my patients wellness care.
Did you develop the Dao Flow Yoga system?
Yes. I threaded together everything I’ve learned from treating women and from my 20-year yoga practice. In my classes I teach woman yoga poses and breathwork techniques that target the glands and turn them back on. There are very specific poses for the ovaries, adrenals, thyroid, pituitary and hypothalamus, which improve blood flow, oxygenation and detoxification. The practice targets rejuvenation and vitality rather than just relaxation alone. All this put together means that you have better hormones.
Do you see men in your medicine practice? Are men also invited to attend yoga classes?
I treat men in my medicine practice as well. Men are invited to 2 Dao Flow Yoga, along with qigong classes, each week. The focus is about harmonizing the flow of energy throughout the body and calming the mind. The practices are meant to balance our modern tendency to become overstimulated. Men are also welcome to enjoy workshops at the center.
What was your vision of opening up the Nourishing Life Center?
I’d see the hope in women’s eyes, like “Oh I don’t have to have headaches, I don’t have to have insomnia or period pain.” It’s not so far reaching that they can’t feel empowered to take the steps to make their lives different. So when you plant those seeds, people light up with empowerment. I didn’t know I was going to start a center. I knew I wanted to do something different.