Gayl Walder Turns Doctor's Office Into Yoga Room
A Highland Park yoga instructor released a DVD to help those facing stressful medical situations.
For most people, there's nothing relaxing about waiting in a doctor's office. If you're worried you might get bad news, even reading a magazine can be a futile endeavor.
For Gayl Walder, who knows all too well how stressful the setting can be, the doctor's office is the perfect place for yoga.
The 45-year-old yoga instructor, who teaches at Equinox and Healing Power Yoga in Highland Park, recently produced a DVD titled Healing in Motion. The unconventional project features Walder going through a series of yoga poses in a doctor's office wearing everyday street clothes. Throughout the video, Walder coaches viewers on how to find inner calm during stressful medical situations such as waiting for test results and meeting with physicians.
"It's all about simple poses that help people breathe," said Walder, who has been a yoga practitioner for almost 13 years and an instructor for six. "It's really for anyone who has anxiety. The waiting can be so hard."
Walder is no stranger to medical scares. In 2007, her mother was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer. Subsequently, Walder, a mother of four, tested positive for the BRCA gene, which can increase a woman's chance of getting breast cancer by up to 90 percent. She chose to lower her risk by having a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. Less than a month after her surgery, she was back practicing the yoga that helped her through the difficult decision-making process.
"Yoga gives me a sense of empowerment," Walder said. "I didn't know if I would ever be able to practice it again. Now I feel like I can really help people."
And she does. Dr. R-Jay. Marcus, an anesthesiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Division of Breast Surgery, refers patients who are either faced with breast cancer or who carry gene mutations and are contemplating prophylactic surgery to Walder.
The instruction Walder offers "can be a tremendous tool," Marcus said. "If it can lift their spirits just a little, I think it is well worth it."
Alissa Morrow, a 36-year-old mother of three, went through the same surgery as Walder less than two weeks ago. She found Walder through a family friend, and used many of the relaxation techniques shown in Walder's video to help her as she awaited her surgery.
"The anticipation was the worst part for me," said Morrow, who is looking forward to beginning yoga once her recovery is complete. "But the breathing techniques were so helpful, especially the day of the surgery."
Walder is in the process of applying for grants so her video can reach more people in doctors' offices and hospital waiting rooms. The DVD sells for $24.95, of which a portion is donated to cancer research.
Ever since discovering her passion for yoga, Walder has sought to help others with it. She founded Ahimsa Global Yoga, a company that brings yoga to schools, senior centers and corporations. It's not uncommon to find Walder in a law firm hallway, striking the warrior one pose with a group of young attorneys who need a break from their daily grind.
"I'll do it during lunch breaks and everyone tells me how transformed they are for the rest of their day," Walder said.