Thrive by IU Health

August 19, 2021

COVID-19 Funds Expand Yoga Programs

COVID-19 Funds Expand Yoga Programs

Donors to the COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund have helped to bring the healing powers of yoga, meditation and other mindfulness practices to patients and team members who are experiencing additional stress due to COVID-19.

A $5,000 award from the fund is supporting Mindfulness for Moms at University Hospital, for mothers-to-be with high-risk pregnancies and new mothers whose babies are in the neonatal intensive care unit. The grant will also expand Yoga in Scrubs to University Hospital. The 20-minute, socially distanced yoga classes for IU Health clinicians and staff were introduced in the early days of the pandemic at IU Health Methodist Hospital.

Yoga therapist Kelsey Underwood, MS, C-IAYT and John Shepard, RN, mindfulness program manager, have long shared ideas for making yoga more accessible. Underwood teaches yoga to patients at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center but knew there was a need among perinatal populations. Shepard has been teaching five-week mindfulness seminars to nurses and other front-line caregivers and is expanding that program to more IU Health locations statewide. Together, they are creating a statewide network of “mindfulness ambassadors.” COVID-19 accelerated their work.

“High-risk moms and moms with high-risk babies need stress relief and help to lower their anxiety, especially in the time of COVID,” said Underwood. “For clinical staff, yoga minimizes burnout, compassion fatigue and anxiety, and improves focus and cultivates cohesiveness among team members.”

In addition to leading Yoga in Scrubs classes to counter the effects of the pandemic, Shepard takes pop-up practices to nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists and other clinicians who don’t have time to take even 20-minute breaks. He knows it works: “When people were done, they had smiles on their faces.”