The Yogini from Manila

Integrative Approach to Women’s Wellbeing: A day with Dr. Patty Petralba, M.D.

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Women thrive among women friends. It is how we are wired. When we have concerns and problems, it helps to pour out our emotions and issues to “sisters” who can listen and empathize. Many times, just being able to talk is enough to bring down our stress levels several notches. This is something quite alien to the male species who tend to approach their issues by retreating into their caves so they can mull over a possible solution. They will communicate less in order to find an efficient solution to a problem; women become more social — talking a problem through with trusted women, working out finer details, and seeking support.

My yin yoga teacher, Dona, recognizing the importance of women supporting women in all stages of our lives, created a Facebook group called Embodying a Feminine Approach to Wellbeing. This is our “space to share our insights, experiences, resources and practical women’s wisdom that allow us to embody a feminine approach to wellbeing”. Such gatherings are symbolized by circles — wider and wider circles — of women of all ages and life stages. Here we learn how to live according to our natural women’s cycles.

The circle of wellbeing

The beautiful circle of wellbeing – so feminine, healthy, nurturing, welcoming….

Although I had been part of this group for some time already, my interaction was basically online. So when a women’s gathering was arranged by Dona with a special guest in the person of Dr. Patty Petralba, M.D., I jumped at the chance to meet the other women.

Dr. Patty Petralba (speaking) and Dona (to her left)

Dr. Patty Petralba (speaking) and Dona (to her left)

The background of Dr. Patty is still rare in the Philippines these days because she is a REAL doctor who practices integrative medicine in the United States. Theirs is still a fairly small but growing group of osteopathic physicians. Most conventional Western-trained doctors are specialists or what we call allopathic physicians while integrative medicine doctors are referred to as osteopathic physicians.

What is the difference between allopathic and osteopathic physicians? Here’s an article I found.

I took my seat around our women’s circle and looked around. There were a few who I knew; the others were new faces. But it didn’t matter. Dona began by reminding us that women had their own place in the family since the age of cavemen. While the men were out hunting for food, the women would gather around the fire, waiting for the food that would be brought in by their men, and look after the children. And, like it was during the cavemen days, it was heartwarming to see some mothers bring their little ones to our circle. As we discussed, the toddlers were crawling around and doodling under their mothers’ watchful eyes.


Our women's circle

Our women’s circle


What struck me about this women’s circle was the openness and trust given to one another — that allowing of vulnerability to bubble up into the surface when most days, we struggle to keep it hidden and safe. Some stories shared were very personal and required total acceptance and non-judgment of each person’s situation and feelings. We discussed menstrual cycles, gender-specific responses to stress, sleep, nutrition, the environment and its effect on our internal well-being, and so much more.

The insights of Dr. Patty were valuable because we talked about well-being beyond traditional medicine. We recognized the body’s healing ability as well as how to bring wellness into our lives by understanding and honoring the natural rhythms and cycles of women in different life stages. Rites of passage and ceremony were shared by Dona and some others, as they and their children moved from one phase of life to another. It made me wish I knew about the importance of rites of passage much earlier so I could introduce my children to them. Maybe it’s not too late.

One topic, in particular, brought me out of my comfort zone but it held truth — the importance of planning how to die in order to live. As I pondered that thought, I realized that it is only when we acknowledge our mortality and temporal state on this earth that we get to view what really matters with new eyes. Maybe that will be another blog post down the road…

Our women’s circle ended the day with an embodiment exercise that made us become more aware of ourselves. We were led to experience the sensation, not just of giving but, of receiving. It was a day of honoring our true selves and acknowledging the feminine in us.

Thank you, thank you, Dr. Patty and Dona, for opening up this space for our women’s circle. Hopefully it inspires wider and wider circles of women who will continue to celebrate what makes us special as the feminine species.

Some of the women from the women's circle

Some of the women from the women’s circle

Just to give a little background on Dr. Patty:

PATTY PETRALBA M.D. received her training in Integrative Family Medicine track from the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently practicing Integrative Primary Care Medicine in Tucson, Arizona and finishing her Integrative Medicine Fellowship in the University of Arizona. She educates and mentors future physicians in the ATSU Osteopathic Medical School. Recognizing allopathic medicine’s culture of segregation, she strives to bridge this gap between specialized practitioners by using traditional wisdom and evidence-based medicine. Her medical practice is inquiry-driven. She aspires to exemplify its integrative principles by committing herself to self-exploration and self-development.

Here is Dona’s background:

DONA TUMACDER-ESTEBAN is the pioneer of Yin Yoga in the Philippines and is the co-director of the Women’s Health Program of Yin Yoga in Asia. As the creator of The Period Project, she has been facilitating women’s circles focused on how to live according to women’s natural cycles. She integrates Traditional Chinese Medicine, hormonal health, Integrative Nutrition, Embodiment and psycho-emotional perspectives in her Life Force Energy Management practice.

Dona will be holding a Women’s Well-Being Weekend this Sept. 3-4, 2016, from 9am-5pm at Yoga+ Makati. Details can be found here.


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One Comment

  1. I think that meetings like that (and the Facebook groups or forums) give an incredible opportunity to people who are afraid to talk about some problems with their families or friends because they don’t want to be rejected or feel insecure. On the internet, they are almost anonymous, and on the meetings, they have people who are similar to them – there is nothing to worry about.I hope that more meeting will come in future and ladies (guys too!) should create more help groups like this as well!

Thanks for reading! I'd love to know what you think.

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