From the current draft of The Light of Awareness:
Yoga is a holistic system and the best definition of “holistic” I’ve ever heard was on a Dharma Podcast from a brilliant physician named Dr. Martha Herbert: it went something like, “holistic means all of the above.” All of the above. Systemic care, which is a transformation from within, doesn’t come from a single input, decision, lever or intervention. Yoga is a system of self care.
On the most mechanistic level, you know that if you just change the oil in your car on schedule, but forget to ever tune it up, put gas in or check the transmission fluid, you’re going nowhere. We must take care of the whole system. But even more than that, Dr Herbert’s point is that holistic care works synergistically.
You can’t dissect the system, look to refine a single mechanism that will “fix” the system. Care isn’t fixing. That bears repeating: care isn’t fixing. Holistic methods transform through four iterative processes :
Yoga is bigger than "styles": you can find everything from power to hot to aerial yoga and it's easy to think that if you just understood what the names meant you'd be closer to finding what you need. "Styles" are what happen when people take a simple set of postures and techniques and brand them. Yoga is bigger than that.
The categories of yoga that matter don't refer to people's names: they are ways of taking care of yourself.
You may have experienced strong hatha in studios and gym classes, videos and audios - any class where you spent part of the time in standing postures, weight bearing on your arms or sweating. These classes run the range from gentle through what's commonly termed "advanced" and build strength, flexibility, bone and breath capacity.
Yin practices are characterized by long holds and cooling breaths, often through the mouth, contrary to the ujayyi warming breath often encouraged in the prior set of practices. These help address long standing patterns and support self knowledge, working with sensation and release of unskillful tension in the body at many levels, from muscle to fascia and nervous system.
You've definitely experienced restorative practices as long as you stayed through Savasana, or final rest in your 'regular' or strong hatha yoga class. Savasana (literally, "corpse") is a taste of restorative that's included in any true yoga class. These are fully supported postures where you stay for minutes at a time, sometimes with guided meditation or visualization and are a luxuriously accessible way to radically change your nervous system over time.
If you've been here very long, you know I recommend at least one of each of these practices a week for every yoga student. I even include some of each in every single class. This is the most effective use of your time on the mat if you're looking to create transformation in your body, your breath, your mind or your feelings.
Full Spectrum Yoga is a practice that includes all three of these yogic modalities. Full Spectrum Yoga teaches you to care for yourself in every situation: strong, injured, tired, energized, morning, evening, weekend, weekday, young, old, postpartum, pre- and peri-natal, anxious, depressed, joyful, content: a spectrum of practices you can tailor to your own life and needs. Full Spectrum isn't a new kind of yoga. Full Spectrum is a way of approaching your practice, fitness and self care so you address every level of yourself in your fitness regime and can draw from the ancient wisdom of yoga, proven through what science is learning about the fractured fitness model, to take care of your whole self and reach the goals you set for yourself.
Full Spectrum yoga for full spectrum living.
You've heard the drill: it's important to reduce stress, stress isn't healthy, stress is a risk factor for heart disease, cancer, even the flu. And maybe, like many of my clients, you've grown numb to such warnings, thinkings something like, "Oh sure, I'll get rid of stress, I'll quit my job, stop worrying about my responsibilities like kids, parents, mortgage, school, work, voting and groceries. That'll work out greeeeeeeaaat."
Of course trading the stress of broke for the stress of responsibility is no choice at all. But this is a misunderstanding of how stress damages us, of what stress reduction really calls for. The Stress Management Society's website defines stress as, "... primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action."
Stress is any condition that provokes a response. Some stress is necessary for simply maintaining structure - bones are modeled and remodeled according to patterns of stress. Some stress can actually strengthen. Too much provocation is what switches the body to fight or flight (or sympathetic nervous system activation); that one more rude interaction than you can handle gracefully, one more request, one more close call in traffic - the one more than simply strengthens you.
The reason those stress hormones - adrenaline, cortisol, norepi - are deleterious is that they are built from the same building blocks all your good life hormones are built from. If you only experience this once in a while and the reaction is limited, you probably won't suffer from lack of the good stuff. But if you have a close call or provoking interaction every day, or even more, you have no time to recover, nor does your hormonal balance. You begin to make so much of the stress hormones you don't have the raw material for everything else you need.
But the body has a built in brake, if you know how to pull it: the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system). There are straight forward techniques of breathing, posture and imagery that can invoke your relaxation response. But you have to practice to have them available when you need them, and if your balance is already off, you need extra doses to bring the system back into balance.
Yoga is chock full of these practices and techniques for invoking your relaxation response and reducing cortisol already in the body. A daily practice gives you the familiarity to remember a helpful thing or two instead of giving in to the rapid retort or knee jerk response in alcohol, smoking, food or whatever your vice of the moment is.
Restorative yoga is like the reverse of a hard day at the office. Every so often you need a little extra bump of restorative: maybe a little every night or an hour every week. My favorite combo for nearly nightly, pre-bed reset? Queens Pose (Supta Buddha Konasana) + Legs Up the Wall, 5-15 minutes each.
You have an opportunity for a nearly total reset on Saturday, May 7th, 2016 from 12-2:30pm: Restorative Yoga with Reiki treatments from a master in an experiential workshop at Badlands Yoga. Know anyone who could use a real break? A grad or a mom, or maybe even you. Click the link and reserve one of the last spots today. You'll be happy you did.
Can't make it? Keep stopping by this blog for tips on how to include more yoga in your day, more restorative practices, more on strong practices to stoke your awesome and meditation to keep you in the zone. Leave a comment below about what stresses you the most and what helps you reset. One person will receive a personally designed weekly practice template to inspire their #HYP!
Thank you to Karen DiTrapani, Reiki Master and Shamanic Practitioner, for this guest post on Reiki. Karen will be offering Reiki during our Restorative Yoga + Reiki Workshop on Saturday 26 March.
Reiki is an ancient therapeutic touch therapy rediscovered by a 19th century Japanese physician named Hichau Usui. Reiki works with the human body’s energy and electrical field to stimulate healing. It is non-invasive and very gentle, yet powerful. Reiki has been found to reduce inflammation and to increase the oxygen level in the blood. Reiki is safe to use on all living beings and is a wonderful compliment to any additional alternative or allopathic treatments a client may be engaged in. Reiki works on all levels: emotional, spiritual and physical.
A study measuring the effects of Reiki in treating stress and depression resulted in statistically significant decrease in symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceives stress.
In an article by D.W. Wardell and J. Engebretsun in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, February 2001, “Biological Correlates of Reiki Touch Healing,” anxiety was shown to be significantly reduced after treatment s. The two above studies have been quoted in the article, “Military and VA Using Reiki to Heal Returning Veterans,” which also reports that Military Medical Research has identified a high-risk correlation between Veterans with PTSD and heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, asthma and migraines. Reiki si presently being utilized at the Fort Bliss Restoration and Resilience Center in Texas.
A treatment typically lasts from 50 to 70 minutes.
Karen DiTrapani is a Shamanic Practitioner/Coach & Teacher with a B/S in Sociology. Karen has trained in core Shamanic Practice; Soul Retrieval, Journey work, & Extractions. She has completed an Intensive Study program and Advanced Practitioner Training with The Power Path School of Shamanism.
Through her studies in Peru she has been initiated in the use of the Humpi Mesa, for healing and the kintu mesa for protection and connection.
Karen specializes in trauma, depression and chronic pain; as well as personal Despacho Ceremonies. Of special interest is utilizing Traditional Earth Based Healing Techniques in working with Veterans of all wars.
Karen combines her Shamanic practice with energy healing, meditation and psychic, skills and has over 20 years’ experience in performing Traditional Earth Based and energy healing work.
She maintains a private healing and teaching practice in New Mexico and on the East Coast.
Questions: Contact Karen at (505)554-6514