... and your body includes (at least some of) your mind. Stress: physical reaction. Emotions: at least in part physical. Thoughts: require physical activity that can be imaged and tracked.
You don't have to know how the body and mind interact or whether they are in fact one to understand that what you do with your body effects how you feel. How you feel effects how you think. How you think effects how you act. How you act is what you do with your body, so the cycle goes round and round.
Whether you are dealing with a malady recognized by the healthcare system such as diabetes, arthritis, allergies and inflammation or just want more strength or flexibility (or both), or seek "stress" reduction, more vitality or mood support - there's a yoga for that.
Yoga is a system of techniques and practices for increasing and decreasing reactions and processes in the body and what we usually refer to as the mind. That's why it sometimes gets construed as mystical or religious. Yoga is the user manual for your body.
Does this mean yoga will fix any or all of these things all the time? No. Does yoga hold all the answers? Absolutely not. Yoga works hand in hand with many other answers - but it is part of the solution when the question is about how to effect the body. Yoga is a set of practices and techniques that you do yourself, under the guidance of a skilled teacher for the best results. This is empowerment, this is understanding and this is something that enhances other systems and techniques that support the body in wellness and you in experiencing your wholeness. One of my favorite ministers recently said in sermon that healing isn't fixing: it's returning to the experience of wholeness. Sometimes this comes with a "fix." Sometimes things can't be returned to any prior state. But as long as you are you, you are whole Returning to an experience of this - as opposed to experiences of disconnection, reduction, dissembling, evaluating, comparing and objectifying which so often happens when we seek to experience more or less of something - is the beginning of what yoga provides.
Want to feel more awake? There's a technique for that. Want to wind down for a good sleep? There's a technique for that. Want to suffer less from pain? There are techniques for that. Want to be stronger + more flexible? That, too. Cardio? Yep. HIIT? Yep. Resistance? Yep. Want to experience less stress? Yoga's got you covered.
Here's the rub: yoga isn't like a car wash: you go in one end dirty, have a few solutions applied and get rubbed by a brush and come out the other end shiny. There isn't a pill or a cut for that in yoga. Yoga is something is something you do. If you're looking to be fixed, move on. If you're looking to do something positive that will help you feel the way you want to feel, you're in the right place.
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"We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled; the trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over an let the beautiful stuff out." ~Ray Bradbury
Imagine an hour long vacation that fills your well with fresh, new, clear energy. That's restorative yoga class. Someone today remarked that yoga would never be the same without someone supporting them completely in every pose, taking them on a renewing meditation journey and even a little release in final supported twist.
When and how do you include restorative yoga in your life? Comment below and share your experience and favorite modifications!
Restorative Yoga classes are a special treat that I recommend everyone indulge at least once a week - whether you provide this experience for yourself at home or you allow me to guide you. Restorative practice includes a gentle "warm up" - Moon Salutations, here - and then long rests (not holds) in completely supported asana, sometimes with guided meditation.
In the diagram above, the rectangular paddle looking things are blankets placed strategically to support the body for maximum release of muscular effort - you shouldn't even feel as if you have to hold your arms up. Covering the eyes is an added way to trigger the relaxation response and deeper sense withdrawal, or pratyahara.
While there isn't a wide variation in poses used for Restorative practice, you'll find you don't miss the variety once you sink into the experience. Your body will bring the novelty - where you feel tightness and release, how the body melts from week to week - and guided meditations will guide your monkey mind into releasing it's grippy little paws for the hour.
Leave a comment below about your Restorative Yoga practice this week and be entered into a drawing to receive a guided recording of this class.
The difference between restorative & any other style of yoga is both intensity of effort and duration in poses. Rather than working with muscular opposition, hugging in, radiating out, spirals, loops, etc you create a space for your body to melt into the pose. The time spent in both preparation and melting can more greatly emphasize the already meditative possibilities in asana practice. It’s useful to warm the body up to the practice with chandra namaskar – moon salutations.
At least one practice a week should be restorative. The effects of restorative practice are hormonally supportive, metabolically positive, meditative, stress relieving, rejuvenating and can supercharge your regular practice.
One of the most influential books I've read this year, Overcoming Trauma through Yoga communicates principles of teaching for trauma recovery that are applicable to every class, every where.
Emerson, Hopper and their co-authors (legends in their own rights in trauma research and treatment) advocate for yoga practice in dealing with the aftermath of trauma and give guidelines and suggestions for both teaching trauma sensitive classes as well as advocating for home yoga practice. This alone was music to my ears, of course, but their guidelines were confirmatory of my own instincts.
My preference has always been hands off, as a yoga teacher as well as a student. I nearly always find physical adjustments jarring, even when the overall effect is revelatory. As nearly everyone who's been in yoga classes for more than a decade, I've also received detrimental adjustments, even from celebrity status teachers with supposedly great credentials.
Overcoming Trauma through Yoga elucidates the basic wisdom behind preferring auditory adjustments over physical ones and confirmed my intuitive preference. Not only do physical adjustments bring up all sorts of attentional and boundary challenges, but they invalidate the deeper premise of yoga practice: in a "class" you may be trying to do the post your instructor is teaching, but in a "practice" your intent is to sense your own experience in each pose. It's not that you go off and do different poses; but the core of the pose is how you feel it and learning to sense your body in space, so having someone put you there is actually counter-productive. It may take longer to feel the pose from the inside, but the path to getting there - much like transitions between poses - is as important as the getting there.
There are instructional parts to this book, fundamental for anyone starting out and interesting for the experienced practitioner. One of my favorite suggestions is the cue... "if you'd like to add something" as a substitute for "going deeper" or "more advanced" or what have you. This language takes the competitive spirit out of the equation and reveals the degree to which everything is optional.
The most surprising finding for me was that a measure of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is correlated to resilience in recovery from trauma. HRV is an interesting and relatively simple measurement of how long it takes the body to recover - or return to baseline - from an excited state. Yoga has a positive effect on HRV and this is one of the bases for recommending it as an adjunct to trauma therapy.
Whether you've got your own trauma journey - and let's face it, modern life is traumatizing - or you want to be prepared when you have someone in class who does, this book is the most important resource I've read all year. What is your top yoga book for 2013 and why? Leave a comment and share your thoughts...