We all have the inkling that yoga goes beyond the physical. All the different shapes we get the body into affects also our breath, mind and heart.
Can you expand your awareness beyond the physical while practising yoga to learn more about yourself and get more out of your practice?
Yogic concept of the koshas describes five sheaths or layers within our being. The physical body, energy body, emotional body, wisdom body and the bliss body. You can picture the bliss body as a light and the other bodies as lampshades each with an elaborate design and only if they are align in the right way the overall design can be seen and the light can shine through. The bliss body is our innermost centre with ever present joy and a sense of contentment. All the goodness, kindness, love, happiness and whatever else we might search is already within us ready to be rediscovered when we properly clean up.
Yoga has a lot of tools for you to do the cleaning with.
Physical positions and mindful movement obviously clean up the physical body and develop body awareness. Breath work and techniques are there for you to clean up and access the energy body with. Your emotional and wisdom bodies are accessed when you develop concentration through one pointed focus and learn how to observe them without getting involved in their content. Then you are ready for proper cleaning in these two bodies also. This particular cleaning never ever finishes. But as you feel more and more light shining through you enjoy this process more and more. Somewhere at this point meditation becomes easy and enjoyable and your inner 'cleaning' journey has become a part of your life. Kindness and love towards yourself and others are here to stay. Life is good. No perfection to be achieved. We are all suffering from the same human being condition.
"You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you and allowing that goodness to emerge" ¬ Eckhart Tolle
What have you done today to release and let go of your stresses and tensions?
Your digestion system works tirelessly to ensure that only the good stuff the nutrients we need are left in the body and everything else needs to go or should go. You know we do get into all sorts of problems if it doesn't go!
Similarly our mental health and overall wellbeing depends on releasing and letting go of experiences, memories that bring tension and stress. Keep the ones that nourish you but let go of everything else!
Both Chinese and Indian traditional medicines recognise accumulation and stagnation as a first stage of illness - physical or mental.
Unfortunately our lifestyle which is predominantly sedentary and cultural attitude that doesn't encourage reflection and letting go on regular basis - quite the opposite in fact as we're encouraged to accumulate more and more information and material possessions - are not helping in avoiding stagnation and accumulation and thus preventing disease from developing.
Luckily you can always relay on yoga to come to the rescue!
The physical practise of yoga positions and regular massages are great for 'getting things moving' and through seemingly targeting the body only they help you to let go of not just physical stiffness but of stresses and tensions deeper within your being. And that is only the beginning .....
Why are we all so stressed when we know that it's not good for us? Why when we try to meditate, relax, think positively, exercise? So why?!
Firstly stop being too harsh on yourself. Evolutionary and biologically we are wired in a way to ensure survival. Survival and protection are number one priority for our brain. And if we're closer to the stress response than the relax response we are more alert to fight or run away from any potential danger. But we have to remember that it is an instinctive response to ensure survival. The higher centres of our brain which allow us to think logically and analytically are switch off during stress response - no time to think, run or fight but do something now! This might have been helpful in the past when we lived in more danger times, when we had to be constantly alert and watch out for danger. But these days we live in a safe environment and most our stress giving problems would actually benefit from pausing and allowing ourselves the time to think them through before responding - not just reacting.
We may not even notice that we live in a state of chronic stress and that our decision making is very much affected by it and in return our bad decisions are bringing more stress into our lives.
Allowing yourself to relax and learning how to relax is immediately making you smarter and better at making the right decisions for you.
So the good news is that it's not all our fault. It's not us but just one of the conditions of being a human. But we can work with it and consciously make the decision to relax whenever possible.
Start with regular monthly massages and explore yoga to relax your body, mind and to get in touch with your Self in order to be able to response rather than to react to life's challenges.
It affects 1.5 billion people worldwide which is more than heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer combined.
Chronic pain is behind the opioid epidemic western medicine experience today. The number of people overusing and misusing opioid drugs is constantly rising.
Chronic or persistent pain is still very much misunderstood. It is often labeled as IBS, migraines, low back pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, cystitis, ... which indicates that the pain is related to the organ or place where it is experienced, that it is a result of a disorder BUT chronic pain is the disorder.
Nociceptors are sensory neurons that send pain messages from the periphery to the brain. The brain as the protector and chief balancer of the whole body system tries to decode these messages and suppress the pain if possible. In chronic pain condition the brain misunderstand the pain signals for various reasons.
For easier understanding chronic pain condition can be described as an electric guitar. People without chronic pain have their amplifier turned down but people with chronic pain have theirs turned up and even small sensation can cause pain.
Persistent pain leads to muscle guarding and spasms, inflammation, restricted movement, weakness and loss of normal function which leads into frustration, depression, anger and helplessness. It is a vicious cycle in which pain breeds stress and stress breeds more pain.
How can slow mindful yoga help?
Slow asana practise helps send accurate messages to the brain. It creates greater awareness and interoception and reduces the hyper focus on pain signals. The brain can regulate your system better - help to activate when you need to and relax when you need to.
Slow yoga also increases blood flow, releases endorphins, activates parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), promotes mindfulness and dampens the hyperarousal response (fight or flight response, cortisol release).
Kristine Kaoverii Weber: Yoga for chronic pain (Subtle yoga).
Lets have a look a little closer at the long looking words in the title of this blog.
Proprioception is the ability to sense the orientation of your body in your environment. It is being aware that your body is in a certain position. For example if you lift your arm above your head you know it even if you close your eyes. This ability helps us to navigate our way safely and efficiently through everyday tasks. All physical activities, sport and exercises are great for developing proprioception.
Interoception is the ability to be aware of what is happening within your body. The brain receives constant messages from the body - breath, heart beat, muscle tension, temperature etc. A lot of the interoceptive activity happens bellow the level of consciousness. But we can tune in and train our interoceptive skills as latest research suggest that it is beneficial to be aware of what's happening within our bodies. People with more developed interoception are healthier, more resilient and can regulate themselves better meaning they response to stressful events more efficiently and afterwards can return back to a balance state faster. In this particular study they measured interoceptive skills by the ability to being aware of the heartbeat. How would you go?
The good news is that interoception is a skill which can be improved.
Yoga in its essence is purely about developing and deepening interoception gradually going deeper and deeper. The eight limbs of yoga is a perfect map to follow if we want to develop these skills. In my yoga classes I condensed these eight steps into four - ethics, postures, breath, mediation.
Regular massage is also a great way to bring your awareness closer to your body.
It is a big step from busy mind to quiet body awareness. It is best to be walked slowly, kindly with the principles of non-judgment, non-harming and patience.
How wide is your window of tolerance?
Window of tolerance is a term used in psychology and was first described by Dr Siegel.
Basically the window is our comfortable zone in which we function at the most efficient level. We are alert, engaged, with optimal problem solving skills and accessing both emotions and reasoning. When we move towards the top of our window we may cross into the state of hyper - arousal or a fight or flight response. We experience anger, rage, anxiety, chaotic responses, addictive behaviour etc. On the other side of our window of tolerance is a hypo - aroused state or a freeze response. We feel disconnected, not present, flat, experience feeling of separation from ourselves and our emotions.
The good news is that a slow mindful yoga practise is able to widen the window of tolerance. In short to medium term the results may be only temporary but in a long term these changes become permanent.
Through mindful movement, breath and meditation we are able to widen our window of tolerance and keep it wide open!
We are in the busy time of the year. Christmas is just around the corner. It is easy to feel tired and fatigued. A fatigue is fairly common but if it lasts for some time it may be a good idea to visit your medical practitioner and have it checked as fatigue can be a symptom of other illnesses. If the symptoms of fatigue last for more than six months we start talking about a chronic fatigue syndrome. The syndrome is characterised by not a very efficient but persistent stress response. It leads to an adrenal dysfunction.
Can yoga and massage help?
Stress plays an important role in the fatigue syndrome. The body needs to return to its homeostasis, as close as possible to the rest and digest state. We need to feel nurtured to return to this state. We need to 'tend and befriend' with others or by ourselves. Both massage and yoga give you an opportunity to tend and befriend yourself. They develop body awareness. Yoga also teaches you how to breathe efficiently and how to train your attention to develop mindfulness in your everyday life. Yoga makes your nervous system resilient and massage can stimulate neuro-lymphatic points to ensure proper functioning of muscles inhibited by stress.
Not all yoga and massage styles are recommended during fatigue. Deep tissue or vigorous sport massage is not suitable nor is a fast and dynamic yoga lesson. Restorative yoga is great for increasing energy levels. Also focus on synchronising movement with breath, a short breath retention after inhalation and guided relaxation techniques.
In short, slow and mindful yoga and gentle massage can be very helpful in managing fatigue.
Science confirms that chronic fatigue and stress are more dangerous than smoking or bad diet in the long term.
In both services I offer - yoga and massage, I focus first on the level of stress my clients carry within their bodies and minds. A simple muscle testing techniques allows me to assess how well is the diaphragm muscle working. A proper diaphragmatic breathing is an essential for a stress relief.
Someone very clever once said that if you cannot explain something clearly to a 6 year old child then you don't understand it yourself. So after I test my clients at the beginning of a massage appointment I look for the best words to describe the two branches of our autonomic nervous system - one responsible for the smooth operation of pretty much everything in the body and promoting the natural state in which our bodies can rest, digest and heal in peace; and the the other one which is responsible for emergencies when certain functions in the body need to be shut down in order to deal with the threat (real one or not). The picture of the nervous system as a railway came to my mind. On one hand the very efficient and dense railway system represents the parasymphatetic nervous system and the emergency railway lines which represent the symphatetic nervous system. A little bit like the Swiss or German railways versus the Australian railways. The dense and efficient one goes everywhere around the body delivering messages and goods and if something is missing the next train will have it! The fast one - the emergency one, comes on board during emergencies. It shuts down a lot of the connections of the other railways and focuses on only few essentials in order to fight or get us away from the emergency. Muscles are pumped and ready, heart is racing and the ability to focus is high. It's needed! But after the emergency the other railway should be automatically opened again. And that is when the diaphragmatic breath comes in because it is the main switch to get you back from the emergency response to the natural state of wellbeing (and get everything within your body to function like the German railways).
When our ancestors encountered a thread they either fought it or ran away from it. If they survived they would be out of breath for a while from either the fighting or running. And this intensive abdominal breath would switch them back into the 'normal' state.
And what is the moral? Take 10 deep abdominal breaths whenever you think of it!
Not just a luxury!
Do you think of a massage as a treat or just an occasional luxury? Or just as a bit of a back rub?
Massage therapy as an industry has evolved a lot to benefit all of us and I would like to suggest to you to rethink the luxury and rub labels above.
Remedial massage therapist in Australia are at least diploma educated with extensive studies in anatomy and physiology. They are members of professional massage associations which ensure the standard of their education, insurance and completion of continuing education annually. As most of us are sole traders we spend a lot of time and money on education. We are well educated professionals with a goal of improving your health and wellbeing offering more than just a back rub.
A lot of people realise the value and benefits of regular massage but may still face their friends or family members asking why spend money on a massage? Yes, you have to pay for a massage as for a lot of other things but in return a massage gives you great benefits – decreased pain, released stress, improved mood etc. It is an investment into your wellbeing and prevention of stress related and other health issues.
Try to add a regular massage into your self-care regime and I’m sure that you won’t regret it!
Restorative Yoga is a very slow practice with the goal of restoring our energy levels. And who wouldn’t like to feel more energetic? It’s definitely for all of us. That said you may also be recovering from an illness or stressful situation which makes restorative yoga a double must for you. So let’s have a look why you should try restorative yoga.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.