"Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self." - Bhagavad Gita
Most people have heard that Yoga is great for reducing stress, but did you know that it can also help aid in the recovery of trauma? It's true!
Especially, the practice of traditional Hatha Yoga, Restorative Yoga, or Yin Yoga.
Of course, all Yoga seeks to restore balance to the mind, body, and soul. However, not all Yoga is created equal when it comes to addressing some of the key issues associated with long term stress or the recovery of trauma.
One key reason is because the pace, structure, and focus of a class can significantly impact the degree of introception that occurs during and after a Yoga practice. Because poses are generally held for longer durations - often 3-5 breaths with Hatha, and 3-5 minutes (up to 20 minutes) with Yin or Restorative Yoga - Hatha, Yin, and Restorative Yoga all lend themselves toward greater levels of introception than other forms of Yoga.
What is introception (sometimes spelled interoception) you might be asking, and why does it matter? Here is one way of understanding this important concept:
"Just as there are receptors in your muscles and joints, there are also receptors inside your organs, including your skin. These receptors send information about the inside of your body to your brain. This helps regulate our vital functions like body temperature, hunger, thirst, digestion and heart rate. Interoception helps you understand and feel what’s going on inside your body. For instance, you know if your heart is beating fast or if you need to breathe more deeply.... Interoception helps us know if you’re hungry, full, hot, cold, thirsty, nauseated, itchy or ticklish... [Those] who struggle with the interoceptive sense can also have trouble “feeling” their emotions. They may not be as tuned in to the body cues that help interpret emotion. Without being able to feel and interpret those body sensations, it’s harder to clearly identify the emotion." *
Prolonged stress, anxiety, and trauma all impact introception negatively - cutting off the natural mind/body balance that enables human beings to identify and respond to their needs (and the needs of others) in healthy, productive ways.
As a result of this imbalance, when we are faced with chronic stress or trauma, we often adopt unproductive habits, thought patterns, or coping strategies that lead to further disassociation.
Thankfully, there are ways to stop this cycle of insanity.
Among other tools such as counseling/therapy and meditation, Hatha, Yin, and Restorative Yoga have been scientifically proven to effectively aid in restoring introception so that unhealthy cycles of coping/being can be identified and replaced with new, more effective strategies- all of which aids tremendously in the management of stress, anxiety and recovery from trauma.
But why Hatha, Yin and Restorative practices instead of Hot Yoga, Power Yoga, and other forms? Isn't it all the same?
Yes, and no. Yes, all Yoga seeks to integrate the breath (pranayama) with movement (asana). But, not all practices go about that process in the same way.
The pace and structure of Hatha, Yin, and Restorative Yoga are specifically designed to guide the practitioner towards mindfully breathing before doing anything else. And, as poses are held, the focus is on increasing our awareness of sensations so that the practitioner can intentionally respond to those observations in ways that restore balance and promote resiliency.
Over time, the ability to go deeper into poses with the aid of the breath enables the practitioners to increasingly break up stored toxins and release tension that has been held within the body, mind, or soul for weeks, years, or even decades.
At first, this experience can be uncomfortable as new Yogis begin to notice things physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually that may have been buried under layers and layers of unhealthy habits or thought patterns.
Yet, "the journey of the self, through the self, to the self" is never wasted!
As we find the courage to meet ourselves on our mat, we begin to discover that Yoga really isn't about mastering a pose or being flexible... It is "the practice of learning how to tolerate the consequences of being ourselves." (Bhagavad Gita) And then, to respond to those observations in ways that will foster growth, healing, and transformation.
These traditional forms of Yoga invite us to face ourselves with compassion and grace while teaching us how to release destructive habits and ways of being/thinking that keep us from living in alignment with our truest self and our created purpose.
The result is a greater sense of peace, wellbeing, and wholeness - a welcomed antidote to stress, anxiety, and trauma. And, something we can all use more of!
Looking for a place to start? We would love to help you in your journey towards greater wellbeing. Check out our Yoga classes at Brilliantly You Virtual Wellness Center. Our BYOu Community Hatha, Yin, and Restorative Yoga classes are available at no cost right now. It's our way of helping humanity find its way forward during this worldwide pandemic. Join us live or access recorded classes on our site anytime at Brilliantly You. Got questions, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to hear from you!