I took an unplanned break from blogging. I didn’t really decide not to do it, it was really just a matter of not making time for it. To be honest, after a while, I felt so bad about it that it seemed easier to just not blog. However, after reading an article yesterday on transparency and its importance in living an authentic life, I decided to put that into action. So there it is, the reality is that I got busy and behind and then was embarrassed to say that. It’s not really a big deal, is it? We all get busy. The problem is so often the way we handle things when we realize we have dropped the ball somewhere. The tendency to avoid is easy to fall prey to. Self-care is such an important topic and I am so blessed to have been given an opportunity to write for Psych Central that it would be silly to let an unintentional break and some avoidant behavior stop me altogether.
Now on to the topic of the day. Yoga. It is one of my favorite self-care techniques and I often tell people that it literally helps me remember to breathe. Anxiety and chronic stress can take a toll on anyone. It impacts every part of your day. The good news is that there are things that can help. Yoga is one of them.
The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj”, which means to yoke, bind, unite or join. Yoga can be seen as a lifestyle, a path and a practice that can help you control high levels of anxiety and stress. It can help you as an individual develop connectedness or oneness to other people, other beings and the environment as a whole. Equally as important yoga can help individuals also develop, strengthen and connect to him/herself through yoga, becoming more and more aware of the significance between mind, body, breath, feelings, memories, experiences, health, and states of consciousness.
Trauma survivors- whether from abuse, accident, or war- can end up deeply and profoundly wounded, betrayed by their body for failing to get them to safety and for causing them pain. Trauma does not have to be big “T” trauma. Ordinary hospital procedures, being ill, losing a loved one and other typical life events can cause trauma. To fully heal from trauma, a connection must be made to oneself, including one’s body. Expanding past traditional talk therapies that only focus on the mind, trauma-sensitive yoga allows those impacted by trauma to cultivate a more positive relationship with their bodies thought mindfulness, breathing and gentle yoga exercises. *
*Emerson, David and Hopper, Elizabeth, 2011, Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body
Those who have been practicing and studying yoga for years and strive to live a yogic lifestyle as defined in the eight limbs of yoga truly know a greater peace. Yoga has been around for thousands of years but is really just beginning to take off in the Western World. Yoga and therapy enhanced with yoga techniques can both be used to promote health and prevention of disease. The difference between the two is that, while yoga is generally shared as a physical group practice in the Western world, therapy using yogic techniques is designed for the individual. Integration of therapeutic elements of yoga takes into consideration the complete state of one’s health in terms of physical conditioning, emotional state, energetic balance, attitude, dietary and behavioral patterns, personal associations and relationships, and the environment (Payne, Larry, ET, al., 201; Yoga Therapy & Integrative Medicine). Combining mindful and cognitive traditional talk therapies with therapeutic benefits from Yoga results in a greater increase in general wellbeing and restores balance to the entire self. Yoga has been effective in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (van der Kolk, 2006), anxiety (Kirkwood, ET. Al., 2005), depression (Pilkington, ET. Al., 2005), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (Shannahoff-Khalsa, et, al., 1999) and a variety of other psychiatric difficulties. Yoga may lead to improvements in pain and functional outcome and is one of the more promising mind-body therapies (Chou and Huffman, 2007; Cramer et al., 2013). Clinical trials for Yoga and fibromyalgia suggest that Yoga may improve psychological and physical symptoms as compared to usual care (Cramer, et al., 2013). Some studies have provided evidence that Yoga supports immunological resiliency, specifically in populations with higher levels of stress who are more prone to disease (Gopal, 2011; Black et al., 2013).
So how do you get started with a yoga practice? There are a number of ways. Class offerings are much more readily available now than any other time in our history. There are studios that offer yoga only and most gyms offer yoga classes. Many yoga teachers offer private lessons if you want to get individual attention. YouTube has some great free videos that allow you to search for beginner or more advanced practice videos. There are so many great yoga books (I strive to own as many as possible) that vary from teaching the basics to more advanced techniques or you can focus on yoga for a particular ailment. Take your pick. I encourage you to take that first step and give it a try.
Take away tip- Do some yoga, make a commitment to yourself that you will try yoga and do it consistently for a month. I am betting after that month you will be hooked. Also know that there are 8 limbs of yoga and the actual physical practice is only 1, there is so much more to yoga than pretzel moves. Learn about it.
Photo by StevenSimWorld