You may already have a ‘fast’ yoga practice, and that’s great if it doesn’t intensify your symptoms, but in this blog post I’d like to introduce you to the healing power of ‘slow’ yin and restorative yoga.
FYI: I write each new blog with the idea that you have read the previous blogs already, or at the very least, the ones in the Core Elements section. So, if you feel confused about certain terms, you might want to check out those fundamentals first.
About five weeks after my accident I went to a yin yoga class I had been attending regularly for about four years. As I lay in the cocoon of my beloved Unity Yoga Studio, in the hands of my skilled teacher Sue, I let go.
I remember thinking: ‘so far I have been focusing on the physical pain caused by this accident. I’m gonna have to lean into the emotional pain and trauma too.’ Not long after that I got hit with an intense wave of emotions. It is as if my invitation gave space for those feelings to arise. There was no warning. No tightening in the throat or welling up of tears in the eyes. It hit me like a storm. And I wailed.
I cried loud. I cried hard. I sank deeply into the practice. I allowed the ‘issues that are in my tissues’ to be released. It was powerfully healing.
Yin yoga has three basic components:
- We get into a pose that allows us to let go of our muscles so that we can loosen and release our fascia (the connective tissues, the thin layer that surrounds our muscles and organs)
- We find our ‘edge’ within the pose
- We hold for time (usually 3-5 minutes)
Finding the edge means leaning into a pose just enough that we feel a good stretch and release, but not so much that it is painful. Yin is a wee bit uncomfortable, but it’s worth it. After holding a pose for a while our bodies may feel achy and creaky and like we are 80 for a few minutes, but the point is then we don’t feel like that all the time when we are 80.
Done properly, yoga is also a form of meditation. We bring our attention back to the present moment, back to the sensations of releasing and letting go and softening the body, over and over again. I often find it easier to concentrate and stay present in a yin pose than I do in seated meditation. By the end of class I am often left in a bliss-state. My body feels fantastic and my mind is so relieved to have had more than an hour of rest from it’s usual exhausting state of thinking, thinking, thinking!
If you are interested in learning more about yin yoga, I highly recommend that you sign up for Josh Summers’ newsletter. He will send you a bunch of insightful info on the power of yin yoga.
Restorative yoga is also deeply healing, but in a different way. It may be more your cup of tea, especially to start. It’s more gentle. It really allows us to get to a state of deep relaxation that is so healing for our discombobulated nervous systems.
In restorative yoga we don’t engage the muscles or the fascia. It is here that we lean deeply into the Rest and Digest state. We use lots of props to allow the body to be fully at ease. We allow our muscles to fall off the bones. We become a human puddle. We let go, let go, let go.
Here are links to three of my favourite yoga options. They all offer online classes (though truth be told, I much prefer in-person yoga). I suggest using earbuds if the sound of the computer is unsettling. Try a few different teachers and both styles to see what works for best for your body:
Unity Yoga has some free yin and restorative classes for you to try out
Haley Plaa offers dreamy yogasage (a combo of yoga and massage)
Danielle Hoogenboom is a fellow concussion survivor so she gets it
In learning the Mindful Concussion approach your body is the beaker in a grand experiment to figure out what works best for you. What calms you? Yoga? Seated meditation? A walk in nature? Breathing exercises? A bath? Once you figure out what takes you most easily to the Green Zone of Rest and Digest, I suggest you build your life so you can go to states of calm most every day – even if just a little bit closer to the calm center and even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Let me know in the comments how your experiment with slow yoga practices goes…..
Kindly and Mindfully,
Jessie Rain Anne Smith