If you’re reading this, you probably have at least a vague idea of what yoga is. Thanks to its growing popularity as a form of exercise, relaxation, and meditation, yoga has almost become a buzzword in U.S. pop culture. If you’re still unsure of exactly what yoga might be— let me give you the rundown of what I was lucky enough to learn in my gym class in high school. (Thanks, Mrs. May!) Yoga, from the Sanskrit for yoking together, is a 5,000+ year old practice from the Indus Valley, modern-day India, which combines physical postures, or Asanas, with meditation and deep breathing. Yoga falls in perfectly with the classic definition of Healing Arts— a practice to heal the whole self, mind, body, and spirit.
Walking into any yoga class in the United States, you are likely to find a room full of individuals in similar poses, standing, sitting, or lying on yoga mats with an instructor, a yogi, somewhere in the room, guiding those practicing through the poses. This is where the similarities end. Yoga has hundreds of variations in style, from Power Yoga/Ashtanga Yoga to Yoga Nidra/yoga sleep. Power yoga can act as a full-on cardio workout, with many postures shifting quickly from one to the next. Yoga Nidra is a calming practice where the only posture used is corpse pose, Savasana. (It’s not as scary as it sounds; you’re just laying down). During the practice of Yoga Nidra, one focuses completely on “the breath.” Pranayama is the Sanskrit word used for regulation and control of the breath. This is an extremely important concept in any style of yoga. In particular, this was an important concept for my personal practice of yoga.
“I forget to breathe.” I joked to my trauma-sensitive yoga class on my first day of practice. It’s a metaphor, but also an actuality in my life. I’m quite capable of holding my breath and holding in my stress until I feel like a bubble about to pop, or a person about to pass out. My disjointed breathing combined with my tendency to dissociate, as part of a larger issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, had led me to seek out a new form of healing. Trauma-sensitive yoga, for me, was an extremely successful form of healing.
Trauma-sensitive yoga is a new therapeutic style of the practice. (It is gaining popularity, but for the moment trauma-sensitive yoga teachers are few and far between.) The trauma-sensitive yoga course I attended focused on several themes— controlling the breath, noticing one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment, the idea of choice, and the idea of comfort. By the end of the 9 week course, I was breathing more easily and more steadily, being gentler with myself, and taking better note of the validity of my own feelings and comfort. Trauma-sensitive yoga, through its soft, yet empowering style, had allowed me new freedoms in my mind, body and spirit.
Empowerment, I think, is the not-often-enough-discussed benefit of yoga. Whatever challenges you face, whatever disabilities and abilities you possess, whatever body type you have, there is a giant potential for you to find empowerment through the practice of yoga. It will help you to better understand your body, to better understand your mind, and to better understand yourself.
If you decide to practice yoga or to find a class for your child, online resources and your local studio(s) can help you find what style will best suit your needs. An instructor that helps you learn the poses that work for your body is key. For further reading, see the links at the end of this blog.
For more information on the benefits of Healing Arts, in particular for children with Learning Differences and their family members, join us for our free Healing Arts discussion on August 27th. For more information and to register please visit our Phone Seminar page.
If you Google yoga, you will find a multitude of blogs, articles, books, classes, etc. Here are some links that we found useful, but not all inclusive.
Further Reading about Yoga for Parents
- Beginning yoga practice at home
- Doing yoga throughout the day can keep you limber and mindful of your work
(This article demonstrates some wheelchair accessible positions in yoga.)
- Finally a type of yoga that takes body type into account
- The Benefits of Trauma Sensitive Yoga for Survivors of Sexual Assault
Further Reading about Yoga for Children