Susan Swan Yoga
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What on earth is Yoga Therapy?
What on earth is Yoga Therapy?
All too often the reaction I face when I inform someone that I am a Yoga Therapist is a minor panic-stricken look, coupled with a slow shuffling sideways retreat, finished off with the declaration:
‘I could never do yoga’!
Given the portrayal and promotion of yoga in recent decades it is little wonder. We see terms like ‘Yoga Burn’, ‘Booty Challenge’, ‘Yoga Shred’; promises of reshaping your body, weight loss transformation, toning and sculpting; plus competitive comparisons between cardio/gym and a yoga ‘workout’. And the winner is: the most idealistic, least attainable and completely unrealistic results, with no second thought towards safety and comfort. But trying to explain to the average layperson that Yoga Therapy does not rely on any athletic ability, acrobatic prowess, or in fact even being ‘able to do yoga’ has not been easy. Hence, this blog hopefully to dispel some myths!
In fact Yoga Therapy is possibly the oldest system of holistic therapy in existence. In practice, for me it is plain and simple common sense. That said, one of the shortcomings of the immense power of the human brain - boasting a minimum of 100 trillion neural connections - is boredom. That and an ego hell bent on fixing a problem. Let’s overthink everything; create a non-existent, unsolvable issue so we can come up with an incorrect answer to a completely different question!
So when someone has an issue with their knee, instead of rushing in to ‘fix’ the knee, let’s take a step back and a few breaths. This could well stem from the foot; something wrong in the feet might be linked to postural issues in the shoulders; tension in the shoulders? They are all too often called upon to do the work of another body part, namely the core. Cue song ‘Dem Bones’.
"All day every day we breathe, we sit, stand and walk
if we are blessed with these abilities."
We may be limping because ten years ago we had an injury and we were unable to support our weight fully on one side. This inability is locked into our body memory, and reflected in the way we stand/walk long after our actual inability has gone.
Stress is locked into the body, both physically and chemically and affects our posture and the movement of energy through the body. Body mapping techniques can tell us as much about the psychological profile as it can the physical body.
The breath is the completion of the digestion; when we are ‘choked up’ emotionally the natural flow of our breath and the life force energy that flows with it is impeded. When we feel threatened we may experience a ‘knot’ in the base of the stomach; this interferes with the process of digestion, especially elimination of waste. We often take medication which can hinder the digestion.
A simple daily practice of observation of breath and some simple cleansing practices (known as 'Kriyas') can boost the immune system, clear out the sinuses and maintain the digestive balance. We often just need to reconnect our busy mind back to our physical body and breath, to promote a sense of interoception so we can feel what our body needs and when.
More often than not when I see someone with a musculoskeletal issue around the hips/lower back, and sometimes higher in the body too, there is a misalignment in the pelvis. This can result in symptoms reaching far beyond the actual physical pain and tension being experienced. The Cauda Equina, or Horse’s Tail is a bundle of spinal nerves that pass through the spinal vertebrae in the lumbar and sacral spine (at the low back).
"Pelvic misalignment can cause these nerves to be compressed resulting in messages being scrambled and manifesting symptoms of illness that we do not actually have."
In addition, stress on the nervous system can lead to a general feeling of anxiety and distress. I am trained in assessment of pelvic alignment and can offer simple exercises for realignment (usually with 3 – 10 days), followed by exercises to maintain this correct alignment.
Susan Swan has a Diploma in Yoga Therapy and works in and around Edinburgh. Consultations available at Conan Doyle Centre, Edinburgh.
If there is any topic(s) you would like to know more about? Feel free to offer suggestions for future blog posts! Email me here.