Try breathing like this: exhale … exhale … exhale … exhale again.
How did that go? I’m guessing that you were wondering what happened to the inhale? It is a simple fact that you cannot keep breathing out without breathing in and live to tell about it! Likewise, you cannot live well without balancing the care that you commit to others with the care that you give yourself. Yoga at its core is a self-care practice. As we experience greater balance, harmony, and joy in ourselves through these practices, we are better able to care for the world around us. A win-win for all. (Click here to learn more about yoga self-care practices.)
The practices of yoga that promote this self-care include physical practices, breath work, self-awareness, meditation, and ethical guidelines. Though many of the more vigorous practices are excellent for the care of the physical body, the slower and quieter practices help us focus our energies on all parts of our being for comprehensive self-care. Some of these slower and more introspective practices include Restorative yoga, Yin yoga, Sen yoga, and Yoga nidra which offer a variety of benefits as outlined below:
This practice helps to promote deep relaxation of the body and mind. During a restorative yoga class, you will sloEnw down and allow your muscles and mind to relax deeply. Postures are fully supported using a variety of yoga props to minimize strain and muscle holding. These stretches are held for many minutes (typically 4-10 minutes) as you are guided into awareness of the breath and body, allowing the muscles and nervous system to relax and release tensions.
Some of the reported benefits of restorative yoga include:
- Enhanced flexibility
- Deep relaxation of the body
- Quieting of the mind
- Improved capacity for healing and balancing
- Balancing of the nervous system
- Enhanced mood states
- Improved immune function
This practice is slow-paced practice and closely resembles restorative yoga where students are encouraged to move just a bit further into the stretches. Its primary goals are to target the joints and the deep connective tissues of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. Props are used to support you in your poses as they are held for 3-7 minutes and you are invited to feel a gentle to moderate stretch. Yin yoga is influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sequencing postures to stretch and compress the meridians (the energetic lines of TCM). Guided and supported mindfulness meditation is incorporated into many yin classes.
Some of the reported benefits of Yin yoga include:
- Calming and balancing of the mind and body
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved circulation
- Improved flexibility
- Improved joint mobility
- Balancing of the internal organs and improved the flow of chi or prana (Vital life force)
This practice combines self-massage, repetitive movement at the joints, breath awareness that is linked with rhythmic movements in and out of postures, and supported postures that may be held 3-6 minutes on average. Sen Yoga is influenced by Traditional Thai Medicine and Thai yoga (Reusi Dat Ton), massaging and stretching the sen lines (the energetic lines of Traditional Thai Medicine). Guided and supported insight meditation is incorporated into this practice.
Some benefits of Sen yoga may include improved:
- Lymphatic flow supporting the immune system
- Joint mobility
- Awareness and response to the emotions as they arise
- Relaxation of the body and mind
A state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, like the “going-to-sleep” stage. During a Yoga Nidra practice, you will rest on your back using props to ensure your comfort. Your teacher verbally guides you through a series of steps to become increasingly aware of your inner world allowing the body to become completely relaxed. Yoga nidra is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness.
Some of the reported benefits of Yoga Nidra include:
- Decreased depression and / or anxiety
- Improved sleep patterns
- Deep healing rest
- Clearing of the mind for improved learning and absorption of new material
- Decreased tension in the body and mind
- Increased creativity
According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 2.16 (heyam dukham anagatam), the suffering that is to come can (and should) be avoided. Self-care is an important step that we all should take on the path to greater balance and preventative care to help prevent unnecessary future suffering. Once we take steps to care for ourselves with compassion and understanding, we become better able to care for others and become the change that we want to see in ourselves and the world around us.
Through March 2019 we will be offering a self-care series on Sundays 3:00 – 5:00 PM that includes: Restorative yoga infused with reiki, Yin yoga with hot stones, Sen yoga with Thai herbal compress balls, and Yoga nidra infused with aromatherapy. We hope that you can join us for one or more of these classes, and any of our regularly scheduled quiet practices.
Katey Hawes, MS, PT, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, YACE, owner and founder of Posabilities, Inc., is a physical therapist, registered yoga teacher, and yoga therapist. You may find her at Facebook.com/posabilities4u, Twitter @Posabilities4u, and Instagram .