Just to be clear: Healing Yoga is not a trademark, it's not a "new" "kind" of yoga. In fact, I get kind of twitchy when asked what kind of yoga I teach. Yoga is yoga. All the trademarks and proper names attached to yoga are simply different ways of approaching and emphasizing aspects of the practice.
Healing Yoga as taught and practiced by the YogaGuide teachers at Badlands Yoga is focused on the 6 factors that make yoga a healing practice. We start with the question: Why is yoga healing and what makes it different than a simple workout? Yoga focuses on removing the obstacles to healing, and that's how it's different than other exercise.
At BLY, the YogaGuides lead practices specially designed for people healing chronic stress, illness and pain, so they're accessible but not always gentle. Turns out that some pretty strong practices can be very stress relieving, rearrange things so we have less pain and shift the body in ways that dissolve the obstacles to healing.
We recommend a blend of practices, ideally weekly, for optimum impact on yang tissues (like muscles), yin tissues (like fascia) and nervous system balance. We call these kinds of practice Engaged hatha, Yin and Restorative. They all use and impact these 6 human qualities to remove the obstacles to the smooth functioning of your immune, endocrine and nervous systems.
- Practice: sounds obvious, but not really. Yoga is a practice, so we never "get" a pose, even one as simple as Mountain or Warrior I. There is always room for discovery. As a practice, repetition is key: 15 minutes of yoga every day is radically better for your overall well being than a couple of one hour practices a week. Now, is a one hour practice bad? Of course not! Most people find that one or two hour long classes together with 15 minutes most other days is optimum. Most people can find 15 minutes to practice yoga nearly every day, and this is key. In the medical world it's called the "dose dependent effect:" your dose, no matter how big, is metabolized and wears off in 24 hours or so. But take the right amount regularly, every 12 or 24 hours, and it can change your life.
- Breath: Yoga poses aren't just positions: they include all the movements to get there and out. We inhale with expansive movement and exhale with contractive - just like the lungs. Turns out this rhythm is basic to non-blood fluid movement in the body, particularly the lymphatic system. In addition, this cooperation with the breath massages the viscera bringing circulation and even motion to the organs. Have you ever wondered what keeps your insides from sticking together? Movement. The alternation of expansion and contraction with deep breathing also subtly interacts with your vagus nerves (you have two! one evolutionarily older and one newer, sleeker, more efficient) and helps to establish and maintain your resilience. Krishnamacharya was said to have taught, "Knowing how to breathe is like being able to do surgery without instruments."
- True Core: Core is deep: Pelvic Floor, Diaphragm and Vocal Cords. Turns out, that if you learn to sense and recruit these muscles to move and relax, your "abs" - the outer abdominal muscles - move and relax, too, but not the other way around. Synchronizing the movement of the diaphragm and pelvic floor is key to appropriate vagal tone as well as abdominal function and full breathing. In Engaged Hatha classes there's a lot of engaging these muscles; in yin and restorative we focus on sensing and relaxing them.
- Which brings us to Sensation: Sensing your own body has an almost magical effect on your nervous system, interacting with specific brain structures that determine if you're on high alert or capable of relaxed awareness. Our brains turn down or off neural pathways we're not using to free up band width, but we can turn them up by how we pay attention. And when we renew or build these pathways we're building our resilience and removing the obstacles to our bodies' natural healing responses.
- Rhythm: Respect the rhythm! Your body is not separate from your environment. In fact, you are designed to build immunity as the world grows colder and darker and become more active as it grows warmer and lighter. Your digestive tract responds to light and dark, cold and hot. You have hourly, daily, monthly and yearly rhythms on which your immune, endocrine and nervous systems depend. Ignore them at your health's peril. Respect them and build your health.
- Uniqueness: You are different than the person next to you. Not rocket science, right? So your yoga practice should be a little different than theirs, too. It's not one size fits all. Does that mean that you have to have a specifically designed practice every time? Of course not, it's healing to practice in community. But you may need a little something extra to respond to your day or that crick in your neck. In a Healing Yoga class you get that, as well as modification that makes even the most strenuous practices accessible and responsive to you, the individual. You can't do that with a room of 30. That's why we keep em small.