Yoga nidra - an ancient technique that allows to feel kinesthetically the Higher Self that is beyond the mind and body. It is considered a meditative practice.
Ashtanga yoga - a psychophysical practice. It is considered an authentic practice, which I use 6 times a week. There are 6 series in ashtanga yoga, each series has its own impact on psyche and physical body of a person. These series are mastered gradually, it usually takes from 3 to 5 years to master one series.
Also, there is a clear sequence of poses in ashtanga yoga. The main difference from other postural practices : all movements are synchronized with a person's breathing, consequently, a person actively sweats, improves breathing, increases immunity, and strengthens the nervous system.
Kosha - shells that limit various levels of human consciousness: from physical and more subtle, mental level to the causal level. Purpose of spiritual practice - to transform and spiritualize koshas.
Asana - poses in yoga practice
The research work purpose: We practice the same sequence of poses every day. We experience certain emotions on the mat, as poses sometimes excite the nervous system and serve as triggers for many people. In my work, I want to pay attention to my reaction, since trigger asanas show us our vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are our indicators, we can recognize our injuries working on them. The work shall take place in a complex way: psychotherapy, create synergy with yoga teacher, connect a meditative practice - yoga nidra.
Ashtanga yoga practitioners and teachers.
I worked with below mentioned book, research and talk:
Bessel van der Kolk in his book The Body Keeps the Score;
I am Yoga Nidra online course and book (Amrit Yoga Institute, Kamini Desai);
Dr. Joe Dispenza Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One
Loretta Graziano Breuning
Ted talk Your body language may shape who you are by Amy Cuddy
Ted talk The Power of vulnerability by Brene Brown
American Tragedy Lisa Sobey
Self experience of practice and teaching.
I want to voice and write down all the techniques with which I am practically familiar, thereby you will know the source of workshop information.
Let me write it down:
- yoga nidra,
- ashtanga yoga,
Let's work together to distribute the listed techniques into groups and link them to the main directions.
As you can see, different techniques affect:
- Conscience ,
- Nervous system,
According to my observations, these practices lead us to the next stages of development:
- Return to oneself;
- Trigger recognition;
- Disidentification from emotions;
- Destroying old patterns, creating new ones;
- Healing a physical and emotional body;
First of all, I suggest considering which diagram we will work on in order to have a common language:
I took the five body shells as a basis of my explanation (hereinafter - kosha). They were first mentioned in the Taittiriya Upanisad. Many spiritual traditions say that we are all one. At the level of the oceans, we are one. In the form of our body, we are just a drop of the ocean, and we tend to suffer, be traumatized and identified with the mind illusions due to the fact that we have forgotten about our unity.
Understanding about koshas describes the incarnation process of unmanifested and undifferentiated (ocean) into the physical form of body (drop), and individual components of this drop are 5 shells:
- Physical body - annamaya kosha
- Energy body - pranamaya kosha
- Mental body - manomaya kosha
- Body of wisdom - vijnanamaya kosha
The fifth kosha - annandamaya kosha, body bliss has a direct connection with the ocean. It is an awareness, feeling of our divine nature, that gives us the understanding that we are part of a large ocean.
And when we come to yoga, we try to improve the quality of our life consciously or unconsciously.
We can heal, establish a connection with body, observe body sensations, turn off the body, calm the nervous system, as well as to slow down to lay new seeds related to the new reality when we practice yoga. To work on ourselves, we develop: perception organs and observation of breathing and emotions on the mat, because we either use old life patterns or we use new patterns developed on the mat, destroying the old ones.
Let's look at each of the above practices that works specifically with shells:
In yoga nidra, meditation and pranayama:
under guidance of the teacher, we form contact with the body, you forget about your own body (you stop feeling your position in space), about the environment (the outside world disappears) and time (you have no idea how long you are in practice, emotional body experiences a pleasant peace. Fluctuation of the mind goes to a slow rhythm (brain waves slow down to the Theta Level). It opens up the subconscious edges as well.
we are planting new seeds in intellectual body, giving full freedom to realization of the energy body,
when we get to the casual body - body of bliss, we are able to rewrite the contents of our mind, lay healthy intentions.
we can change the world around us by changing ourselves.
as a rule, physical body heals where the pranic body begins to circulate smoothly and freely.
Practice of ashtanga yoga shall be perceived differently, the practice reflects our fears and pain, which are embedded in the subconscious.
As we strengthen the physical body, it pulls all other related bodies and prepares us for meditation, and I have already explained the meditation scheme to you.
But here is one thing that we did not take into account. Indeed, ashtanga yoga has its own feature. Sometimes it works out as trigger asanas and it affects particularly the person who was traumatized once. Asanas will serve as an unpacking of the emotional body through physical body.
I am now talking about a group of people who have not physically injured, but those who are stuck in a certain position, those who experience constant fear, anger in practice.
To face trauma, it is not necessary to take part in combat operations as injuries happen to us, our friends, relatives and neighbors. Injuries are what we perceive from physical, emotional and other unsettling experiences.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States showed that one of five Americans were abused in childhood,
One of four was beaten by their parents, and about one of three couples is physically abused. A quarter of us had close relatives who were alcoholics in childhood, and one of eight people witnessed how his mother was beaten.
Kazakhstan ranks third in the world in the number of suicides and is the leader among the countries of Central Asia. This is data from the World Health Organization. Suicide is a multifactorial phenomenon. When analyzing the statistics of suicides in Kazakhstan, it turned out that the most common factor preceding suicide is depressive symptoms, personal characteristics of people taking this step, and social isolation, a sense of loneliness and interpersonal
International statistics collection and analysis company Statista conducted a global survey on mental health of people from all over the planet. Russia was the fourth in the ranking of countries in terms of the number of residents who have experienced psychological problems over the past 12 months.
What do asanas give us?
Let's return our mind to Navasana, Kapotasana, Sirsana, and Catching hills, Ekapada, Dvipada, Pincha. Do those postures evoke emotions?
We practice yoga asanas. Yoga asanas touch those nodes in the body, and cause the same emotions as situations from life. We do not want to face it again. We are reacting according to a familiar scenario.
I have an example: one day I explained to a group the meaning that everyone has their own emotional content & experience of pain, fear. The feelings are pain, fear does not have measure, colour. The pain & fear which we have outside from the practice is the same which we have during practice.
So then I asked the group what urdhva dhanurasana reminds them?
Then I have a wonderful answer:
- It reminds me of when I got divorced. I could not breathe, my heart was broken. I don’t want to feel it again.
- It reminds me of when we moved to a new country. I did not know what would happen with our future. When I go down I have the same situation. I trust the process & teacher. I hope I can relax soon.
I asked then what about Ekapada?
- It reminds me that I am not responsible. I can not hold one leg on my back. I do the same in my life. I can not reach my goals. I was angry after practice. I want to skip practice, so I started yoga to be happy, not angry.
What about Dvipada?
- I can not hold my intentions and find balance in my life. One intention: to practice, second :to be mother & wife.
- I had school bullying. I can not be super open, this posture has pressure for me, it gives me the same feelings . I need to learn how to be more friendly, but I don't want to change. I usually skip this posture.
What about pincha?
- I live with reference to a plan. Pincha teaches how to live spontaneously. Fall is a good experience.
At the moment when the asana shows our places where there is not enough flexibility, pelvic opening, a strong core, what do we do?
We are consolidating the skill:
We quit and return to the comfort zone. We repeat patterns from outside life. That is, I want to say that the behavior that we use outside of the mat is repeated during practice.
What is happening? I will explain now.
A constantly working neuron over time is covered with a shell of special substance called myelin. This substance significantly increases the efficiency of a neuron as a conductor of electrical impulses. This can be compared with the insulated wires that can withstand a much greater load than bare ones. Myelin-coated neurons work without spending excessive effort, which is characteristic of slow, open neurons. A synapse is a place of contact (a small gap) between two neurons. An electrical impulse in our brain can move only if it reaches the end of a neuron with sufficient force to “jump through” this gap to the next neuron. These barriers help us filter out really important incoming information from irrelevant so-called noise. Passage of an electric pulse through synaptic gaps is a very complex natural mechanism. It can be imagined in the following way: whole flotilla of boats accumulates at the tip of one neuron, which transports the neural spark to special receiving docks available at a nearby neuron. Each time the boats cope better with transportation. That is why the experience we get increases the chances of transmitting electrical signals between neurons. There are more than 100 trillion synaptic connections in the human brain. Our life experience plays an important role in conducting nerve impulses through them so that it corresponds to the survival interests.
On a conscious level, you cannot decide which synaptic connections you should develop. They are formed in two main ways:
1) Gradually, by repetitions.
2) Simultaneously, under influence of strong emotions.
There is one postulate in neurophysiology, which is called the Hebbian Rule. Nerve cells that are activated together communicate with each other. The Hebbian Rule proves that if you constantly use the same set of nerve cells, then each time it will be easier for them to activate all together. Gradually, a long-term connection is established between such neurons. Stable connections are formed. After a certain number of repetitions, any action becomes habitual, that is, automatically unconscious. What is unconscious? That is when you do not choose the reaction yourself. When the cells act on autopilot mode without your consciousness.
Let's look at how it happens on koshas.
You saw a certain node, block, trigger in the pose and create your reaction. It is a natural thing. But it is worth to note that you repeat this reaction from time to time, thereby creating a strong bond. You need to find yourself on these patterns and get out of them, look towards the reality where you want to enter.
Now I will tell you in detail about how the energy closes the body:
Have you ever noticed that if you are sad and you allow yourself to be sad, the sadness passes and balance returns to you after a while? This happens
because the energy clot of sadness freely passes through us in order to eventually leave us, if it is allowed to do so. It knows what fusion and integration are. It is like water, which will always find a way out if you do not obstruct it. When a trauma occurs in a person's life, it is inevitable to feel acute pain and such a reaction is quite justified. For example, when a child experiences too traumatic experience, his/her psyche is not able to cope with it at the moment. It is not safe. But it will be blocked in the body as long as the energy of certain emotion is not allowed to be felt, as long as it cannot pass through the pipe and leave it. Asanas can show the time where there are restrictions and block. Focus on those triggers that return you to your comfort zone. Take the indicators. Voice them. Make decisions through breathing and life plan, or contact some experts: psychologist, yoga teacher.
Below is a common reaction in life and how asanas can tell you where you are stuck.
When we find our trigger:
push ourselves during the practice;
try avoid asana;
or we think a lot about pain during asana;
and after practice:
we feel ourselves overwear….
What if: we learn how to deal with our emotions, feelings and we will give a space to heal ourselves?
In his book The Body Keeps the Score author Bessel van der Kolk talks about the study of Stephen Maier from the Colorado University, who worked together with Martin Seligman from the Pennsylvania University and conducted an experiment. Topic of the study - animals helplessness.
MaIer and Seligman shocked dogs locked in cages systematically with a strong electric shock discharge. They called this condition as inescapable shock. After several electric shocks, researchers opened the cages with dogs and turned on the current again. Several dogs from the control group, who had not received electric shock before, immediately ran away. But the dogs that were subjected to an inescapable shock did not make any attempts to escape, even when the cages were open - they just lay there, whining and defecating.
The mere possibility of getting out of a reality where they are now is not enough for animals or people who have experienced psychological trauma to choose the path to freedom. Like Maier and Seligman's dogs, many traumatized people simply give up. Instead of experimenting with new options, they remain trapped in well-known fear.
The author writes that his patients who survived trauma repeated the same thing that dogs did. Their Fight or Flight reaction was disrupted, and the result was either excessive excitement or complete apathy. Maier and Seligman found that injured dogs released much more stress than usual. This confirmed the emerging new knowledge about biological background of traumatic stress. Scientists at the Institute of Mental Health have found that traumatized people produce a large amount of stress and this becomes a comfort zone for them. The fact is that they release stress when the danger has already passed. That is, such people do not return to their initial level when there is no threat.
Ideally, stress hormones should trigger a reaction to a threat and then return to a neutral state, restoring hormonal balance. But such a return mechanism does not work for the injured people. Sympathetic nervous system does not change with the parasympathetic. It drowns out all systems actively, destroying human health.
Joe Dispenza writes in his Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One that substances corresponding to stress are addictive. That is, we become dependent on our thoughts; they subconsciously cause us a surge of adrenaline, and therefore it is difficult for us to think differently.
We can see this in practice. The nervous system changes after trauma - the world is perceived distorted, there are shifts in perception of danger and security as well.
Important value of this theory lies in the fact that having realized this, we can assume that working on physical body we affect the emotional and mental shells of our body automatically. That's where we have to rebuild our thinking patterns and get ourselves back on the mat through a holistic approach.
There is a hypothesis that asanas purify chakras and reveal granthas, thereby changing a person for the better. Perhaps, it is right. However, how to explain the fact that there are practitioners? with a rather serious, deep poses, but their moral and ethical behavior leaves much to be desired? How to explain to people that certain poses purify their chakras? Is it really so? How can I explore that?
According to my assumption: asanas really have the property of leaving deep impressions and emotional sensations in the nervous system.
According to my observations, practice of asanas can cause the following consequences:
- A person becomes open, happy, calm;
- A person becomes anxious, hot-tempered, tired, and speaks quickly, hurries;
- A person closes himself off from society, becomes very disciplined, demanding of himself and others.
I assume that the asana, firstly, gives you the opportunity to experience a deep state. To preserve this feeling, a person closes himself off from the whole world and leaves only the opportunity to practice. Here another conclusion could be made. A fixation in practice. A person protects himself from people, usually goes on a strict diet and becomes obsessed with the practice of asanas.
Even if the poses give a pleasant feeling and a certain amount of time and person is with a pure aura, in excellent condition, magic of the aftertaste from practice of asanas will return him/her to his/her former state, if he/she does not change the patterns of certain destructive thoughts. Perhaps, training and willpower will master a number of serious poses, but transformation in consciousness will not happen. As a side effect, false ego and mental distortions raise in person.
Here is an example of distortions arising from asana practice:
One day I received a message from a lovely student: “She asked if she can not come up from karandavasana, does it mean she is not included in the community who do serious yoga? If you feel any discrimination regarding asanas at the class, it means someone see the world from limited mind. I don't mean you, I mean the person who divided the world on good students and bad. Asana & well done practice is not an indicator of spiritual path. Yoga should include everyone and we are equal.
So what changes a person, if not poses?
What if it's not the poses, but *the process of working on poses* that makes it possible to recognize injuries, resentments?
The path and process of exploring yourself?
If we consider that when we were born, without taking into account the samskarma....we had no understanding about life... that there is a good and bad experience. Our mind was not limited.
When I write this text, I remember how I mastered handstands in the gym. More and more children ran up to me to teach me a handstand. But they only started going to gymnastics for a week. We differed by one fact: I had the experience of falling headfirst on a hard floor, but they did not. They were not restricted like me.
Scientists say that parents, or the environment, their own experience lay a lot of labels in the subconscious. We make correct and incorrect conclusions, respectively.
5% of analytical mind occupies the space of consciousness - it is the stronghold of logical thinking, responsible for willpower, faith, intentions, creative skills.
95% is the subconscious space. As we know, the subconscious is open from the age of 2 to 7. There are positive and negative conclusions embedded in it, from which such restrictions as to jump higher, stand on your hands without a wall, put your feet behind your head, grab your knees in bridges, open a shawl, go to teach, learn yourself are formed.
How do we get to the subconscious in practice? Do you pay attention to how you treat yourself in practice? Or what thoughts constantly haunt you from the past? Asanas have features of returning your consciousness to the past, because they create the feeling of a container where you are watching your own movie. Usually your movie scripts are taken from the past.
In a special issue dedicated to murders in schools, expert Lisa Sobey, founder of the Parents to Parents Foundation and author of American Tragedy explains about mental health of children: If parents do not have an understanding of mental health, they create all conditions in order to educate the copies of themselves and people form brains covering life events at the age of 12 to 27. The brain, hormones are sharpened at such moment. In English, there is a concept like “name it to teach/learn”. You need to name the emotion that you are experiencing and take a guide from here to learn this emotion. If you feel angry, name this emotion, you will understand that the emotion is in your mental content. Find a way to get out of this emotion. Voicing own state, the emotion passes to another part of the brain. All emotions are located in limbic cortex of the brain. But by voicing them, we connect to prefrontal cortex, the part that is responsible for logical thinking and will teach a person to pause and realize the process
Coming back to the idea that asanas bring us back to the past. Indeed, by changing positions of the body, we can connect to our memories, since it is contained in our emotional body and limbic cortex of the brain begins to actively return experiences from the past.
Joe Dispenza also says that the mental content is unchanged. The body believes mistakenly that it is in the past again, that is, learned thoughts and feelings constantly transfer our body to the past. All vital energy is spent on maintaining this learned background and, therefore, the body becomes rigid, heavy and difficult to change.
At such moment, I suggest that everyone create the following conditions for themselves:
- Stop the practice. Calm your breathing. Take a pause.
- Create a synergy with teacher or group, say out loud everything that you feel now to the teacher.
- Create a safe environment. What is a safe environment? This is a yoga mat behind your back, this is a conversation with a teacher. Try without haste asana, which creates the same conditions, the same feeling in emotional body.
- Realize that you do not know anything about the pose. Attend seminars, online classes, or an individual lesson on pose that evokes emotions.
- Analyze the memories and feelings with a psychologist that this emotion causes.
- Make an intention. The intention should be written in the present tense, concise and formulated clearly.
- Make a plan for mastering the pose. Accept the fact that this is not about getting something done in practice, it is about process. Let go of the reins that the pose should fit in time. The pose indicates where there is a clamp and block. By studying it, you are exploring yourself and your reactions, conclusions.
- Connect breathing practice, affirmations. This way will help you to change content of your mind. And your neurons will create a new you.
In conclusion, I want to say that it is easiest for traumatized people to get additional trauma on a mental or physical level on the mat, in yoga community.
Many of us need to reconsider the method of conducting classes. Words, asana corrections, deep adjustment can be triggers to a person. Compassion, patience and a comprehensive approach to the process will lead many people to healing. Mental health is a hard-to-mine fossil in the body. We can voice and realize only by understanding our behavior on the mat that there are facets in the psyche that have not yet been explored.
P.S. If you spot errors or would like to discuss details of my work, please email me firstname.lastname@example.org