Yoga has had the most influence in helping me heal and make changes within my life since I went to my first class in 1992. I found my teacher through a co student while training as a Myofascial therapist. When she was describing her journey of Yoga to me I had this instant "aha moment" where I just knew this was for me.
Sheila was my first teacher, she taught potent breath practices, strong and long holds and the most devine Guided Relaxation Journeys. Mantra Murti was my other teacher, a healer and spiritual guide who shared the most profound Breath, Kryia and healing journeys, I feel very grateful that they came into my life at the perfect time and I took notice.
I cried at the end of the first half a dozen classes, It wasn't emotional tears it was a release of some kind.
It was the beginning of healing the childhood trauma I had endured for the first 17 years of my life.
What began the healing process was the experience of the Relaxation Response, my body had held on for 30 years.
This was a new experience for me feeling relaxed, it was like being on a high so soft, gentle and peaceful, I wanted more.
Since this time I have sought out various ways to sustain this feeling in a troubled world of high expectations, fast paced stressors that can often go un noticed until you feel completley, physically, mentally and emotional exhausted.
It can become more serious if you have faced any trauma other than the on going stressors.
Our body, our brain our minds and feelings, our holy divine spirit, all hold the magnificence of healing. Given the right conditions, intentions and devotion can return us back to the natural perfect source that we are.
When we are stressed or un well having a Restorative attitude in life is of utmost importance. We often put ourselves aside making the needs of others more important. It may be the company we work for, our family, our daily tasks or duties, whatever takes us away from being with ourselves. Sitting quietly and reflecting and taking an interest in what our needs are and how we can support ourselves in a loving and caring way. It is your life and not one soul on this planet can live it for you, change it for you or heal you. It is all up to you to empower yourself towards the greatness that you are.
How Can the practices change your life?
Body:- If you have experienced any Trauma wether a once off or on going,your body may have locked in a habitual reaction to protect yourself. When something creates a stress response the body with it's intelligence will create a defence mechanism through the Sympathetic Nervous Portals to avoid harm. Your heart will begin to race filling you with an adrenalin rush so you can either fight it out, run for your life. When the experience is over and all returns to peace your body when working at it's optimum will turn on the Relaxation response and you go about your day. Over a long period of time or when trauma of some kind has locked in, the Relaxation response which is generated by the calming centre within your nervous system known as Para Sympathetic slows down and can become "in active". It's like having your car engine on all of the time so the body doesn't recognise the stress response so much as it has adjusted it's timing to idle.
To change this, using Restorative Yoga we adapt a Classical Yoga Position (one that has a therapuetic effect) and place it with the most optimum support so as to change the timing. We stay there for an extended amount of time using awareness practices to trick the body/brain system into switching on the Relaxation Mode.
Breath:- When you inhale your heart rate goes up, when you exhale your heart rate goes down. If your breath ratio is not equalised then this will effect your heart rate.
Most of us are either taking a longer, faster in breath and a shorter outbreath. This means your heart rate is rising more than falling. Learning how to adjust this in your daily life or after a period of stress, injury or trauma is in my opinion the most important of the practices. Learning Practices with the correct sequencing and with a breath diagnosis can restore your life quite effectively.
Mind/thoughts:- As restorative practices are "non" active and held for extended periods we begin to notice the activity of our mind and thoughts, while we are busy at task our mind is living on 3 different planes, a semi conscious, subconscious and un conscious. Through stillness we have the prime conditions for being able to notice this activity and see it for what it is. When we give our mind space to run it's course it slows down as it is no longer being stimulated by outside forces, your senses are getting a break from distraction from the outside infulences, from turning inwards through self awareness, observation. "You are now the centre of your world not central to the world"
We can also use our mind when relaxed to change it's scripts and belief systems by feeding and affirming positive statements in the present tense so our brain feeds the warm fuzzies to our system from our happy and heartfelt thoughts.
Feelings/sensations:- Feelings and sensations are coming and going all of the time, what we class as negative feelings can be confused with an over active Sympathetic (stress) response, once again we can become so familiar with this over time we loose the ability to discrimate between what is what so we just put up with it or become used to it. Our feelings are generated through our mind energy. It may be sub conscious or un conscious. Restorative Yoga allows us space to "feel" what is there consciously in the present moment, accept it as a feeling or sensation, allow it rise up and through giving it space, it can disipate and re new. (Healing trauma from my experience requires a similar but different approach)
Past/Present/Future:- When we live the stress response or have suffered Trauma our imediate intelligence system becomes confused between what is real (happening now) what is past (gone and forgotten) and what we are creating for the future.
When locked into a stress/trauma response our system (meaning the combination of mind/brain/body) our day to day experiences can be mixed up with our past. This can then create a struggle when we are attempting to change our lives for the future.
This is why I know that using the Restorative Positions alone are not enough, although all have there individual helaing attributes using a combination of Restorative Practices in my opinion creates a fuller and much more expansive journey to healing, the ancient masters knew the future and gave us all we needed through the ancient practices of Yoga & Meditation. We are so much more than all of this above. We have lost our way, it;s time to go home, back to our true nature, our soul and it's companions, for as a collective are longing to be held to be loved to be noticed.
Cathie Mani McGill
You can find out more about classes, courses and Restorative Wisdom Training by visiting the website above or give us a tick on Facebook page Spirit of Yoga and share the Restorative News.
Life has a way of getting in the way, we have lost the habit and ability to relax. Our brains have become wired to the constant stimulation of the senses. We use false ways to relax such as Alcohol, drugs, sex, Television, Social Media and addictions to anything that gives us a High. There is a false sense that the more you do the more energy you have and the more you can achieve. Even if you decide to take a step towards finding more balance you can become consumed with all the different "ways" there are to relax and find balance, and it becomes a stress within itself, or you find that you are not recovering quick enough or when you feel that first top up of the relaxation response you stop, only to find you are right back where you started from again.
With the popularity of Yoga as a source of finding, physical health, mental and emotional stability, the modern classes and training very rarely include the use of practices that actually bring a full spectrum of health benefits for the nervous system.
What most people are unaware of, is the System of Yoga as a tool for better health is based on a good balance of the autonomic nervous system which has three branches: the sympathetic nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system: and the enteric nervous system.
These systems interweave and work together constantly through the intelligence of the body and brain and chemical system. When we continue to activate the stress response through any immediate threat or fear (or past conditioning/experience) the Sympathetic switches on and you either want to fight or run for your life or freeze. When your Para Sympathetic automatically activates you calm down eventually back to a state of peace and relaxed awareness.
The scary thing is that most people have become so accustomed to the stress response their body and brain have lost the natural ability to turn it off and return to the Relaxation response.
Once this happens to someone they can no longer think clearly, respond appropriately, they become confused and on constant overwhelm, they become irritated, tired, fatigued, loose interest in life. Some of this might already sound familiar. I know, I have been there and gone there several times, I still struggle to keep the balance and you might too. The reason for this is that it has become a "collective" way of living intertwined in our collective consciousness and it is an epidemic.
What Really is A Restorative Yoga Practice:-
How can we save ourselves, our family and friends our community from this ongoing downward spiral?
As a PTSD survivor and Yoga & Meditation practitioner of 25years and a teacher of 21years, I can share with you that I have approached healing stress, from all areas, by addressing the physical, mental and emotional and energetic aspects.
I know for a fact that until you learn how to consciously relax, breathe correctly and learn to say no , understand your stress responses and the senses, there is no therapy or person that can bring you back to life.
That's where a commitment to learning and practicing the basic therapeutic foundations of a Restorative practice will be of most benefit to you if you are ready to relax.
A restorative practice is not just lying around on the floor or over a bolster, block or blanket, hoping your fairy godmother will come along while you lie there with your eyes closed and make it better.
It will require you to approach it with intention to detail and outcome, of practicing it with some/full awareness and knowledge of what it is you are initiating, and carrying it through in the most efficient and effective way.
That leads us to the application of a Restorative practice :-
Positioning the body correctly using appropriate basic foundations of support, so the body and mind will easily and effortlessly relax without any added stimulation through the senses or brain patterns.
The way to achieve this is through a quiet space where the senses will not be stimulated, the body comfortable & warm and a feeling sense of being safe and secure. And most importantly, approached in a Therapeutic Way.
Why is it important to Learn and practice it Therapeutically? If it is approached this way it will ensure you will fall into the Relaxation Response effectively and efficiently. You will be responding from your body to your brain that you feel safe and the threat is over. In other words, it will happen faster.
Shavasana/Supine position the first practice:-
If you look at this picture of my daughter, you will see that every part of her body is supported, nothing has been left out. The Key points to remember when you begin the process of Relaxation is:-
1) your lower back is resting back towards the floor. This can be achieved in several ways, here we have used a bolster and blanket roll. (this may not always be necessary)
2) the shoulders/ elbows and arms are supported
3) the neck is positioned so the forehead is slightly higher than the chin.
4) not shown here, but however a necessary benefit, is the use of an eye cover or pillow and a blanket to keep the body warm, safe.
The reason for the above is that when your forehead is slightly higher it relaxes and slows the brain activity this has a domino effect on the mental thoughts and physically the back of the neck and shoulders. Supporting the arms elbows and wrists communicate to the body to stop holding on and releases the chest & upper back allowing for a more spontaneous breath to arise.
Supporting the lower back accesses the para sympathetic nerves located in the groin area thus bringing a deeper breath into the lower lung thus relaxing the abdomen.
Once arrived the spontaneous wisdom of the soul has space to come out and reveal itself, this is the source of healing.
My Restorative Wisdom Mission:
When I arrived at my worst darkest of moments, those moments of not wanting to be here, not liking myself, I had to pull it together for I was now a mother and had someone else to answer too, to care for. So I changed my personal Yoga practice and went back to the first practice that lifted me out of my constant anxiety and personal condemnation, Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga's Childs Position (Humble Feotus as I call it in my training program) to commence healing.
It gave me the courage and insight to move forward and begin to educate others on learning and striving to be more relaxed. It has become such an important part of my own ongoing healing. It is my wish that eventually there will be a house on every street where the immediate community can join together once a week and practice relaxation, when this happens the "world will be at peace". It is the only solution.
If you want to learn more and experience Restorative Yoga Wisdom practices, you can join a specific class, workshop or the training. You will only learn and heal this by practicing it, there is no other way to understand Restorative practice, it's true nature, it doesn't come in a book or on a CD it is deep within you, it is you.
Join the Restorative Wisdom Yoga Facebook Group:
The state of peace is the foundation of spiritual experience. Where inner-peace does not exist there can be no spiritual growth, development or improvement. Modern life presents very little peace, human beings are effected by stress every day, this leads to anxiety, depression, illness, competition, disassociation, addictions, relationship breakdowns and suicide. It is becoming a desperate situation, there is no time but the present to find peace in your life daily.
Surrender is the ultimate state required to develop peace and the purpose of Restorative Yoga Practices is to create peaceful states which involve rest, meditation, inner listening & reflection which lead to peace. The awakening of peace has to happen at various levels of our nature, personality and mind. There fore including mindful rituals that involve the body (restful postures), emotions (breath techniques), Mind (progressive relaxation and meditation) are essential to developing peace.
As the quote above says "to give in, give Up". Now that doesn't suggest you just allow others to swallow you up or that you stop making an effort. Quite the opposite. Surrender takes effort, conviction and practice. We have developed a habit of doing, we keep going and we can't switch off.
When you stop and sit still you will notice how tense you feel, how much you are thinking, this tension & thinking increases the more you push yourself. The state of Distraction is a real experience, it is this constant distraction that has replaced the natural tendency to surrender humans are "wired" more to what is outside than inside.
Why is this? Your body is a wired system and that wiring starts in your brain and branches out. Every time you are stimulated in some way your brain receives this and sends it out and down into your body.
It is your brain that is controlling your body & your body controlling your brain, as this is a 2 way circuit. All of the information is being perceived through the 5 senses most of the time. The sixth sense your intuitive guidance system is very rarely heard.
I remember a few years ago, a couple of days before we flew out to Hawaii my vacuum broke, it needed to be replaced for our house guests. I quickly got into town with the directive that I will go straight in buy the vacuum and come home. Within moments of entering the store I was distracted by the pretty dresses hanging up, the perfumes etc. that I began to forget the purpose of my visit. In the middle of looking at all the "nice things" I woke up to the fact why I was there. I finally made it to the top floor where my destination was by saying this mantra to myself over & over "don't be distracted". It was from this experience I realised how easily it is to set yourself up for stress, time limits can be our greatest stressors, we can eliminate some of that by not being distracted. This distraction leads eventually to more stress.
To begin to develop peace and move towards the habit of surrender you need to find an anchor, a point of reference. Below are the steps followed by some practices. Don't hesitate, the time is Now, you are reading this in the here & now. The sooner you take your body, your mind your emotions your life back, learn to surrender, peace will become the driving force.
Stress like any habit becomes familiar, start recognising how tired you are, anxious you are, are you sleeping really well? Is your digestion good? Honestly are you Happy?
Be true to yourself you are worth the effort, more effort than everything else outside of you. Each day choose one of the simple practices below, this is the starting point then build on it by saying no to the things that create stress in your life once you recognise what they are, attend a group or class.
An anchor is something you can bring into the moment as a reminder to slow down and surrender. If you are a physical person try using a body part such as the feet or abdomen, drop your attention down into your feet, focus on surrender. If you are more logical analytical try a symbol like a geometric shape or object to focus on to remind you of surrender. If you are more emotional, try your breath or focus on an uplifting feeling or think of a beautiful memory. Use the same anchor every time make it your new habit.
Practice relaxation and grounding yourself this will direct you more to your body. When we get stressed it feels like our body stands out more, however this is not the case it is the stress that stands out, the nervousness, the tension, this is not the natural state of the body. The body is dense our physical layer is like the earth, rocks, trees. It is meant to be steady, fixed and in control of its environment, being able to withstand anything that nature throws at it and if it is effected can rejuvenate very efficiently within the right environment. When you relax or ground yourself you are creating that dense environment where you "know" what is effecting you at given moment. Until you know, you will struggle trying to change anything.
I liken either of these positions to switching off your car engine, at first the car still makes some noises or creaks then it eventually goes quiet. Either of the above interted positions will instantly drop your blood pressure so your body perceives no threats, your circulation begins to increase in a healthy way and your digestion relaxes, your brain receives the message to relax the body and the body responds. You can modify by removing the supports under the body. The important aspect is to have your neck and head supported so your forehead is higher than your chin this will ease the brain and your legs higher than your heart.
Finding a few moments to sit with no distractions with an upright comfortable position with your hands in your lap with the thumb and first finger together is another reliable and efficient easy surrender practice. The Yoga Mudra's or gestures are linked to the science of the breath and brain. When you hold Gyan Mudra (above) the lungs will receive the breath more in the lower portion thus encouraging tension in the diaphragm to release and the abdominal region to relax and move more. Combined with concentration of your natural inhalation and exhalation will leave you feeling peaceful, refreshed. You can also add a word or Mantra like Peace, calm, or the breath Mantra So Hum.
There are many relaxation scripts out there that you can purchase online or make your own. I have attached a simple basic script that is used in our Restorative Training Course for you to record if needed. You can add pleasant scenery at the end and visualise yourself peaceful. You can either make a special daily practice of this or use it at night before you fall off to sleep, guide your awareness down through your body and consciously relax, "learn the feeling", it leads to surrender. Eventually leaving you to gaze into your inner space which is expansive spacious. This is where your sixth sense becomes more apparent. Basic Relaxation script
Ultimately it is up to you, if you would like to learn more about Restoring your body and learning to relax, Cathie runs two weekend courses on Restorative Yoga Wisdom practices anyone can learn this, it is preferable that you are familiar with Yoga and meditation. See More Here