Yoga Is for Every BODY
By Rachel | @yogafordiabetesblog | October 4, 2018
Yoga is such a buzz word right? No matter where you are, what you do, or who you know, chances are you’re going to come across it. But what is yoga? Perhaps you’ve heard it’s about being super bendy, or that it’s something that you do to Zen out. Or maybe your HCP or friend has suggested you try it to help you with your condition.
Well as someone who lives with a chronic disease myself I can attest to the fact that yoga truly can be done by anyone, in any condition, anywhere and anytime.
Why can I confidently say that? Because yoga is much more than a physical practice. The word yoga means oneness, completeness. It is the natural state of the human being regardless of physical condition. Yoga is not about the coming and going of time, age or health it is about the one going through the changes. This is you, the experiencer. When someone wants to know the ultimate aim and goal of yoga, it’s this. To know one’s self as the timeless, changeless. Think about it: your thoughts come and go, ideas come and go, symptoms come and go, but what about you, the one experiencing all the changes… you don’t go anywhere. No matter what is happening to you, you remain aware. It is that awareness that never moves. I know for myself how hard it is to deal with the ins and outs of being aware. Aware of pain, aware of stress, aware of emotions, aware of others, aware of what can go wrong. I am also aware of joy, love, compassion and bliss.
The trick of the yogi is to catch themselves identifying with these changing states. Instead of thinking I am my thoughts, emotions, ideas and experiences, I can never be what I have.
I have a condition, I cannot be the condition.
What the practices do is suspend the habitual need to identify with our thoughts. When your mind is focused on a posture, the breath, an image, a sound, or a hand gesture, it is happily occupied. Have you ever noticed how pain and uncomfortable feelings fall away when you are focused on an activity. Pain is real and when it’s there can be all consuming. However the yoga practices help to temper our reactions to pain.
A gentle hand on your shoulder, a reminder to breathe, a hug from your mom, or dad patting your pet all these things can be a yoga practice if you bring yourself whole heartedly to the practice. Essentially whatever you focus on makes you present. And there are genuine yoga practices you can do too. As long as you can breathe you can do yoga.
Why not join me in the following easy practices that can be done seated or lying down
Full complete Breath
This practice is all about getting mobility through your diaphragm, a smooth sheet of muscles which sits like an umbrella under your ribcage. A mushroom like stem called the central tendon draws down when you breathe in pushing your belly out and comes back to its natural position when you breathe out. Taking a full complete breath soothes the nervous system and releases deep seated tension. It can also help you deal with pain, anxiety or other challenging physical and emotional states. It can be practiced seated or lying down.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet slightly forward of the hips or sit comfortably on a chair. Place both hands on the abdomen, tips of the middle fingers touching. Become aware of the breath. Notice the inhale and the exhale.
On the inhalation, expand the abdomen so that the fingers come apart. On the exhalation, feel the abdomen releasing and relaxing, fingers coming together. Repeat this a few times. Place your hands on the sides of the ribs. Have your thumbs at the back of the ribcage and your four fingers at the front.
On the inhalation, feel how the sides of the ribs expand and lift. On the exhalation, notice how the ribs come together and the abdomen relaxes as above. Repeat this a few times.
Place one hand on the belly and one hand just below the collarbones.
On the inhalation, feel the abdomen and side ribs expand, and the upper chest and collarbones lift. On the exhalation, feel the abdomen, ribcage and upper chest relax all at the same time. One movement melting into the next. Practice this Full Complete Breath a few times. Then relax and come back to natural relaxed breathing.
Sound Yoga (Mantra)
The oldest form of Yoga is the Yoga of Sound. Called Mantra Yoga. it’s been around for thousands of years. Working with sound is a powerful way to build the immune system because sound vibrates the pituitary gland which commands all the other glands in the body. Sound is essential for proper glandular function.
Use of the voice also improves Vagal tone. The vagus nerve is a long cranial nerve, which extends from the brainstem, through the throat, chest and into the abdomen. It plays a major part in keeping our immune system in check. It connects our brainstem to the rest of our body and governs the part of our nervous system that regulates heart rate and gut mobility.
Recent studies have observed that low immune function decreases the flow of communication between the brain, the heart and the gut resulting in what’s called ‘low vagal tone’. In a healthy person, the ability to ward off infections etc. is associated with having a high vagal tone. It’s been hypothesized that chanting, singing and the breathing practices of yoga help to increase vagal tone, thereby boosting the immune system.
Sit quietly observing your breath for a few moments, bring your awareness to the centre of your chest.
Think of a word or phrase that is meaningful to you it could be Love, Peace, Joy. It could be a prayer in your faith. Choose something you would feel comfortable repeating. It does not have to be a positive affirmation. The purpose of the practice is to bring the mind to a one pointed focus and draw it out of its preoccupation with thought.
Once you have chosen the word or phrase repeat it initially for 2 minutes, then increase to 3 minutes and work you way up to 5 minutes over 40 days. You can use a timer on your phone with an alarm or if you have a Mala or Rosary you can count the repetitions. 27 repetitions takes about 2 minutes, 54 about 10 minutes and 108 takes 20 minutes
The Yoga of Gesture ( Mudra)
My favourite way to work with yoga is to practice mudras. Mudra is yoga for the hands and requires the use of your fingers. Mudras have been around for thousands of years. In fact, before there was language we used gestures (sign language) to communicate. That’s why we still use our hands when we talk.
Placing your fingers and hands in different positions directly accesses the motor cortex and the area of the brain responsible for both movement and emotion. Because of this Mudras are the perfect way to calm the emotions and settle the mind and they are super easy to do. No prior experience needed!
Want to give it a try? Here’s a vlog of a short mudra sequence that you can practice right away.
I highly recommend bringing all three of these yoga practices into your daily life. Even 5 minutes of a consistent yoga practice can make a huge difference to your day.
Rachel Zinman is passionate about the deeper aspects of yoga and its ability to heal and inspire. She has spent the last 37 years practicing enthusiastically as well as teaching nationally (in Australia) and internationally since 1992.
Rachel writes for many in print and online magazines, is an award winning musician, mother and wife. She was diagnosed with diabetes in 2008 at the age of 42. It took six years for her to accept her diagnosis of type 1 LADA diabetes. Her diagnosis revolutionized her approach to teaching and practice. She started her Yoga for Diabetes blog to share with the diabetes online community how yoga has helped her to manage her diabetes. Her book “Yoga for Diabetes, How to Manage Your Health with Yoga and Ayurveda was named finalist in Forward Reviews Book of The Year 2017 and is available from Amazon or where all good books are sold. http://bit.ly/diabetesyogabook