Yoga for Healing

By: Audrey Lundahl

Yoga can be a powerful tool for healing. Stress, anxiety, and trauma—whether experienced every day or sporadically—impact our bodies. The symptoms manifest in many ways: as dis-regulated breathing, throat constriction, lack of presence, insomnia, migraines, heightened sensations, fatigue, aches and pains, and so on.

These symptoms occur because we feel stress in our brains and nervous systems, which are irrevocably tied to our bodies. Repeated stress can keep our amygdala in overdrive, constantly identifying danger all around us. During this overdrive, our brains can become flooded with cortisol, disconnecting us from the present and leaving us confused and worn out. (Increased cortisol has many other negative health effects.) This constant reaction to stress can make our nervous system extremely reactive and consequently our bodies become exhausted.

Many people, myself included, turn away from our bodies in an attempt to avoid the symptoms of constant stress and fatigue. Maybe we become convinced that if we ignore our bodily symptoms, they will go away. And yet, ignoring our bodies only increases our fatigue.

Yoga helped me return to my body after trauma, depression, and stress. In my first yoga class ten or so years ago, I remember vividly the feeling of my legs in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose). Although sometimes considered a passive pose, it invited full sensation into my body as my legs drew gently down and my hips began to feel more open. I simple thought “Wow, these are my legs!” I hadn’t even realized how disconnected from my body I was. Practicing yoga and finding those moments of embodied presence, I finally started to feel at home. Such a simple experience of feeling my legs for the first time in what seemed like forever brought me into a longer (hopefully life-long!) journey to honoring my body and its sensations.  

Why is yoga such a powerful tool for embodiment and, thus, for healing?  Simply put, we experience stress and trauma in our bodies, so of course our path to healing and presence must include, or even center, the body. The practice of mindful movement and breath offers our bodies a chance to work through body-stored memories and emotions. Simultaneously, our breath calms our nervous system. During a challenging pose, whether that’s Half Pigeon or Warrior III, if we can focus our attention on breathing through whatever sensations arise, we can retrain our nervous system out of constant overdrive and hyper-reaction.

Our connection to our bodies and experiences of embodiment are essential to our holistic health, especially in our often over-stressed, extra-busy lifestyles. When I teach yoga classes at Authentic Yoga Life, including gentle, power, and special trauma yoga classes, my intention is to hold space for each person’s journey into their bodies. I am committed to this intention because I know that each person has the capacity to tap into the healing wisdom of our bodies. During a gentle or power yoga class, we can invite our awareness back into our bodies and find profound moments of waking up—moments where we emerge from our fog and realize that we haven’t been paying attention. These moments of awakening provide opportunities for healing, and we can begin anytime.

I teach gentle yoga Tuesdays at 7 pm and power yoga Mondays at 9:15 am and Thursdays at 5:30 pm; I’d love to be a part of your healing journey.


Why I Practice Yin Yoga

By AnaLouise Keating

Stress, sedentary lifestyles, and our electronic devices wreak havoc on our bodies, weakening our immune systems, compromising our mobility, stiffening our muscles, and ruining our posture (among other things). A regular yin yoga practice helps to address these issues and others.  Yin yoga is a gentle but rigorous yoga practice, consisting almost entirely of seated and reclined poses. Yin yoga is gentle because the poses typically don’t require muscular effort but instead relax the muscles in order to access the deeper tissue and other overlooked areas of the body.  And yet, yin yoga is also rigorous because we hold each pose for approximately one to six minutes, putting moderate amounts of pressure on these overlooked tissues. 

Unlike the more commonly practiced forms of yoga (power yoga, ashtanga yoga, vinyassa yoga, etc.) that focus primarily on the muscles, yin yoga encourages the muscles to be still so that the poses can address the body’s connective tissue–the tendons, ligaments, and especially the fascia. Until fairly recently, scientists overlooked the fascia’s important role in our bodies–treating it instead as a type of packing material to be cut through in order to access the bones, organs, nerves, and so on.  

However, fascia is incredibly important. Composed primarily of collagen, fascia is ubiquitous throughout our bodies; it’s a single, sentient organ that wraps around nerves, muscle layers, organs, etc.  As Dr. Robert Schleip, a leading expert on fascia, notes, "the fascial net is one continuous structure throughout the body. So, imagine a silvery-white material, flexible and sturdy in equal measure—a substrate that surrounds and penetrates every muscle, coats every bone, covers every organ, and envelops every nerve. Fascia keeps everything separate yet interconnected at the same time.” Because it holds cellular waste and emotional residue, our facia can become stiff, thus limiting our mobility, flexibility, and more.  Yin yoga helps to lubricate and rejuvenate the fascia, thus enhancing our physical, emotional, and energetic health. 

Yin yoga offers a healthy way to deal with stress, teaching us to use our breath as a vehicle for attention to what’s going on in the body.  When I’m in a yin pose, I take my attention into my body, to the areas impacted by the pose, and I simply observe: I notice the energetic changes and slight movements, as the connective tissue very slowly reacts to the pose, starting at the points of pressure but then energetically resonating elsewhere in the body. This resonance happens because the connective tissue is a single organ that literally connects everything in our body to everything else. I envision fascia as a three-dimensional weblike structure that links together every part of our bodies.

Yin yoga can also increase mental focus and persistence. Holding a pose like Toe Squat (one of my favorites!) for three minutes or a pose like Caterpillar (another favorite of mine) for six minutes can bring up discomfort.  Yin conditions us to stay with the intense sensations that arise, rather than quickly moving into the next pose.  As Sarah Powers, a leading yin yoga teacher, explains, yin yoga “trains you to become more comfortable with discomfort instead of becoming alarmed.”  We take this training off the mat, meeting discomfort in more areas of our life with careful attention, rather than alarm, stress, anger, and so on.  By so doing, we become more effective problem-solvers.

I’ve practiced yin yoga regularly for over three years.; it’s the perfect complement to my more yang-like power yoga practice.  My yin yoga practice has given me increased flexibility, balance, and range of motion.  Because fascia is the body’s brain, as I become more aware of the tiny shifts and changes in my fascia, I experience increased ability to move gracefully through space.  (I’ve always been very clumsy, knocking into doors and walls, dropping stuff, and so on.  My daily yin practice is slowly changing this.) A regular yin yoga practice has also enhanced my internal awareness and my intuition. I can more often and more clearly hear my body’s messages.  I lead a yin yoga practice at Authentic Yoga Life on Thursdays from 7 to 8 p.m. and would love to introduce you to the benefits of yin.

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Through the Fire

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How do you know you’re in the biggest FIRE phase of your life? What are the signs?

  • struggle

  • exhaustion

  • frustration

  • set backs

  • foggy brain

  • loss of passion

  • losing touch with your "why"

….to name a few.

How do you know you are OUT of the fire? You will know the moment you are OUT and not ONE moment before. This happened to me last week. On a Monday to be exact. 

 

HERE'S MY FIRE STORY

Five years ago, I was three years into being a single mom, had completed a 200hr yoga training, retired from a 26 year career as a flight attendant, and embarked on my yoga journey that landed me in Baron Baptiste’s Level 1 training in Sedona, AZ.  

That 8-day boot camp solidified the methodology that was to be taught at my new life’s path:  Authentic Yoga Life Studio in Denton.

It was my daily yoga practice that empowered me to rise up, leave my marriage and become the single working mom I was NEVER going to do or be. (*note to self: drop the word “never”.)

It was in that quiet space, I internally knew I needed a different career path. One where my feet were on the ground so I could be there for my son in the way I wanted and needed to be.

Yoga seemed the most natural transition. Opening a studio was the answer.

 

AYL WAS CREATED TO:

  • Create a space where growth seekers could come to their mat and have the same empowering experience I had. 

  • Be a safe place that would hold space for student's discoveries and their limiting belief stories.  

  • Do what I do best, bring in the “professionals” (with much more knowledge than me) to help teach US what we needed to know and to help us heal from what needed to be healed.

 

HERE'S THE TRUTH:

Authentic Yoga Life was created to HOLD ME ACCOUNTABLE to my personal growth. If others were able to find the same goodness, than win-win!

Creating the space and this business was the most exhilarating time for me. I described the experience to my mentor as “being in the flow of a fast moving river!”, to which she quickly responded with, “This too shall pass.”

And did it EVER.

No Baptiste teachers wanted to drive to Denton to teach. So it was the Valerie show. However, here is the thing, I never wanted to or intended to teach yoga. 

Now I must tell you one of my most favorite things to do is PLAY SMALL. I had this huge expansion by putting the studio out there for others. However, I had no intention of actually showing UP and being the “face” of AYL! 

But when there is no other choice - you do it. 

So I did. 

I taught every class, cleaned the studio, did the technical computer stuff, the marketing, a LOT of towel washing, etc. I did it ALL! I had a few helpers along the way which allowed me to start slipping back into the background where I would literally stay for the next four years. I was  behind the scenes tackling personal stories that have always held me back, dealing with scary court issues with the toxic ex and dodging a variety of different characters that came into my life that weren’t there for my greater good. 

I have literally been trudging through this FIRE  - THIS fire. ( I say that because I believe every situation & relationship has the potential to be its own little or big fire…in other words, lesson. Depending on how strong you believe your story, depends on the severity of the fire {lesson} and how long the fire walking will be.)

This, my friends, IS my biggest fire. Showing up authentically, allowing myself to be seen, and standing in my own power because I’m worth it, has been a fire I’ve been walking though my whole life. This was just that last grueling five years towards the exit OUT the other side.

 

Here are the signs of how I knew I had stepped OUT of the fire:

  • I could actually look back and see what I had gone through. (You know you’re in the fire, but you can’t necessarily SEE it.)

  • I could complete a whole thought process!

  • I could rise up and out of my business to see what it needs!

  • I could remember all the ideas I had thought of a minute ago!

  • I could understand the lessons that I’ve been needing to learn!

Seriously - the clarity was REAL in that moment last Monday.

Being out of the fire doesn’t mean it's all FIXED and gone forever. It means it’s time to get BUSY rewriting and rewiring your beliefs and stories with all of your new knowledge and lessons. YAY!

 

MOVING FORWARD

So then, the question became: What to do now? How do I begin shifting this ridiculous story and show up for my business and my personal life in ways I was unable to do until last MONDAY?

BLOG IT. SHARE IT. BE VULNERABLE. 

Did I mention I hate writing? I’m VERY resistant to it (Just like the resistance that comes up while holding FROG for the entirety of Krishna Das’ “God Is Real/Hare Ram”.).  Journaling is a challenge and has been non-existent in my life. BUT, I have a story to tell and it’s time to be seen by others. 

So, here we go, welcome to Blog #1.

Love, Valerie


TIPS FOR NAVIGATING THE FIRE:

  • Get on your mat and recognize those thoughts and feelings that come up from your physical practice. 

  • Jot them down in your journal

  •  As you move through your day, recognize where those same limiting beliefs show up in your life.

  • Use S D C to go deeper (I found this a few months ago and have been slowly implementing this into my daily experience when it makes sense.):

    • STOP - your busy thinking

    • DROP - into your deeper knowing

    • CONNECT - with the feelings coming up

Do you need support on how to navigate the transformation wanting to happen in your life? Get in touch with me. I am here for you.  I LOVE empowering yogis on their path of connecting the moments on their mat to the moments in their life. I am committed to supporting the AYL community to their personal renewal. Together, we've got this.