When we are sick, or in pain, we often turn to medicine to ease the symptoms or heal what hurts us. Medicine regulates the systems in our bodies that are not functioning optimally – it can clear a blocked pathway, strengthen our bodies’ defenses, and soothe our body back to healing.
In its own very powerful way, yoga is often described as medicine (#YogaAsMedicine, in some circles). Practically speaking, this perspective can be incredibly helpful and healing to all of us. One main idea behind the focus and energy of yoga is to become more self-sufficient, identify what we need most physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and to be able to achieve those solutions for ourselves. We see doctors and therapists to heal our bodies and our minds, and through deep and sincere yoga study and practice we can also teach ourselves to turn inward, to ultimately understand how yoga poses and yoga practices can nourish us as well.
In medicine, prescriptions and dosages are meticulously measured to have the most effective impact and meet an individual’s needs. Likewise, we use alignment in our poses to achieve the intentionally designed posture in order to achieve certain ideals. Yoga is not about arbitrary movement. It is both much more subtle and much more precise. Out of necessity we invoke self-reflection: asking ourselves what we need and what we want can inform the way we move our bodies to heal the pieces that need attention.
Practical Challenge: The next time you practice, identify a moment or experience from the day that created the most amount of sensation (physical, emotional, or spiritual) within you. Work to match that sensation through the ensuing practice and determine whether the physical practice helps you work through those emotions!
Here are some suggestions of poses to help you address different emotions:
- Agitation, anxiety, restlessness: Try a sequence of sun salutations and forward folds
- Frustration: Stretch or activate the quadriceps and shoulders with Warriors I and II, King Arthur Pose (for the thigh), and Parsvottanasana (reverse prayer).
- Overwhelmed: Arm binds, shoulder openers, Pascimottasana, Janusirsana
- Heartbreak and loss: Urdva Dharasana (backbends)
- Sadness, fear of change: Hip openers like Pigeon Pose, Agnistambasana