Four weeks at Kripalu (see my facebook page for pictures) have left me reenergised, inspired and believing in the power of yoga even more than I already did.
I have learned so much about yoga (all of yoga - not just the postures); somatics, group dynamics and most of all, the body. We studied a therapeutic yoga program, making use of the kosha model (more on that next time), pranayama (breath practices), mudras (hand gestures), affirmations, body-mapping, visualisation and guided meditation.
On a physical level we zoomed in on the main systems of the body; respiratory, cardiovascular , immune, endocrine, gastrointestinal (GI tract), muscular skeletal and central nervous system. We went in-depth on biomechanics; how we move and how our habits might be causing aches and pains and can even affect our state of mind. How everything is interconnected; physically (fascia is a big subject), mentally, emotionally and even spiritually and how incredibly clever our bodies are designed. Homeostasis, the ability for the body to balance our autonomic nervous system (ANS) consisting of the sympathetic system (SNS, fight/flight) and the parasympathetic system (PNS, rest/digest) and how it can get out of balance.
The first subject I want to delve into is the vagus nerve, as it is closely related to mental health issues and even GI tract issues. The vagus nerve (the longest nerve in the body), is part of the PNS and it aids communication between the brain and the GI tract. It also has an anti-inflammatory role. When we are in a prolonged state of stress, the PNS and the vagus nerve are not being stimulated. We can however improve our vagal tone (improve the speed at which the body can get back to an engaged PNS) by simple things like deep and slow breathing, singing and humming, yoga and tai chi, probiotics, meditation, socialising and laughing, massage and cold exposure. Anxiety and depression, so common in our modern world should also be positively impacted by an improved vagal tone. I am studying, and more importantly practicing these techniques so I can experience and perhaps improve my own health. In theory, improving my vagal tone would have a similar effect as the biologic medicine I receive every 8 weeks in hospital…. You can find the research I'm reading on the Vagus Nerve in this link.
I've received so much valuable information that I still need to let it all sink in and read the approximately 25 books I have bought while on the course! For now the most important thing is to try and focus on one or two subjects at a time as at the moment it all seems a little overwhelming... also exciting and incredible stimulating, but there is just so much to learn. Speaking of which first up, my advanced Thai yoga massage course in Greece… how lucky am I?!
I will post my findings and am planning to put more resources on the Yoga and Insight pages soon.