In a published article earlier this year, from Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, "Yoga Therapy and Polyvagal Theory...", Sullivan et al write:
"Through yoga, the individual learns both the patterns of behavior and actions, which may perpetuate their suffering as well as a path towards a shift in those patterns for the potential alleviation of suffering."
This is yoga's ancient philosophy. Learning to apply this to the person in front of me, is an underlying principle in yoga therapy. It guides my work.
The process of yoga teaches us to become self-aware of patterns of behaviors and actions.
Self-awareness applies to all the various practices of yoga - and to living a conscious life. At a basic level, yoga poses might be a good starting place to practice self-awareness.
Examples of how to engage in self-awareness might be through considering how a pose feels in your body. If managing something chronic, like back pain, does the yoga pose practice respect discomfort - without further aggravating it?
At this stage, working with someone else can be so helpful. You learn how to explore the possibility of engaging your attention in a movement pattern. You become more aware of the pattern in your body and whether it supports healthy function or leads to stress.
This is called co-regulation, where your nervous system feels "met" by another nervous system that is safe.
You learn how to do this without shutting down in a dorsal vagal collapse, and without pushing from a fight or flight response, the sympathetic system.Goldilocks. Just right.
The body can play a dynamic role in healing mind and heart. You begin to heal emotional patterns and mental attitudes as you re-learn movement patterns instead of increasing pain and discomfort.
As your practice develops, discernment strengthens. You recognize how your practice is either moving you toward a direction of true inner freedom. Or towards suffering. Gradually your experience becomes your guide.
Transformation takes hold when this kind of inquiry is sustained over a long period.
As you adapt your practice skillfully, and reduce movement patterns and behaviors that lead to stress, they can be gently replaced with choices that result in greater well-being.
We work with the nervous system in a strikingly parallel way. Yoga is a natural way to embody the understanding of your nervous system. Learning from the body is foundational and life changing.