Hey everyone! Ashley’s back today with more lessons learned for her training in adaptive yoga for amputees. We’re getting excited for all the workshops coming up at Namaslay® Studios! Let her know if you have any questions in the comments! xo - Candace
One of the things I learned in our Yoga for Addiction module at Namaslay® YTT is the importance of ritual. I know, right off the bat, it sounds pretty whoo whoo, but I’m not talking sacrificing small animals or dancing naked around a fire (the latter sounds kind of fun, though). By ritual, I mean consistent habits, the mindset and movements we find each day to bring order to the chaos of life. I have experienced intense anxiety, panic attacks, depression, side effects of trauma, and though I forget and have to re-learn, remember, the key to regaining mental clarity each time is creating healthy habits I can rely on. Having something sure and steady, something I return to each day amidst the turmoil, saves my mind from itself. Not right away, but always with consistency.
Whether we realize it or not, there is ritual in all our lives. The time your alarm goes off. The way you prepare your food. The things you say to yourself when your head hits the pillow at night. These mindless habits need attention, or they tend to add to our mental clutter rather than promote clarity and calm. When we’re trapped in addictive behavior, in fear, in anxiety, replacing old habits with new and improved behaviors is therapeutic. For instance, instead of waking up and checking your phone first thing, triggering a stress response in your body, try setting aside the first 20-30 minutes of your day for meditation, journaling, sipping coffee, a walk around the block, or something that grounds you in your safety and wholeness. Before you open yourself up to the things you cannot predict, steel yourself in your identity. Create a ritual for your morning that aligns with the way you want your day to unfold, the thoughts you want to focus on, and the pace you want to set for yourself.
In studying trauma sensitivity with Marsha Danzig, creator of Y4A: Yoga for Amputees®, the concept of ritual was reinforced for me. There is trauma in limb loss, no matter the cause, to varying degrees, and to lose a part of your physical body can shake your foundation of what is true, reliable, trusted. Amputees often report feeling helpless and without control, so trying something new after a radical shift in reality takes some serious courage. It’s important to remember and remind new practitioners that showing up on the mat is the work. Whether it’s 5 minutes of conscious breathing or 60 minutes of powerful flowing, the gift is in the journey, in the day to day practice of setting aside time to focus on your well being. It’s like sending yourself a love note everyday:
“Hey. I see the work you’re doing. I know it’s tough. You’re doing a great job. I love you, and whatever you need, just ask. I’ll be here again tomorrow, too. You can count on me.”
Since yoga has so many mind + body benefits, from regulating the nervous system to building strength and restoring balance, developing a consistent practice can be a pivotal change for amputees. To help your students develop their own rituals for self care, and remain sensitive to the strength they must demonstrate to step into something new and overcome trauma, set the stage for consistency in class.
Always place your mat in the same space. Set the room up the same way each time.
Especially in the beginning, offer the same sequence of poses each time. If you want to introduce something new, give your students a heads up. Something like, “Next week, we’ll work more on triangle pose, and I’ll also introduce pigeon pose.” It can even be helpful to show a picture of the pose they’ll try next week.
Tell your students at the beginning of class what to expect, and at the end, review and remind them of what’s to come next week. This is a classroom teacher trick, too. If you have an objective, or something you want the students to take away from class, state it up front to bring their attention to it. Then consistently draw your class back to the intention and ask them to reflect on it at the end of class.
Point out exits and bathrooms. People with PTSD appreciate knowing they’re not trapped, that there’s a way out.
Use inviting language. This is an opportunity for your students to explore their minds and bodies without feeling like they need to keep up with the person next to them or meet the teacher’s expectations. Don’t want to close your eyes in savasana? Totally cool. Do you.
If you use aromatherapy and music, choose songs without lyrics and use the same playlist and scents each time.
If practicing at home, students can dedicate a space just for their practice, light some incense, play some music, or sip their favorite tea. The details aren’t as important as the promise to show up each day. We can train our minds to be kinder to us. The power is in the ritual, the consistency. I’m excited to share more of what I learned in Y4A: Yoga for Amputees® at my workshop at Namaslay® Studios in July and with the next round of Namaslay® YTT trainees in Tennessee this August. I hope you’ll join us! If you have any questions, drop them in the comments! You can also find me on Instagram @breathingbird.