Bo Forbes, clinical psychologist, yoga teacher, and Integrative Yoga Therapist talks about what Integrative Yoga Therapy is, how interoception develops a body-based rresiliencethat translates to emotional resilience, relaxing rather than corralling into expansion, why vinyasa and restorative yoga fit together on a continuum, and how using momentum when we get uncomfortable can get us onto some pretty slippery slopes.
On Yoga Restorative Therapeutics: Restorative means a lot of different things today. Many use it to describe holding poses for an extended period of time, like Yin, or a very slow variation of Vinyasa. Our system refers to lying down, as a "passive" practice, no muscular contraction or active stretching.
We're taking into account neuroplasticity- how does the brain change and how does the body change? When we try to create opening or a big stretch, it can create muscle tension and fascial tension and lines of glueing that reinforce the holding we're trying to change. We try to make it more therapeutic by having little elevation and more support. Less is more. you can relax the body into expansion rather than corralling it into expansion.
Yoga, mindfulness, neuroscience, especially affective neuroscience, therapy, and a more physical therapy-type rehabilitative approach. So we're bringing in different capacities and understandings.
How does vinyasa teaching meld with the more passive restorative? Very often there is a discrepancy between active and "passive" forms of yoga, but they lie on a continuum. There's not such a disparate relationship between then in Yoga Restorative Therapeutics.
Interoception: it is mindfulness expressed in the body. What makes it hard for many of us is that the body is unpredictable, it is constantly changing in unpredictable ways. Proprioception answers the question, where is my body in space. Interoception is what is happening in my body at any given time. Going into the body is a little bit scary. Interoception is attending to momentary bodily sensations as they change from one moment to the next.
This mirror our emotional lives as well. In order to deal with the unpredictability we often fix our bodies in space and in time, and we also fix our body in terms of its health. It's almost like we're making a contract with the body never to change.
When the body does change in ways that are bigger than we acknowledge we can feel at a loss as to how to deal with those changes.
Over time if you imagine interoception as entering this wilderness of the body it starts to create a kind of reserve, and eventually we come to enter the wilderness and to have it feel like home. We develop a sense that we can handle the unpredictable.
It develops a body-based resilience that becomes a direct parallel to emotional resilience.
How can one begin stepping one foot into that wilderness? One of the best ways to do that is a very simple check-in with the body several times throughout the day. Even noticing- am I in my body? Or in this moment am I out of my body?
There is a direct correlation between this kind of interoception and self-care. When we can attend to state in the body we can also address them.
We can bring interoception into an active practice like Vinyasa, which in the yoga world in many cases has been focused on proprioception. Neuroscientists are starting to study yoga as exercise (proprioception) vs. Yoga that has this additional component of attention and mindfulness, and finding that yoga that has this added component is significantly more effective in alleviating depression and anxiety than yoga as exercise.
Familiarity and discomfort breed momentum. When we move very fast, and when we’re moving into yoga as exercise (which we know is beneficial, so I’m not saying it is a bad kind of practice), but we use momentum to repeat familiar patterns in the body, and to speed up transitions between poses. This is why things stay the same.
The transition between Downward Dog and Lunge is a place where many of us put our bodies into a box that doesn't fit them. 80% or so of people have a body whose proportions don’t make that shape well, so that in order to transition between those poses we have to do things- like moving fast- to accomplish the transition and we sacrifice the opportunity to not what might be going on that makes it hard to make that transition.
We’re using our practice to awaken more as opposed to creating mastery. Mastery and mindfulness are almost on opposite ends of a spectrum.
Where there is mastery usually by definition we have less neuroplasticity- less new learning- we feel very comfortable in those places. We've lost the opportunity to gain new neural plasticity.
When we’re meant to- in a music analogy- play the same notes every time, we assume that we should move in the same ways, but how do we powerfully bring the mind into the body and practice as though it were new?
One tool for that is to use the toggling technique, where you’re moving back and forth between an old way of moving and a new way of moving and really feeling the difference. Where is there awkwardness? Because often the awkwardness is a really important learning moment.
If we practice for many years, being able to tolerate that experience of awkwardness- or not mastery, and even seeking it out.
When we move in a proprioceptive way we do the movement first, “put your hand here…” and if we have extra time we have the luxury of noticing things.
But if we start with interoception, we bring our awareness to our body and our breath, and the movement is funded from that place.
How momentum affects other parts of our lives- getting carried away with momentum to stay in that relationship you shouldn't stay in, or that job you don’t want to be in…
Our practice can allow us to colonize new areas of awareness in our lives. So if we get angry, and we have difficulty experiencing sadness, cultivating the time to notice that vulnerability underneath the anger can happen via interoception.
Lately Bo is exploring the connective tissue matrix and looking at fascial reintegration and the degree of listening and communicating that happens in that matrix. And in particular using fascial release tools.
Earlier in my (Bo's) teaching I would think about getting an area to open a lot, and then we would have a window of time to re-integrate movement. But I’m starting to realize that it’s not about barreling in to the area we want to release, but actively communicating in a non-verbal way with where we’re going.
It’s starting to feel to me as though there is a form of fascial signaling that happens beyond neural impulses, and listening to that and cultivating permission to enter certain parts of the body. Allowing the mind to surrender to the body.
It’s very humbling to not know an area and how it communicates and what’s happening- to try to curate a new body of knowledge.
Seeing connectedness in the body is, for me (Brooke), helping me to see connectedness in the world.
Tissue work is a great entryway into interoception. In some ways, getting people to listen to their tissue teaches boundaries, and then feeling how connected things are in the body in a very physical and visceral way, and how connected we are to others and to the Earth.
There is so much potential to use the body as a hologram for social change. We’re not just here to change our own bodies and emotions. Neuroplasticity as a social construct- that we’re here to grow as a culture and as a society as well.
I love this idea of not giving in to momentum. For this week, see if you can notice the urge towards momentum- whether in a physical practice of yours, or in your emotional life, and then- if you can notice- can you slow it down? How do things change when you change the pace?
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