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Aqua Yoga - Proprioception and PTS

YOGA providers offering supportive specialist niches are ‘on trend ‘for teachers and practitioners in the therapeutic field and of great interest to the general public and media alike.

It is kind of like putting the community heart back into the popular, bendy, thin yoga that has been around for the past decade and let’s be honest, was quite self-serving. Now I think we are seeing more activism from the conscious community and that really was what Krishna asked from Arjun on the battlefield in the Bhagavad Gita. Life is not all a bed a roses for most of us and the yoga teachings recognize that and also give us some pointers for finding greater contentment, both individually and in community.

One of the areas of karma yoga interest is helping those that are battle weary, be it from the front line in a war zone or in the accident and emergency field. The stressful negative impact is known as PTS or post trauma stress. Note that the word disorder has been omitted from the diagnosis. Trauma based stress is after all a normal effect from something that is anything but ‘normal.’

Yoga therapy considers the Koshas that are gross (body)to subtle. (mind) The koshas get so subtle when we consider the Bliss sheath, but if we follow yoga techniques what is innately already within us all can start to bubble up as waves of bliss or contentment as we practice.

Stress can affect nerves and hormones as well as mind and muscles. As we exercise the heart rate increases, so the liver can release more energy as glycogen. The automatic nervous system is composed of the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts. The former plays an important role in stress response and the later, primarily for automatic daily activity of the body and yoga can help balance both.

A yoga practice that gets us out of the head and consciously into the body can be of great importance. Patanjali’s codified teachings tell us that if we become comfortable and stable in the body and hold a pose while breathing with integrity, we can momentarily stop the thoughts that cause us to feel a sense of separateness from a Life.

PTS is classified as a specific set of symptoms that have gone on for at least a month.

There are four types of PTSD symptoms: (ref: National Center for PTSD)

  1. Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)

Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:

  1. You may have nightmares.

  2. You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.

  3. You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.

  4. Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:

  1. You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.

  2. You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.

  3. If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.

  4. You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.

  5. Negative changes in beliefs and feelings

The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:

  1. You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.

  2. You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.

  3. You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.

  4. Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:

  1. You may have a hard time sleeping.

  2. You may have trouble concentrating.

  3. You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.

  4. You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.

These symptoms are not just restricted to those who come back from war zones. The conflict is often closer to home where the karma can often be the thickest.

Health issues, death and divorce can also create similar symptoms so I think the number of experiencing PTS at some point in their lives is much higher that we may think. Currently it is estimated to be around 7.8% of the population at some point in their life.

Water is a powerful symbol of flow and expansion and so practicing yoga asana in the water may seem an appropriate medium to be in for those suffering trauma of some kind. The hydrostatic-pressure of the water ensures a supportive hug around the entire body.

Just being in the water can create a sense of letting go or de-stressing, especially if the water is warm. This, according to the director of National Aquatics and sports medicine Institute at Washington State University happens when the body is immersed in water and sends out a signal to alter the balance of catecholamines that respond to stress. It creates a feeling of relaxation or meditation.

I feel most at home in the water. I disappear. That’s where I belong.” Michael Phelps

Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement. – (Wikipedia definition)

Just being in the water the ‘I‘can momentarily disappear and we can once again ‘feel’ the body that we inhabit that may have been numbed. The yoga practice grounds us and allows us to re-create a relationship internally with our higher self and therefore the greater universe. Asana can be held such as on land but can also be a part of a walking movement meditation to increase body awareness and experience the effect of drag and resistance.As the pressure of water forces us to exhale more fully this helps to dismantle erroneous breathing patterns that are often associated with stress and anxiety.

Yoga offers valid techniques to help many people gain greater awareness, and the addition of water can enhance and perhaps speed up that healing process.Because most yoga studios do not have a swimming pool it may mean that yoga therapy can be found more in community centers, private homes and YMCA's across the country. This opens up accessible yoga to many more people and is an area of interest for yoga teachers and aquatic professionals that want to expand their business.

Camella is the pioneer and author of Aqua Kriya Yoga. She is presenting at the Sedona Yoga Festival in March 2017.

Ref: “The Blue Mind” by Wallace J. Nichols

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