The Beginnings of Therapeutic Yoga
As an adult I can now look back at my birth and childhood and see that even then a healing path was forming. The challenges I experienced through a difficult birth and childhood illnesses brought forth a desire to help others on the path of healing. That feeling was strengthened in my twenties when I was diagnosed with cancer. It revealed itself to me in yoga class one day. What had been a sharp, shooting pain that I was telling myself was probably intestinal problems, clearly became a warning signal. That signal came to me at the end of yoga class in a pose called savasana, or “corpse pose.” As I lay perfectly still in this pose of deep relaxation, I began to feel my body in a way that was new to me. It was like listening to an old friend that I cared deeply about. I felt a tremendous sadness flow through me. I realized that for as long as I could remember I had not been listening to my body, and there was so much it needed me to hear. Tears streamed down my face as I allowed myself to feel it all. At that moment I became aware that something was physically wrong with me and that it was time to act on this feeling. I also knew in that moment the practice of yoga had brought me back to myself.
Soon after that class, I went to see the doctor and was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery and treatment followed, but it wasn’t until nearly five years later, when my cancer returned, that a deeper healing occurred. At that time, my doctor thought I should have a partial hysterectomy. I had a sense that cutting away the cancer wouldn’t get to the deeper root of what it was trying to show me. I don’t believe this is the case for everyone. There are many factors, such as genetic and environmental issues, that can cause cancer. But for me, at that time, the reoccurrence of cancer signaled both an opportunity and a necessity to explore nontraditional forms of healing. I couldn’t ignore the inner calling to approach this new threat with all my knowledge and senses.
I now believe that the cancer was calling me to a deeper healing, a journey for which I am grateful. It brought me to an even greater level of wellness and connection with my body, mind, and spirit. Upon finishing my own healing regime, I felt there was nothing more important than helping others on their path to wellness. I began studying massage and hands-on healing techniques. Later I became a certified yoga teacher and began teaching yoga classes in Los Angeles to people living with HIV, AIDS, cancer, and other major health issues. Often, because students were not physically able to perform the classical yoga postures, I would experiment with gentle yoga, breathwork, guided meditation, and hands-on healing work. The results were tremendously beneficial. Through assisting Anna DeLurey, a well-respected teacher in Los Angeles, I learned about Restorative Yoga, which allows students to relax into poses they might not otherwise be able to do. I quickly realized that Restorative Yoga was an ideal practice for anyone in the process of healing. I incorporated it into the classes I was teaching. Thus the basic tenets of the Therapeutic Yoga system were born--gentle yoga, Restorative Yoga, breathwork, guided meditation, and hands-on healing work.
Resting Half Moon
Stretches the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) and the serratus posterior inferior and frees the diaphragm, benefiting respiration. Lengthens the quadratus lumborum, freeing adhesions in this often tight muscle. Creates a squeeze and soak for many internal organs, such as the stomach, liver, and kidneys.
Props and Positioning
You will need one bolster and one or more blankets.
Entering and Exiting the Pose
Place your bolster with one or more blankets stacked on top to your right. Position the support perpendicular to the spine. Sitting on your right hip, use the left hand to ensure the right rib cage lengthens as you extend the torso up and over the support. As you come deeper into the pose, slide the right hand out and along the floor straight above the head. Your head may rest on your right arm or a folded blanket. Slide the left leg forward and the right leg back behind you to create a scissor shape. Or, just extend both legs straight, one resting on top of the other. Stretch your left arm over your head and bring the palms together, or clasp the left wrist with the right hand to deepen the stretch through the left side.
To come out of the pose, place the left hand on top of the bolster. Bring the legs together with the knees bent. Using the strength of your arms slowly press up to a seated position. Change sides.
If the spine is long, you may need to create a higher support under your rib cage. For a shorter torso, just a bolster may do. A folded blanket under your forward leg or between your knees can be comfortable. If there is any strain to your neck, use a folded blanket for support.
Gentle Yoga for Resting Half Moon
Before ending the pose, while still lying on the side, take the hand that has been resting over the head and sweep it back behind the body, draw the fingers down toward the feet and then up in front of the torso, forming a complete circular movement. Do this for several rotations. Repeat when finishing the other side of the supported pose.
Gall Bladder, Liver, and Small Intestine
Third (Manipura), Fourth (Anahata), and Fifth (Vishuddha)
Cautions and Contraindications
Use caution during the last two trimesters of pregnancy and with disk disease; spondylolisthesis; spondylosis.