Are you wondering, “What is an adaptogen and why are you calling it yoga?!”
The word “adaptogen” refers to plants and herbs that modulate to your body’s particular needs. They work by reducing the effects of stress and bringing you back into healthy functioning. An adaptogen will give you energy when you need, and that same plant can help you relax when it’s time to wind down.
You see, adaptogens aren’t one hit wonders. They are full on festivals of medicinal support. I vote we change the word to “adaptocon”. Seems fitting.
But I digress.
Now that you know what an adaptogen is, I would like to announce that yoga is the ultimate adaptogen. I learned early in my yoga “career” that you never make your body fit the yoga, you make the yoga fit your body. This was a crucial lesson for me that I drew on later in my life when I was recovering from a stroke.
Now, some of you may know that I am a stroke survivor. In January, 2012 I suffered a stroke caused by a VAD (vertebral artery dissection) and for me that meant relearning how to walk, regaining balance and coordination, and restabilizing my eyesight. It sounds like a lot of trauma but I was just happy to be alive.
As Archie Goodwin in the Rex Stout mystery series says “…as far as life falls short of perfection it is more fun outside the grave than in it.”
I could have been frustrated and disappointed and hopeless that my body would never make its usual yoga shapes again (to say nothing of just walking normally again).
Instead, I realized that my yoga practice could be adapted to suit my body’s needs, and when I allowed that adaptation to happen, my body adapted too. I started to regain functionality faster than any doctor thought possible.
But first, I had to let go of my old practice. I had to let go of the idea that yoga is supposed to look a certain way. Only then could I have the space in my heart and mind to welcome a new era of yoga. Once I accepted that I’d need to do things differently, my mind began buzzing with creative ideas on how to make yoga postures and movements work on my behalf.
The floodgates opened, and my recovery gained momentum. Not only did my yoga practice begin to improve, the functions in my body that needed to normalize started to do just that.
While there are many paths to recovery and healing, yoga is exceptionally helpful in teaching us to inhabit our bodies more fully, to step toward a more conscious and deliberate new self and to rise strong and move toward the life within us and around us, despite those challenges that inevitability arrive.
This is why I love yoga so much. It is truly a movement adaptogen that adjusts to any body and to any mobility needs. We all have different abilities, and yoga can meet us exactly where we are today.
If you want to explore yoga through the eyes of adaptation, consider these tips:
1. Work with a bonafide teacher or therapist who has gone through recovery and is experienced in modifying yoga. And one who has a damn positive attitude, to boot.
2. Use all the props. Furniture, walls, kids’ toys, books, belts, ties, pillows. If you can name it, you can probably turn it into a yoga prop. Don’t feel like you have to buy “official” props like blocks and straps.
3. Have a caretaker with you when you try new movements. It’s better to be on the safe side, and it can be more fun too, as long as you really like the person. 🙂
4. Check out youtube videos sharing adaptive yoga…cue the music…like my youtube channel Well With Abigail. This will give you an idea of ways you can use props and adapt yoga poses.
5. Don’t let adaptation become a crutch that stops progression. Keep adapting up as your body adjusts and gets stronger and more balanced. The key is to stay aware of your body’s ever-changing needs.
There you go! A case for declaring yoga the ultimate adaptogen. Are you convinced?
Happy adapting, yogis!
Love & Health,