Disassociation is the medical term for switching off, day-dreaming, distraction and basically getting totally lost in your thoughts. It’s that experience we all have of being so distracted when you are driving that you arrive and don’t know how you got there.
This mental process is a normal human tendency and it is something we develop as children to help us cope with painful and potentially traumatic situations. If we leave our bodies and fly off into our thoughts, then we can’t feel our pain.
At its most extreme, disassociation can result in severe mental health problems but there are many minor forms of disassociation and we all experience some of them, being forgetful, distracted, fantasising, worrying and overthinking to name just a few.
Yoga is a practice that teaches us how to spend more time in our body, become connected to the moment and help us to learn tools and resources for avoiding this old habit of switching off. It is this switching off that is essentially mindfulness. Mindfulness practice teaches us the ability to stay with our feelings and manage even the most challenging of experiences as they happen.
Take a few deep belly breaths
Feel your tummy expand and stretch on the inhale, then draw your tummy back in towards your spine on the exhale. Take a few more breaths like this, seeing if you can feel a massaging squeezing sensation on the exhale. (It might make you burp).
Stay here breathing in this slow massaging way for about ten breaths if you can. Bring all your attention into your body, into your belly, while you take slow deep breaths. Then turn back to centre, take a deep breath here, letting your tummy relax. Rotate in the other direction to practice this exercise on the other side. You might notice this side feels different to the first. This is normal as the two sides of the body are very different and have lots of different sensations and reactions. Noticing these differences and all the varied comfortable and uncomfortable sensations in the body is the aim of these practices.
There is no such thing as getting it right or wrong if you can feel something and just breathe into whatever your body is telling you, right here, right now.
A Yoga twist that can relieve bloating
Yoga abdominal twists are a combination of stretch and compression in the belly which give you something you can feel and focus on, with the additions of belly breaths which move and massage your internal organs. This easy and quick exercise is also good for releasing gut tension and helps to get your system relaxing and moving properly. You can also try this as a way of relieving bloating, trapped wind, and indigestion, which are all linked symptoms of stress in the gut.
How to do a yoga twist
Turn in your chair so that your hips are still facing forward but your chest is turned as far round towards the back of the chair as comfortably possible. You can hold the back or arm of the chair as a support. Then see if you can feel a stretching and pressing sensation in your tummy. At first you might just feel your back, shoulders and hips so close your eyes and see if you can just focus on your tummy and the sensations there.
Next month we’ll continue our yoga movement for mood series. You can read Jess’s other blogs on layahealthcare.ie/thrive/lifestyle.