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Florence Nightingale and Yoga

May 5, 2012

As a young nursing student 35 years ago, Florence Nightingale was one of my nursing “gurus”, and I took to heart her understanding of the nurse’s role in healing:  “Nature alone cures…and what nursing has to do…is put the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him.”

As I live quite comfortably with advanced arthritis of my lower spine, I have found yoga to be a very therapeutic modality for ‘putting the patient in the best condition for nature to act upon him’.   I do not mean the vigorous, athletic, fitness style of yoga that is so widely practiced here in the west, but rather Svaroopa® Yoga, a very gentle, slow, deeply restful,and rejuvenating style.

In Svaroopa® Yoga, well -propped, comfortable poses are simply rested in for 1-2 minutes, which is enough time for muscles to release and soften.  Instead of actively stretching a muscle, one softens in order to get a release and a natural lengthening of the muscle fibers. There is very little efforting involved.

Slow and gentle yoga is an approach that is quite different than every thing we read, hear, and experience out in the world.  “Work hard, push, strive, rush, hurry up, no pain, no gain, effort, effort, effort”.  Constant efforting is exhausting and causes tension and tightness of one’s whole muscular system. Over time, these tight, tense muscles constrict tiny blood vessels and impinge on nerves, leading to physical pain and discomfort with less blood and oxygen flowing throughout the body, weakening the entire system.

Establishing a practice that counteracts efforting is a highly therapeutic way to relieve tension and tightness, allowing your body-mind to be more open and flexible, resulting in less pain and improved health.  As a Registered Nurse and a Registered Yoga Teacher,  I consider myself a Registered Yoga Nurse who teaches slow, gentle yoga,  as a way to nurture one’s own body-mind.  Over time, and with patience, this practice allows nature to do its best healing work.

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