Welcome to the Accessible Yoga Podcast where we explore how to make space for everyone in the yoga community.
Amber Karnes 13:17:15
This podcast is brought to you by the Accessible Yoga Association, a nonprofit organization focused on accessibility and equity in yoga.
Hi, I'm your host, Jivana Heyman, my pronouns are here on him, and I serve as the director of accessible yoga.
Amber Karnes 13:17:30
And I'm your co host, Amber Karnes, my pronouns are she and her and I serve as president of the Accessible Yoga Board of Directors.
Hi, everybody, it's Jivana and I'm back for another episode of the accessible yoga Podcast. Today we have a special guest Marlysa Sullivan. Hi, Marlysa. Hi. Hi, thanks so much for being here. I just want to introduce you briefly. So Marlysa Sullivan is a physiotherapist yoga therapist and professor. Her research focuses on defining the framework, an excellent explanatory model for yoga therapy based on philosophical and neuro physiological perspectives. Wow, that's a mouthful. Anyway. I'm really excited to talk to you though, because I love your work. And I have so many questions for you. So maybe you could tell us more or introduce yourself a little more than that.
Marlysa Sullivan 13:18:22
Yeah, so um, I have been teaching at Maryland University of integrative health in the Master of Science in yoga therapy program. Since the start of the program like then 2013 or 2014. I've been a physical therapist for like about 1819 years. And through my physical therapy, I've always been interested in working with complex chronic pain. And that's really what led me to yoga because I was really interested in like the psychological pieces, and even really the spiritual pieces and how I as a PT could weave that in. And currently, I also have a new role as the physical therapy coordinator in the Empower Veterans Program at the VA, which is a multi site program that works with chronic pain. And it's a combination of working with a chaplain, a psychotherapist as well as with Mike.
Wow, that sounds amazing. I love when there's programs that bring like teams together from different disciplines. That's so exciting. I also want to mention the your book that you're the author of the book, Understanding yoga therapy, applied philosophy and science for health and well being with with Laurie Hyland, Robertson, and I just want to say what an amazing book it is. It's such an incredible, like, overview of yoga therapy and and clea- it's like a clear approach to me of this complex field, you know, yoga therapy, that I think we're still trying to figure out what it is exactly.
Unknown Speaker 13:19:49
We are growing and evolving. And really, you know, that book, one of my intentions was just I, I just have such a deep love for yoga philosophy, and how much it's helped me personally, as well as working with other people. And I really wanted to mix in like, quotes from the actual texts that I've studied and read along with some a little bit of storytelling from the Mahabharata and then with neuroscience in a way that we can really see how to apply it.
Yeah, I think that's what I really like about your work so much, because I can feel that connection to the tradition and philosophy of yoga, which I think sometimes is lost in yoga therapy, to be honest, sometimes I feel like yoga therapy moves too much towards the medical, without really considering that. The essence really of the practice. I remember when I think it was in 2013 or 14, when they were just creating the standards for yoga therapy. And I was going to the meetings, the sitar meeting, there was a meeting of schools where they were trying to figure out what the guidelines were, I don't know if you're at ease. Yeah, yeah. And I got so frustrated at the meeting, because it felt like, well, in particular, I remember that any concepts of death and dying and grief, weren't part of the standards, it was like there was this focus on health and healing, which I felt was very Western and kind of lacking in that connection to the tradition, which is much more in my experience, about understanding the limitations of our body and mind, you know, and connecting with something deeper. And so I was just so frustrated by that kind of direction of yoga as just a medical, you know, like a medical treatment, which it's not, you know, it's not a medical treatment.
Unknown Speaker 13:21:42
And I think when I do that we are at risk of like losing our space in integrative health or in health care, and it ends up becoming just a kind of weird form of PT or psychotherapy, whereas instead, like we have such an like, you know, you're saying such an innovative and maybe not innovative, new, that's not the right word, but maybe, but we have such a unique and powerful role that we can be in. And part of that is, like you said in death and dying and working with, you know, meaning and purpose. And those kind of contemplations.
And your books amazing that way, the fact that you really begin with a conversation around your philosophy, and then look at some of the different models that exist within the yoga tradition and kind of compare them, well, you analyze them, and then kind of look at them as in a slightly more Western Way, and how we can implement them in our lives, like you talked about, of course, the coaches system, and how we can approach yoga therapy using that system, which I think is really become kind of the, the way that I see most yoga therapy being implemented these days. And I want to connect it also to then the research you did with the Gunas and polyvagal theory, because to me, that's another example of where you took this kind of deeper understanding of yoga philosophy, and applied it to or I don't have applied it, it's like you connected it to these more modern concepts of in western medicine. Yeah. And
Unknown Speaker 13:23:18
I think it's really important, like one of the things I worked really hard in that article to get across is that, you know, we're not saying the Gunas are the neural platforms, because who knows are much bigger, much broader, much more powerful. And, but we can look at how they're reflected in it. And what that how that helps us create a shared language with the public or medical professionals. I remember, even in writing the book, when I was first coming up with the outline, there was some people that wanted me to do the neurophysiology first and the philosophy second, I was like, no, no, it's like, get grounded in the philosophy really understand where yoga therapies comfort coming from and our viewpoint. And then we can use some of these neuro physiological frameworks to create shared language.
Yeah, I love that. And I just want to say well link to your book. And to this article, the article is called yoga therapy and polyvagal theory, the convergence of traditional wisdom and contemporary neuroscience for self regulation and resilience. And basically, it's it's a article that I refer to all the time, is it an article? Is it is it a -research?
Marlysa Sullivan 13:24:21
It's a research article. Yeah, it's an article. It's a theoretical research -
Theoretical research article. Yeah. But it's something I refer to a lot because, I mean, I think maybe you could explain a little more, I think you just did it very briefly. But I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about what it's about, about the connection you make between kind of yoga, the yoga understanding of different the qualities of nature, the Gunas, and then the ideas that we have around polyvagal theory and the idea of there being three aspects to to vagus nerve, is that right?
Unknown Speaker 13:24:54
Yeah. So, um, you know, um, with, with the Gunas, the so, so, so one of the reasons I think that this framework is so interesting, and why I, I think it's really vital to what we're doing in yoga therapy, because it helps us not come from that biomedical standpoint is, when we look at the Gunas, we're looking at these underlying qualities that give rise to our physiological states, what behaviors we're manifesting what kind of emotions are present thoughts, beliefs, but it's the underlying Gunas that are really helping to give rise to that they're creating like the, you know, the water in which that arises from and so, so, we can look at the Gunas and say, and do an assessment and evaluation and say, Is there is Rajas out of balance? Is tamas out of balance, has has sattva out of balance? And how do we help the person to create that balance within the Gunas to experience greater accessibility of different states. So for example, you know, when I, when I've worked with people that have had a lot of anxiety, or stress or depression, the idea of trying to experience compassion or connectedness, it's just not there. So if I if we work instead of altering this underlying state instead of trying to do something with physiology and behavior and emotion separately, so instead, we can come underneath that and work with the gunas. And to in the same way, like in this reflective way, polyvagal theory speaks about how underlying our behaviors emotions and physiology is this autonomic nervous system activation. And it talks about three broad ones of this optimal parasympathetic, rest and digest social engagement system, where we have increased connectivity to others as well as relaxed physiological states. Then we have the dorsal vagal, which is the so it's like too much parasympathetic. So it says really extreme slowing of all of our physiological processes. And with that comes these experiences of shutdown or disassociation, and then the sympathy Nervous System as this other part of the autonomic nervous system that mobilizes, so we can look at these three Audun and polyvagal theory, we can look at these three underlying autonomic nervous system states to to look at what behaviors emotions and physiologies are present. And then by working with changing autonomic nervous system activation, we can create more accessibility for things like calmness, compassion, connectedness. The other thing I think really great about polyvagal theory is it talks about the shared activation. So it's not just like you're in sympathetic or parasympathetic, that that state of safe mobilization of play or creativity, where we are mobilized for action, but there's still that safety, so that we could have like, you know, that idea of good, there's good Rogers set, like Roger serves to mobilize us, you know, we can see how there's good qualities within each of these activations.
Oh, my gosh, I love that part. Because I do think we tend to have a lot of, I don't know, Black and white thinking around around these things. And I think the nervous system is way more complex than that. And I always find myself wanting to simplify, but it's not. But I like the idea that there's like these three aspects and all have positive or negative qualities within them. Is that what you're saying?
Unknown Speaker 13:28:25
Yeah. And so and we can, you know, both of these theories of polyvagal theory and yoga, really show us this idea of not getting overwhelmed by what showing up superficially, from the like, physiological, emotional, behavioral standpoint, but that we can kind of dive under to say, like, what is contributing to that? And how do we affect that underlying thing?
And do we use? Or do you use the gunas? When you're doing yoga therapy and take I mean, are the Gunas something that is applied in that way? I was thinking because I think of more of like, the doses or, you know, through an Ayurvedic lens, but I don't, I haven't really seen that being the Gunas views in that way, I guess.
Unknown Speaker 13:29:04
Yeah. So I think I'm using the Gunas is really helpful to really create that yoga therapy perspective versus a biomedical perspective. So that on each, you know, on on the on a model anamaya, pranamaya, manomaya Kosha. Like what Gunas are predominant, which ones might be out of balance, and looking at from all three perspectives.
Yeah, that makes sense. Okay, well, that's amazing. I love that. I love that research. And I so you were doing that before you wrote the book. Is that right? So that is that article predicts the book. The book. Yeah. And I guess I just want to go back a little bit to your story, because you you just mentioned briefly what led you to yoga. And I wonder if you could talk about that a little bit more. Like, how did you get involved? Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 13:29:48
Yeah, well, I was, you know, before I went to PT, school, I was really interested in medical anthropology. And even before that, I was really into physics. I went to a physics camp, and I was in 12th grade. And I was just really into wanting to search for like, meaning through physics. And that didn't that didn't turn out that well, I. I got where I could with that. And and so then, working in medical anthropology, it was like this idea of how does, you know medicine, systems of medicine, and health and healing, intersect or interact with our belief systems and our spirituality. And so I ended up going into physical therapy. But then, after I graduated school, I was really looking for, how do I bring these pieces of what I'm interested in, like, I see the importance of when you have a chronic condition, the importance of meaning and purpose, I see the importance of like looking and understanding emotions. So I did a couple of different yoga trainings, and I kind of like was looking for something more spiritually based than physically based. So I was I was very attracted to those styles that really fit into the philosophy. And then I studied the texts of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita most and the Upanishads. And I've probably spent less time with the yoga Sutras which I'm beginning to spend more time with now.
Garrett Jurss 13:31:18
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And I know our theme for the month of December and accessible yoga is pain care and yoga. And that was what I wanted to spend some time talking to you about. But I think it was really useful to explore your work because it's incredible. I mean, it's like your work is so important. Like I said, in terms of creating this bridge between but feels like two very separate worlds to me. And I guess I'm curious about your approach to pain care in that way. And how do you see it you see that bridge? Are you building that bridge there as well?
Unknown Speaker 13:33:00
Yeah, I think you know. So in pain care, there's there's this like therapeutic pain neuroscience that physical therapists are learning more and more about and you know, what's so interesting about it is that it's kind of foundational to the to the idea of pain science is that in pain, the nervous system gets sensitized, meaning that the threshold for activation is lowered, so more input is coming in. So in order to work with the nervous system and pain, we want to help to desensitize it. And so you know, how do we just desensitize it, and yoga provides this really amazing way to work with that by stepping back by creating this kind of, you know, this ability to sit back to notice what my physiology is doing what my emotions are doing, and to also approach it and change the relationship to it. So I think yoga provides us this, you know, really key foundational way to help someone to connect to and change their relationship to sensation differently. And the other thing like one of one of the things I love about the work with the VA is so foundational to their Integrative Health Model is meaning and purpose, that when you connect to your values, what's important to you, you find the alignment with that when you're doing what's meaningful and purposeful to you, that you're then able to create that space to change the relationship with pain. So in the program that I'm getting to work in with now, we get to really focus on developing what's your values, what's important to you? And then how do you want to develop the relationship with that to work with your pain differently?
And what is the role? Like, is there a role of yoga philosophy? And that I mean, is that what you're saying in terms of your your purpose? Is that the connection you're making?
Unknown Speaker 13:34:56
Yeah, so I guess, I guess, a couple of different connections I'm making and, and I've gotten really, because I've been doing this work at the VA for a while, it's like I'm really working with this like language of how to make yoga philosophy or help yoga philosophy be something that is amenable and understood and and, you know, to that population, but so I would say first and foremost, is the idea of dharma, and this idea of helping someone to come into harmony with what's most important to them, and allowing that to really become this felt experience. So they can become that felt experience of what's important, what's valuable, what's meaningful, and they can let that input become stronger and stronger and stronger, so that they can still you know, acknowledge the pain, notice the pain, but this movement towards meaning and purpose, and value becomes a stronger drive for the person to connect to. So I think those ideas of Dharma are really important, I think the ideas of pollution for kreatif, like helping the person to become the experiencer. And what that means to be the experiencer. The idea of noticing the Gunas, and how, you know, you can watch Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva, rise and fall, and how we begin to change the way that our body and mind is reacting to these different Gunas that arise or neural platforms that arise.
That makes sense. Do you think there's, like, danger there, though, of kind of, what's the word like westernizing too much like of taking philosophical concepts out of context. I mean, I just wonder what your thoughts are about that, you know, the kind of appropriation side of it. Yeah,
Unknown Speaker 13:36:56
it's something I've spent a lot of time thinking about and talking with my friends and colleagues about and I'm really interested in that conversation. And you know, my hope is that If I in connecting deeply to the philosophy and the teachings and honoring them, and really understanding where they come from, and having that, like deep relationship with them, and then I'm sharing that with someone in a way that they can understand and in a way that connects with them, then that is hopefully not appropriation. I, of course, I think different people can have different viewpoints on that. And, but I, I, I'm hopeful that by really myself honoring where the teachings come from myself honoring, like the complexity and the nuance and the depth, that that will come across in the way that I'm sharing it with people, and that it's actually a benefit, you know, I just, I feel so strongly about the teachings, that I, it means a lot to be able to share them and just be able to share them in a way that is helpful for people in pain. And so I, I think by constantly looking at how I'm teaching it, what I'm saying, asking myself, if I'm simplifying it too much, if I'm doing anything that is harmful to the tradition or teachings themselves, and I just keep asking myself that as I teach it. And revisiting it.
Yeah. I mean, I don't think I don't think the application of yoga by itself is appropriation. But I, I think it's the times like what I see happening sometimes in yoga therapy is where, you know, we kind of rename something and make it seem like it's a new idea when it's simply just reframing of an older idea. So I think, like you said, I think it's when we acknowledge the source, and continue to say, you know, this is a yoga teaching, this connects back to this text, or this idea found in this text, I feel like, that's the key to me is just constantly quote, our sources and go back to them, which I see you doing in your book, for example. So, so much, and you know, it's what I appreciate about your work, but I just feel sometimes I hear like, you know, some yoga therapists kind of reframing so much that they make it seem like, pretend it's new, you know what I mean?
Unknown Speaker 13:39:37
Yeah, and I think like, for me, and in my book, that was really important to me to be able to include the sources, you know, so to be able to, like, get different rights to different things to be able to say, like, here's actually where it's from this is, you know, this is what the actual, like, here's my interpretation of it, here's what the actual tech says, in this translation of it. To me, it's really important to always be able to go back to, um, and, and I, you know, I think that's why I've always been a little hesitant around, like, I don't want to brand something, you know, because it's not that I'm sure there's definitely a place for that and all that. But like, I, it isn't new, nothing that I'm seeing is new. And like even this idea of this linking it to polyvagal theory, it's not like it's there's nothing new about it, maybe the way that I'm thinking it in particular, but like, it's, it's yoga philosophy, it's like, it's, it's, you know, it's a way to be able to translate and talk about the teachings in a way that people can understand so that we can share yoga with more people. And then we can bring yoga into these environments, like hospitals or, you know, cancer care, pain care, in ways that. Like, my hope was it is that like, we can both speak to people the way that they will understand it, and maybe even talking about the autonomic nervous system, or regulation, resilience or whatever. But we can also like in our hearts be situated in like, I know, what I'm really doing is working with the gunas. And working with the ideas of Purusha and prakriti and dharma. And it to me, I see it, I think this, this comparison has sometimes been helpful to people. Like as a physical therapist, when I write a note about what I did, there's parts of the language that all medical professionals will understand. So I write some of my notes in a way that everyone can understand. But there are certain aspects of it that like as a PT, I'm interpreting differently because I'm enmeshed in that perspective and way of thinking. So I think yoga therapists it's really important to do the same thing, like we have to share in order to grow and evolve, but we also want to not lose what it is that is what makes us so powerful and so unique.
Yeah, that makes sense. Thank you. i Yeah. Well, I could talk about that from my perspective, too, with accessible yoga because I am often asked the same question. I mean, accessible yoga is about making the teachings accessible, but it's not really anything new. It's just trying to make them available more not not simplify or even dumb them down. It's just about Yeah, trying to make them applicable.
Unknown Speaker 13:42:21
Yeah, I think that idea of dumbing down is super interesting, you know, like, what do you even by that, like if I take a highly scientific concept, like sensitization of the nervous system, and I'm trying to explain it to someone who has no knowledge of the nervous system, is that dumbing it down? Or is it creating an experience for them to understand and have insight and change and transformation? So and if and I think it's a fine line, you know, what you're saying? So when I'm making yoga philosophy more accessible? How do I do it so that I am helping the person to have an experience for insight and transformation? But I'm not demeaning the teachings themselves? You know?
Yeah, I think it has to do with, I think dumbing down has to do with context, actually, for me. So it's like, to me dumbing down yoga is actually focusing on Asana as a competitive sport, actually making it just about the physicality of the practice, rather than the context, the larger context of yoga as a spiritual practice and tradition. So it's like, you know, to me, accessible yoga is actually, I believe, more respectful to the tradition, because we're trying to share the fullness of the practice and put the physical practices, for example, in the context of that larger spiritual tradition, rather than just pull them apart. And the way that you know, kind of modern yoga has done. That is really appropriation when you just take something out, and make it overly simplified without sharing the larger context. But I mean, you, you do that beautifully. And I really love that about your work. And also, I thought of one other thing, oh, you know, this conversation of the relationship between the Gunas and Western medicine or science reminds me of the quantum theory. And just some little research, I done a read about how the people who came up with quantum theory based on this idea of the Gunas, that they're inspired by that idea, really, I didn't know that there's one guy find his name Bormioli, Niels Bohr, one of them was a, you know, a student of yoga philosophy, and had been inspired by some of these concepts. And I feel like you could see, I can see a relationship there between the Gunas and quantum theory around like, protons, electrons, neutrons, you know, this idea of like, you know, the Gunas are three constituents of nature that all of nature's made up of these basic elements, which is kind of what quantum theory is telling us. So I just feel like, it's another example of where I feel like there wasn't, there was an exchange going on back then. Right, that they were, there was an ancient tradition in India that these more modern Western researchers were reaching to, and never really acknowledging, you know. So that kind of makes me sad, because I feel like that shows a kind of continuation of the wisdom of the yoga tradition and how it's influenced our thinking today, there's so many ways that we, that our thinking is influenced by that tradition. You know, so many Western philosophers and writers have reached back to that tradition and connected, but we don't often know that.
Unknown Speaker 13:45:26
Yeah, that would be interesting to have that wider acknowledgement of how so much context of our thinking is already drawn from yoga and wisdom traditions, and and how do we acknowledge that?
Yeah, there's some research around Emerson, Emerson and Thoreau. There's the contemporary writer to find his name. He's awesome. Who writes about that connection? Well, I'm going to look that up. While I ask you another question. I actually wanted to go back to the pain care thing again, just because I feel like I didn't I kind of distracted you. But he started to explain earlier around pain care the way you kind of share these larger philosophical concepts, helping people find purpose and meaning. And then I don't know, can you explain what else yoga offers? You were talking about giving people perspective? Connected maybe to being the witness? Is that what you're saying?
Unknown Speaker 13:46:26
Yeah, I think, you know, um, I guess a couple of things. So like, you know, in this program that the VA is we have acceptance commitment therapy with a psychotherapist, and then we have mindful movement with me. And in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is also very much about values and meaning, and I think
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I don't know, what is that?
Unknown Speaker 13:46:48
Yeah, it's a type of psychotherapy.
That's awesome. I love that.
Unknown Speaker 13:46:52
Yeah. And it's, it has a lot of ties to yoga. I don't know how much he has done yoga. And it's very cognitive. So you know, I think, you know, I think what when I look at like How I'm integrating yoga and how I'm utilizing yoga within pain care as a foundational part, that, like, I start with this perspective of dharma, and like this idea of how does the person experience or really felt sense of what's important to them and their values and their meaning. So creating that embodied approach to meaning and purpose, and I feel like that's like the foundation from which other things arise from. And then also, I think another another perspective in pain care is that I tend to spend a lot of time in the beginning, really trying to help cultivate suffer or or that parasympathetic social engagement neural platform, so thinking about really getting that platform set up as a foundation, so that then from that place of safety, that piece of social engagement system, or the person is able to step back in that Observer Self or in that experience, or space, to notice the kinds of qualities of sensations of the Gunas that arise and begin to meet with them differently. So I think all I mean, all of that, to me is,
practically speaking, is that done through what technique? Is that like, guided meditation, like what are the basic tools that you're using?
Unknown Speaker 13:48:26
Yeah, so what we're doing is we're doing group classes. So we generally have like a discussion for like the first five to 10 minutes. And then we do a little bit of like centering meditation. But then we explored different movements. And notice the activations that arise with certain movements, and what's needed to happen to meet those differently. So the idea of using like, by the end of the 10 weeks, it's like this menu of choices, you have a meeting sensation differently, by really connecting to your meaning and purpose and feeling that in your body by connecting with compassion, or kindness, or other values that are important to you. By even, you know, exploring and changing the way that you're moving, so that it is able to really do movement in a different way. So then, so then we do movement. It's mostly it's all it's mostly in a chair, a couple of standard.
Okay, yeah, that's helpful. Thank you. I just want to say I found the name I was thinking of my friend Jeremy Ingles. I don't know if you know his work. He's the author of The Ethics of Oneness, Emerson, Whitman in the Bhagavad Gita. He's a professor at Penn State. And, you know, I just feel like he makes this connection. He talks about that. I'm just going back to our earlier conversation about that connection between different philosophies I think is really interesting. Between west and east.
Marlysa Sullivan 13:49:54
Yeah. I would love to read that I'll have to get that.
Yeah, he's amazing. Anyway, so Okay, so going back. So I just want to mention him, but so it's basically a chair based practice. And you're having people do reflection on what their experiences during the practice the experience of their pain, are they writing during the class or at the end of class? Do they make notes?
Unknown Speaker 13:50:12
They're not writing but we just talk about it. And so. So I mean, I guess they can write, but like, each week is a different topic, like, oh, you know, a one week is about really feeling the idea of values and meaning and purpose in your body, another week of really focusing on compassion or gratitude. And then other weeks are about more of that idea of like being the experiencer, or the observer, and noticing sensation, as you know, color texture. You know, today, we did a lot of imagining movement and visualizing movement that could be pain free, and how is it that your body is in that space? So it is, this is like a very kind of meditative approach to movement, which is yoga, and with some discussion,
and is there a research component to this? Are you following? Are you tracking their progress? Or?
Unknown Speaker 13:51:06
They are? Yeah, so the, they have different. They have different like questionnaires and surveys, and they're collecting different outcomes.
And so do you have any advice for a yoga teacher? When they're working with people in pain or chronic pain or acute pain? Just any thoughts about what what would you say is like, the most important element to bring into a yoga class?
Unknown Speaker 13:51:33
Yeah, I think said to me, I think this is an essential yoga philosophy to is, is you know, the idea of empowerment of the person or like the person's agency. So in pain, a lot of times the person's like, wisdom has gotten really like they can't trust it anymore. And everyone tells them they're wrong or that they, you know, whatever it is, and so I think really helping the person to redevelop that trust of their own wisdom and you know, through doing a lot of choice, I you know, I do a little bit more direct language. I know some people do very permissive language. And I think that can be confusing. So, you know, using language to help people explore sensations in the body, but also providing a lot of choice. Like, if this is better for you then follow that, like trust that do that and helping them to really like, explore what is what is true for them.
Okay, can you say more about that, though? You said you'd like to give more direct language? Because you think it can be confusing? What do you mean? Like the, in this idea of invitational language we hear about in trauma informed teaching, especially I think that's talking about,
Unknown Speaker 13:52:39
yeah, I do see it, you know, I can't, I don't, I don't do that calcium, I'll just say what I do, because I know it's different. Um, so you know, like, asking people to directly explore, like, you know, you know, moving, moving your arm up, and as you move your arm up, notice the muscles that are activating. And can you draw the shoulder blade together? Can you draw the shoulder blade down? How does that change it? So I'll tend to give like direct cues, followed by, what do you feel when you experienced that? Do you want to move a little bit more forward a little bit more back, but I tend to start with like, two, do this with your body, you're doing it, explore this or this, and then begin to see what your body needs. So like, you're creating a little bit of a foundation of, of safety or direction for the person to move into, and then using permissive language from there. Yeah,
I actually do that, too. So that's why I was excited to hear you say that, because I actually think that I, what I found after teaching for many, many years is that people often don't have a connection and with their body and understand the choices you're giving them. And so if you give too many choices right away, it can be confusing. And so I find it's usually best to give some simple direction. So somebody can start the movement. And then once they've started the movement to then have them consider what's going on right now. And should I go further or not?
Unknown Speaker 13:54:11
Yeah, and I think that's, like, the Exactly. The point is that like, a lot of people in pain don't have a connection to their body. And, and they're, you know, they've actually tried to get out of their body for so long, because their body is so painful. And so we need to first like help them reconnect to the body, and to, you know, to have that interceptive proprioceptive awareness, and then they can begin to explore. And then as they learn more and more about their body, they can get more and more indirect with the cube.
Well, I just, it's interesting, because I think pain. I mean, I never work specifically with people who who have chronic pain, but I've had many, many students who have pain, but I feel like there's different kinds of pain. And so I feel like I always work with people who have either disabilities or some kind of marginalized identity and are struggling with something. And I feel like that there's always the pain there. And I think whatever pain it is, it tends to disconnect us from the body, even if it's not a physical pain, if it's an emotional pain of some kind, or some like mental health challenge.
Unknown Speaker 13:55:16
But one of the things I've found interesting in teaching yoga teachers and yoga therapists about working with pain is that often people think that oh to, like, ask someone to explore the color, the texture, the vibration, the images of their pain is way advanced. And it's like, well, no pain, people in pain are so used to like going inside and exploring and feeling, I found people pain, just incredibly open to that. And they already know what it is to go inside and explore the different qualities of sensations of tension, relaxation, all those things. So I find, you know, really handing over that, especially when you're doing a one on one that you can really hand over that control the class to the person and explore like, what movements work for them, what, what are the ways that they relate to sensation, and then the person ends up feeling really heard really listened to really empowered to work with their pain.
And also, I mean, I mean, this is exactly my approach as well, and what I try and train teachers to do also and accessible yoga training, because I find that you know, I think many people feel like they don't know their body, and they're often waiting for somebody to tell them what to do often, like a medical professional, I worry in yoga therapy, that we again, go into that role, rather than do what you said, which was to focus on that getting people agency because I feel like agency is no small thing. I actually think agency, or power over your body or empowerment of the individual is really the philosophy of yoga. I mean, that is the heart of the teachings, which is that we have what we need inside. I mean, that's what the teachings are telling us. So it seems to me like our methodology, the approach we take as teachers should match up with that philosophy is as well.
Unknown Speaker 13:57:03
Yeah, sometimes I feel like when I'm working with people in pain that like I'm kind of like the external Budi like I'm reflecting that ability to have non judgmental observation and discrimination. So that whatever the person says I can help to, like, I can help them to validate their own experience and to explore what else is needed. So I feel like in that therapeutic presence or relationship, that's really a hugely important role that we have,
right? I mean, and I love that validate their experience. And actually, to me, that might be the most important thing we could do is that if we're validating someone's experience, we're actually telling them, you know, what you are actually the master of your own interior experience, it's not something that I know about more, or a doctor will know about more like you are the one who really knows. And that connection with yourself, I think, is how we get deeper in our practice, like begin to connect to those more subtle layers, and have that not just interoception, which I think is advanced yoga anyway, like, it's about going more subtle. That's how I feel like we get more advanced in yoga, instead of getting more externally advanced. It's like getting more internally advanced. Sense.
Unknown Speaker 13:58:16
No, I totally agree with that. Yeah, you know, the more able that we're able, the more we're able to help people come inside and create that connection. And they're able to, you know, really explore who they are and how they interact is such a powerful practice. And I think, you know, a lot of times in working with pain, I think it's like the very heart of what yoga is. So I feel like, you know, hopefully, I was clear enough and how I'm using the philosophy, but like, I just feel like it's so infused in every part of it.
Yeah, it's very clear. Thank you so much. Anything else you want to share with us? And there was a lot, that was a lot.
Unknown Speaker 13:58:56
No, I really appreciate the opportunity to because it's something that I enjoy getting the chance to speak about is like, what is this fine line between simplifying and appropriation and, you know, helping people to access the teachings and experience the teachings because we all know how powerful they are. And also being flexible and really honoring of the everything that came before and where they come from. So I just I always appreciate the opportunity to like, connect back to those
questions. Great. Well, thanks for staying with me. I really appreciate it. And with all of our listeners, and, you know, I really recommend people read your book. We'll have a link in the show notes, also to the article that I mentioned. And maybe your website also that we could link to?
Marlysa Sullivan 13:59:41
Yeah, my website. It's just marlysasullivan.com I need to update it.
Anything else any other way people can find you? We have to go to those programs to get you are?
Unknown Speaker 13:59:53
Yeah, I mean, my website? I yeah, I do. I am on Facebook. I'm technically on Instagram, but I don't understand.
Nobody does. Alright, thank you, Marlysa. Really, thanks for your time.
Unknown Speaker 14:00:07
Thank you. It's great to talk to you. Okay, bye.
Thanks for joining us for the Accessible Yoga Podcast. We're so grateful to be in community with you.
Amber Karnes 14:00:17
Please check out our website accessibleyoga.org. To find out more about our upcoming programs, including our annual Accessible Yoga Conference. At our website. You can also learn more about how to become an Accessible Yoga Ambassador and support the work that we're doing in the world.
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Amber Karnes 14:00:36
You can also submit a question or suggest a topic or potential guests you'd like us to interview at accessibleyoga.org. See you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai