Rocking – neurologically soothing

In our sensory approach to yoga practice, we tend to “rock and roll” on a regular basis. Early on in  sessions We have been rocking in apanasana (knees to chest) in order to notice and to remember movements that are helpful to our spine.  Towards the end of a session we rock backwards and forwards as we prepare for a version of sarvangasana (shoulder stand).  We establish our own rhythm as we practice and if we find a useful position, there is a chance of remembering it due to the repetition and self-discovery.

I have just come across Rocking Chair Therapy which emerged in America in the 1900’s as a progressive and effective treatment for many ailments.  This kinetic therapy  was said to “to calm the spirit, soothe a stressed body, focus the mind and all the while gently exercising even the weakest of muscles”.  We rock babies, of course,  we console by holding and rocking.  This pattern of movement is stored and is part of our body mapping.  In 2015, researchers at the University of Geneva investigated the effects of rocking on sleep. It was a small study, just 12 adult males, but the impact that rocking had upon brain wave activity led researchers to suggest that

……………. a rocking motion has the effect of helping to synchronize the brain for sleep — both to fall asleep more quickly and possibly to achieve longer periods of deep, uninterrupted sleep………….

It is the absence of effort implicit in the above approaches and the very strong mind/body connection that interests me in practising and teaching yoga.   There are many, many body work methods.  I was not aware of The Trager Approach – developed by Dr Milton Trager (1908-1997) which focuses upon freeing tension, held in the subconscious mind.

On a massage or bodywork table, deep-seated holding patterns and tension in the body and mind are released through soft rocking, rhythmical rolling, sliding, flexing and extending.

A report in the Telegraph in 2007 featured the Trager Approach under the headline – How to suceed without really trying.  Trager work is never forced. If a practitioner encounters tightness, restrictions or holding in the body, the idea is not to push harder or force the body to relax.

Practising our yoga in a soft and subtle way is not always easy.  Coping with pain and trying to free the body of tension is incredibly hard.  Practising together in a noncompetitive and mutually supportive environment really helps I feel.  As does the very helpful comments that some students make when they discover a movement that is useful for them.  Last week when on all fours practising small spinal movements, we were rocking the pelvis  or “wagging the tail” – a familiar movement in class.  One student declared a passion for this small spinal “gesture” and told us how it helped to reduce tension in the lower back.  Lo and behold, the rocking/wagging movement was then added to a number of follow-on moves as others in the class investigated, self-explored and had a bit of fun.

I wrote this post yesterday before the events in London and have hesitated to post it today.  However, perhaps it is a day when the values of soothing, consoling, sharing, thinking of others, rather than the post itself, is important.


One thought on “Rocking – neurologically soothing

  1. Liz – thank you once again for an interesting note and my husband’s excuse for falling asleep on the last train back from London and ending up in Birmingham! (there’s nothing like the rocking motion of a train). I think this is spot on for these irrational times. see you wednesday Alison 


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