- G has history of 2 herniated discs L4/L5 & L5/S1, many years experience with hatha yoga, is a very dedicated and mindful student, interested in Yin but concerned about it. G is ok in forward bending as she does well with hinging on hips. Her concern is in prone poses: she does not feel safe enough to relax her muscles to get into the deeper fascia and connective tissues. I have offered adaptations, eg. blocks for Bridge pose but this did not help. She has also experienced some nausea when doing Yin, although this is improving. Can you help me guide G so that she can continue to thrive in her Yin practice and feel safe. Thank you so much, K.
Often therapists will prescribe movement that push the bulge back into the disc: for example, for posterior bulges McKenzie Therapy is suggested, which is basically Sphinx pose. If the bulge is posterior, flexion could push the bulge further out, but extension (Sphinx or Supported Bridge) could tuck it back in, thus gentle backbends held for a while may be therapeutic. Likewise with a lateral bulge, say to the left for example: side bends to the right could make this worse while side bends to the left may make it better. Deep twists may make all sorts of bulges worse as the disc becomes compressed during twists.
It is key that you find out what direction her herniations took, what her doctor and therapists suggest and what she finds beneficial and what she knows doesn’t work for her. You are not a therapist or a doctor, so resist the urge to take on that role. At best, you can teach her to pay attention to her own body so that she can make her own decisions. Education is more important than direction. Suggest some things but teach her how to attend to sensations and learn what works for her. She can attend to the sensations that arise while she is in the pose, when she comes out, and over the next day or two. Start slow: don’t go very deep at first and have short holds (1~3 minutes). If this feels safe, she can, over time, work towards a deeper edge and longer holds, if and when that seems appropriate.
For her nausea some Yin Yoga students do suffer from this but I would be very curious about when she notices it. In what postures? After how long being in the pose? I know some students get these sensations when doing Sphinx pose with their heads lifted. This can compress the vertebral arteries which run through the cervical spine and feed the brain. If those are compressed, blood flow to the brain could be reduced which can cause lightheadedness and nausea. Also, some students find deep twists of the head or neck trigger these sensations, perhaps due to too much stress along the vagus nerve. So, attend to when these sensations arise and modify the postures, especially the position of the head and neck.
Of course we are more than just our spine. G may prefer to keep her spine quite neutral and focus on working her legs, hips and shoulders. Props can be quite useful for keeping the spine neutral. There are lots of other yin postures that may work for her that don’t involve one or two particular spinal movements. And, it would be good to know which spinal movements she should minimize or avoid so you can plan around those.
I hope the helps!