Rock Your Way Toward Healing
An unconventional yoga prop can calm the nervous system and assuage the fears of those coping with a breast cancer diagnosis, going through treatment, or healing postsurgery.
By Cora Wen
Parents rock their babies to soothe them; people stricken with grief or trauma often rock back and forth to comfort themselves. So it makes sense—and research backs this up—that rocking can calm the nervous system and assuage the fears of those coping with a breast cancer diagnosis, going through treatment, or healing postsurgery. Rocking appears to awaken the parasympathetic (relaxation) response and calm the sympathetic (stress and action) response. Moreover, it stimulates circulation and improves muscle tone and flexibility (great for lymphedema), without engaging the muscles or taxing energy.
While conventional yoga props allow you to experience a sense of opening and release, they don’t lend themselves well to a back-and-forth lullaby motion. So how exactly do you rock yourself into a gentle calm? I use Three Minute Eggs. Their sloping edges provide a rocking motion that gives the spine a safe way to release. This motion supports deep, conscious breathing and calms the nervous system so it can sort through—and make sense of—what’s going on. Conscious breathing helps increase oxygen exchange, circulation, and lymphatic drainage and rids the lungs of stale air, which, together with the rocking motion of the Eggs, provide a deeply healing experience. A body at rest is a body that can heal itself.
The bright pink Eggs I’ve created are called Thank Pink Eggs in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All poses are done lying on your back, with your legs bent and hip-width apart, and knees facing the ceiling.
Place one Egg under the occipital ridge (where your skull joins your neck) so that the Egg can totter back and forth. If the Egg is too high and your chin falls toward your chest, lie on a folded blanket. Slowly turn your head to the right and then to the left, allowing your neck to be supported by the rocking Egg. The rocking motion will release your neck flexors and extensors, which tighten from holding tension in your jaw and neck.
Chest Expander and Lymphatic Drain
Place two or three Eggs under your thoracic spine (mid-back) and one Egg under the occipital ridge to support your neck. If you need to, use blankets to raise or lower the head and the pelvis for added comfort. You should feel an opening in the chest, which will allow your breath to expand into the chest.
Take the legs to one side and, at the same time, turn your head toward your knees. You’ll feel a nice stretch in the opposite side of the chest, neck, and underarm area. This gentle stretch—with conscious breathing—releases toxins in the lungs, colon, and skin and stimulates the lymphatic system.
Sacrum and Low Back Pain
Place two Eggs on your sacrum, in line with your pelvis. You’ll feel a lift when the Egg lines up with the top of the sacrum. Rock your pelvis gently from side to side to loosen your low back and hip flexors. As the body releases, take your legs farther apart and bring your right knee toward your left ankle for a deeper hip opener. This pose releases tension in the low back and pelvis and relieves sacroiliac pain.
Cora Wen, ERYT-500, is an international expert on yoga therapy and is certified through the International Association of Yoga Therapists.