The Healing Power of Yoga With Stacey Reynolds · The Gypsy Nurse

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By Maddie Torres-Gypsy Nurse Correspondent

November 10, 2020



The Healing Power of Yoga: A Conversation with Stacey Reynolds

In an interview via Zoom, yoga therapist Stacey Reynolds shares her journey to healing from chronic illness, the significance of yoga therapy, and why it is so important for healthcare workers to take time, no matter how little, for themselves.

Stacey’s Story

Stacey Reynolds sits casually in the private room of her yoga studio for our Zoom interview, but do not be mistaken; she has nearly perfect posture. As a yoga therapist and owner of Blue Yoga Nyla (Inc.) in Little Rock, Arkansas, she is no stranger to the restorative power of a prolonged deep breath and the importance of sitting tall with your shoulders back. There is a certain warmth about her and while we had never met before the interview, the ease of our conversation made me feel as if I was catching up with an old friend.

Although she and her staff teach a range of classes for people dealing with anxiety and depression, they specialize in working with a population that Stacey refers to as the “walking wounded.” These people are often managing a broken mind, body, or spirit– many of whom are healthcare workers currently treating patients with COVID-19.

The interview:

TGN: “On your website, you mention that your ‘journey to yoga originated from a place of healing.’ Could you talk a little more about this healing process and what it stemmed from?”

Stacey: “About 24 or 25 years ago, I started having some pretty serious medical issues. I have an autoimmune disease, and my body began producing tumors when I was very young. At one point, I was spending the better portion of two years not exactly bed-bound but certainly down. I sat for a good deal of each day, I had very little energy, my body was producing tumors, and I was hemorrhaging inside. I was just a very sick woman. To top it all off, I had a history of anxiety and depression since childhood, and after you’ve sat for two years, it gets pretty intense.”

TGN: “After living in so much pain, what lead you to yoga?”

Stacey: “This was back in the day of phonebooks. One day I was sitting there feeling like I was out of options for dealing with my pain, and I opened the phonebook to find the only yoga studio in my area. As soon as I started attending classes, I noticed that my body, while I still had my medical issues, was healing much more quickly after the surgeries. It was fascinating. However, back in the day, the only formalized training was on the East and West coast. Yet, here I am the Midwest/Southern girl. It was quite a process to enter the journey of wanting to teach yoga and then, of course, teaching yoga therapy.”

What is Yoga Therapy?

TGN: “For those of us who don’t know, what is yoga therapy?”

Stacey: “So yoga therapy in my studio consists of my private practice and then the studio area. My sort of specialty is trauma, grief, and addiction. I have always worked with a special population—the ‘walking wounded,’ which is what I came in as. We work with the subtle body and the benefits of moving energy to relieve pain. There are postures involved, but yoga therapy can look like a lot of different things because we adapt to the individual. It may look very restorative or it may be energetic. It really varies.”

TGN: “You participated in The Gypsy Nurse Virtual Conference and spoke about the importance of listening to your body. What do you think are the biggest signs that a person may need to adapt their lifestyle and implement some positive changes into their daily routine?”

Stacey: “Under the current climate that we’re living in, there is so much extra stress. When people start noticing that they’re having a lot of extra jaw pain, if they’re not sleeping at night, if they’re running at a high-anxiety rate each day, or if they are not able to settle and rest—those are some tells that we need to practice more self-care. Globally, we are living in a trauma state, albeit a low-level trauma state, so we must take the pressure off ourselves in order to function throughout the day.  How do you know you need to do something? If you are borrowing Friday’s energy on Tuesday, then something has to change.”

Effective tips to relieve stress

TGN: “I imagine a lot of healthcare workers are looking for quick self-care tricks they can do with limited time. So, what do you think are the most effective tips to relieve stress?”

Stacey: “I love that you’re asking this question because it is so important to take advantage of the time you have. If you have even five minutes, take five minutes. Pause. Close the door to your office, sit back and drop the shoulders. When our shoulders are rounded forward and our posture is misaligned, we are not breathing properly. When we aren’t getting enough oxygen, then we don’t have enough energy, and we can’t think clearly, so we run out of steam quicker. If we take a couple of minutes to sit back, roll the shoulders back and forth to do some gentle neck stretches, it could have immediate benefits.”

Breathing exercise

TGN: “Is there a specific breathing exercise you recommend?”

Stacey: “For those who are running at a higher stress rate—focusing on a longer exhale is going to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system or the rest and digest as it’s called, which is going to make them feel better. One of my favorite little tricks, which mimics the body’s natural response to being overwhelmed, is to sigh. When we take some big deep breaths and take an audible exhale that emulates a sigh, there is a huge release. The real importance is if you have even a few minutes—take them!”

TGN: “What would you say to someone who may be frustrated with their ability to heal from trauma or other mental health struggles?”

Stacey: “The world is making life hard enough as it is. I would say to give grace. The way we take care of ourselves, the way we love ourselves, the way we acknowledge our own needs, and how we have grace and patience with self is going to allow us to show up differently in the world. It really does have a ripple effect. If we are super hard on ourselves, then chances are we are going to be hard on the people around us.

There is a word in the yoga world, and in Sanskrit, called ‘ahimsa,’ which means ‘do no harm to self or others.’ Quite honestly, we cannot give what we do not have. Especially with those on the front lines, some of the sickest people I see are those in the caregiving realm. It is so imperative for them to acknowledge their own needs. It’s that proverbial ‘make sure you put the oxygen mask on yourself before you take care of those around you.’ This pandemic is a marathon, so pace yourself.”

TGN: “Looking back, what was the best piece of advice someone gave you when you were struggling with chronic pain, and how did you integrate a practice from that?”

Stacey: “I made a pact with myself that I was going to listen to my body. I was going to close my eyes and spend enough time getting to know my body because I was hurting and in so much pain. That sort of pain can really change us. So, I learned to listen to my body first and then anything else second. One of my favorite quotes to use in class is from Plato, and it says, ‘the whole can never be well until the part is well.’ It is so fascinating to me that if we go back in history, we always knew that there needed to be some integration of the body, mind, and spirit.

I guess if I had to pick another piece of advice, I would say keep coming back. Keep hitting your mat. Most people tell me that after their very first yoga practice, they sleep like a baby that night for the first time in years. Good sleep is so important, and we cannot underestimate the value of rest. I think listening to your body and continuing to show up and know that it will get better are important things to keep in mind. If it didn’t get better, I would be out of business.”

Final words of wisdom

TGN: “Any final words of wisdom for healthcare workers?”

Stacey: “People working on the frontlines are doing the hard work with very little or nowhere near the recognition they deserve. They need to be their own advocate. Be unapologetic about self-care. Although I am not a nurse, I have to show up each day for people who are struggling. We have to do the work on ourselves and we deserve it! Keep plugging along and take good care of yourselves. I really want all healthcare workers to know how much they are appreciated.”

To learn more about Stacey’s studio, check out her website:

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