Connecting Mind and Body into a Spiritual Union
Yoga is an ancient system of philosophies, principals and practices derived from thousands of years of eastern practise.
Yoga might appear to be all about the postures, but it’s much more than that. Yoga is about loving, honouring and accepting yourself, and each other. It’s about growing yourself to be the best person you can be. Yoga encourages you to listen to your heart, and to be mindfully present.
What this means for you is lower blood pressure, easier digestion, smoother skin, and a happier smile.
With yoga you will lose body fat and gain lean muscle tissue. You will regain the agility and flexibility you thought was only possible in your youth.
Yoga can be practised at any age with many yogis in their eighties still balancing and stretching as they did fifty years earlier.
Breathing and meditation
Your breath will connect you to mind, body, and spirit. The benefits of the deep breathing and meditation have been well documented.
Deep breathing lowers blood pressure, decreases anxiety, improves circulation, raises immunity, facilitates healing, and gives more energy.
Throughout yoga, breathe deeply into postures, relaxing muscles as you exhale.
Throughout life, breathe deeply into experiences, and relax on the exhale.
For a simple guide to breathing, breathe in for five-six seconds and out for five-six seconds throughout the class, and during the relaxation, aim for eight to ten seconds per inhale and exhale.
The stress response
When you notice your breath is shorter and your heart rate higher – your stress response is being triggered.
The stress response will save your life when danger is present, because you will have the heart rate, adrenalin and muscle fighting ability to face your enemy. You will be ready to fight in a second!
Each of us learns how to respond to danger in our own way. For some, the initial stress response might be to fight, for others it’s to run away, and some people freeze in fear.
It’s important to know which is your habitual response to stress so you can address it if it is real or not.
In real danger – you will do what you need to do.
In false danger, you will respond the same, yet there will be no release. You aren’t going to fight your boss, run away from a client or stop and hide, even if you want to. We have learned to move through stress without release. Stress can become an ongoing experience which eventually damages the body and erodes the joy of life.
Releasing the stress response
The first sign of your stress response switching on will be your shorter breath and your rising heart rate. When you notice your breath is catching or shortening – immediately focus on deep breathing. Lowering your diaphragm to give more room to your breath is your bodies signal that you are safe. Breathe deeply no matter what is going on around you. Clients won’t notice. The traffic won’t change. Your partner will keep talking, but you will be clearer. You will notice your ability to maintain calm and keep your brain active when under stress by continuing this breath.
Deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness, are all designed to switch off the stress response and open the brain, body, and heart, to clarity and peace.
Yoga is the perfect place to practice your breath and to meet yourself, for you will notice when you switch on stress. is it when the posture is too hard? Is it when you think ‘you can’t do it?’ is it when people might be looking? Or do you notice self-criticism?
During postures, what do you say to yourself? Whatever you say – is what you say to yourself during life. ‘I can’t do this’ is an indication of your struggle in life. Change it to ‘I’m doing okay, I’m doing the best I can. I believe in me.’ Will help you let go of expectations and criticism. Letting go of expectations relaxes the muscles that are holding onto stress. Letting go of holding on lets go of the short breath. In yoga this means moving into the posture and feeling better. In life this means moving forward into life and feeling better.
For a simple guide to breathing; during stress breathe in for six seconds, and breathe out for six seconds. During meditation breathe in for up to ten seconds breathe out for up to ten seconds as you focus on letting go of each muscle and joint.
There are many types of breath practised through yoga; this simple breath will guide you towards the first step in regaining your health and vitality. I encourage you to join in on all types of yoga and meditation classes to find the one that makes your heart sing.
GreetI am a yoga teacher, author and artist.
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Growing Emotional Intelligence