Awareness of the Mind
We practise staying present in yoga. Intelligence keeps us top of the food chain but it can often be a curse, too. Our chaotic thoughts meander back into the past, re-running events and conversations, evaluating… or careen off into the future: planning, imagining, worrying. Our attention can often be anywhere but right here and right now, especially when we’re stressed.
By practicing reigning in the mind during yoga, we have the skills to change our thought patterns – literally creating better neural pathways – and the capacity to control our stress levels no matter what life throws at us in the real world.
In the words of Ferris Bueller : “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Breath work (Pranayama)
There are many types of pranayama and they offer myriad benefits but let’s keep it simple and focus on just a few things we do in any regular yoga class :-
- Deep Breathing
- Through the Nose
- With a Long, Slow Exhalation
When we get overwhelmed with stress the nervous system reacts. It induces the Sympathetic Nervous System (Flight or Fight response). Helpful when faced with an angry bear, not so helpful when constantly triggered by our busy, modern day lifestyles. In this state, non-critical body functions shut down and the release of stress hormones stop our “happy hormones” in their tracks, sometimes resulting in a downward spiral to depression.
So, how can taking a few deep breaths combat this?
It signals to the Nervous System to move from the Sympathetic to the opposite Parasympathetic or “Rest & Digest” response. This, amongst other things, sends our brain waves to a slower, more relaxed range and our digestive system gets going again.