Yoga Part 9 – Yoga off the Mat: Healthy Habits

Mar 05
Yoga Part 9

Last month I mentioned how learning healthy postures, awareness of the mind and breath work on the mat can benefit us greatly off the mat, too…

Healthy postures

Do you ever have back or neck pain?
How are you sitting or standing right now?
Do you have good posture?
Do you know how it feels to have good posture?

Our body adapts to habitual stances and movements so teach your body good habits on the mat and practice them off the mat. For example:

Base Standing Pose – Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Yoga off the Mat Healthy Habits
Yoga off the Mat Healthy Habits

Base Seated Pose – Sukhasana (Easy Pose)

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 :-

  1. Deep Breathing
  2. Through the Nose
  3. 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.

Sympathetic v Parasympathetic

Next time you’re feeling rushed, nervous or stressed, try taking some slow, deep breaths (through the nose with an elongated exhalation) and see if you can notice the changes in your body. Of course, to be healthy we need both systems to be functioning properly… just in case we meet an angry bear 😉


Nette xx

Thanks to @vinnierehab, @drhawk_rehab and @realfitnessformums for the posture graphics.

Jeannette Amy (Nette) Hopkinson (BSc Hons Sports & Life Sciences) is a certified yoga teacher and Oneness Blessing Giver based in Andalucia. Follow her on IG @nettenirmalayoga or find her on facebook @NirmalaYogaSpain

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