Did you know that Yoga means union? To unite. To yoke. To connect. To find union with our body and mind.
Yoga practice allows us to begin to cultivate a conversation and connection with ourselves. And it’s here that we can get to know ourselves better, that we learn, listen, question, tend to and adapt to what we need and want. (And to challenge and let go of what we don’t need and don’t want). To help us be our authentic soulful, delicious selves.
The breath is a constant in our body. It is there doing it’s thing and keeping us going, and we are thankful for you, breath. But what happens when we start to feel anxious in our body? Our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) requires us to breathe shorter and faster when we’re running from that tiger / threat. its an automatic thing, we don’t decide to do it, our body takes over. Our bodies too shut down what’s not vital at that moment (inc digestion, hello IBS and digestive issues). And our minds join in too, creating rumination and chatter. So suddenly we feel completely on edge and threatened.
But what happens when there’s no tiger and we’re still breathing in this chesty way and triggered in our minds?
Our bodies can end up learning to expect danger and stay on alert ( just in case that tiger comes for tea someday), even (sometimes especially) when we are in a relaxed environment, and there is no obvious reason as to why we’re feeling anxious.
This was my reason for returning to yoga class years and years ago (at 12pm every Monday, when I should have been studying in art school) because I needed to learn to signal to my anxiety ridden body and mind that there was no threat. The tiger wasn’t coming. I could stand down. And I learnt this through befriending my breath. To practice breathwork that felt therapeutic and calming and met my body.
This is where our yoga practice comes in.
We practice to encourage a deeper, longer breath that serves our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), so that we can relax, where we are (wherever we are shape-wise in our bodies). Our controlled deeper breathing can be the love note to signal to our bodies to find space and comfort, even when we challenge the body in poses. Particularly when we challenge the body in poses, because this is where the work and union and magic happens. If we aim for serving breaths in those tougher poses, our body eventually reaches an aaaaaah moment and it softens. (It’s a biological process that actually happens to our cells!)
The more we practice in and from this place, the more our bodies begin to inhabit this. Its a neurological process, where we are reconstructing our neuro-pathways. The more we drive down this pathway or highway, the more we become familiar with it. This goes for driving down that ‘threatened – on edge’ highway and the calmer, restful highway too. so we can actively divert the journey to neurologically travel down a road that is easing and calming for our nervous system, and over all our bodies. As we breath deeper and move through our yoga practice. What joy!
Ok science lesson over, enjoy those body lovenotes. all the love, mari x
**this writing is from februarys theme for classes on my patreon page. you gain access to bitesize yoga and breathing exercises aimed at finding a calming, grounding state within our minds and bodies. memberships start from as little as £3.