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.
1) 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. Teach your body good habits – for example: as we in Mountain Pose and Easy Pose – on the mat and practice them off the mat.
Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
2) 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.”
3) 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. This can sometimes even result in a downward spiral into depression.
So, how can taking a few deep breaths combat this?
It signals to the Nervous System to move from the Sympathetic “Fight or Flight” response to the opposite Parasympathetic or “Rest & Digest” response. This, amongst other things, brings our brain waves into a slower, more relaxed range and signals for our digestive system to get going again.
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 😉
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