Nothing To Do, Nothing To Fix, In This Moment
One of the many benefits of yoga is switching off from the constant stimulation of everyday life. Through mindful movement and conscious breath, we switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, the relaxation response, where all the magic happens.
Magic is an interesting choice of words, as it suggests that Western Medicine doesn't quite understand how yoga has such multiple benefits. Yoga allows healing to take place while medication "cures" symptoms, while ignoring the cause and the mind body connection.
I came to yoga out of curiosity and for a tool to prevent injury from competitive sports. I didn't expect to find a sense of coming home, of grounding in the present moment thereby reducing a fear of the future or ruminating in the past. I didn't expect to find a sense of balance emotionally and an understanding of the connection between mind, body and spirit. It has helped me to observe my own thoughts, words and actions in a wider context of neurobiology and to manage relationships with my children with this understanding. When I observe teenage behaviour, I get it, I know it's not personal, I understand the neuroscience and I know how to support and guide them back towards balance.
Feedback from classes has shown better sleep, better anger management, a reduction in back pain, stress and depression, just to name a few.
The magic comes from the development of mind skills - self awareness, focus, concentration, mindfulness and meditation, which is no surprise when you consider that yoga is first and foremost a science of the mind. The movement is a tool designed to get your mind ready for meditation. "Savasana" (or relaxation), really is the most important pose in the yoga library.
How should we measure how beneficial each yoga class is? Certainly not by the number of steps or calories or even change in heart rate. A greater understanding of the benefits certainly helps.
Rudolph E Tanzi, author of Super Brain and Super Genes, wrote the foreword for Guiding Strala, The Yoga Training Manual. He also happens to be the Professor of Neurology at Harvard and Director of Genetics and Ageing Research Unit and Brain Health at Massachussets General Hospital. Clever guy! He explains that our neurological makeup is dynamic and plastic in response to how we each move through our lives - our thoughts, words and deeds. Gene expression is also soft-wired and equally responsive to our daily activity. Chronic stress is the big evil, leading to faster ageing, obesity, anxiety and depression, autoimmune and digestive disorders, chronic pain, heart disease, cancer and neurological disorders. Stress is also a key factor for chronic inflammation, which compromises many of our body's critical systems and plays a key role in Alzheimer's disease.
Strala is designed to activate the relaxation response, to allow natural healing, and to meet challenges with ease on and off the mat.
The great news here is that we are in control of our own personal destiny; we can prevent dis-ease and live happily by adapting our ways to a positive, healthy mindset and lifestyle. We can affect the health of our own cells and organs, increase our longevity, minimise our disease lifespan, and much more. Practice yoga and all is coming.
I have seen a rise in smart watches in the last 3 months in the studio and I really wonder what they are measuring. I observe the interruption to attention of the practitioner and those around them when they light up, and the "need" to check in on data within seconds of finishing a class, thereby abruptly halting the parasympathetic state, the relaxation response. They will never be able to measure the most important factor, your physiology and neurobiology, the affect on your cells and organs, nor will they be able to compare how you felt coming into the class and how you felt when you left. I believe that is the biggest indicator to observe. How well do you feel?
Yoga is a time to switch off, to drop the measurement and self judgment and to switch on the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the magic to happen. When your mind and body are connected and you feel at ease, that is yoga.
The Studio will be a smart watch free zone from after half term.