the act of practice
The act of practice makes us experts to our own misery. Any reactive thought, feeling, body sensation or verbal language we use in response to a life experience becomes our practice, becomes our pattern, becomes the difficult thing to prevent among the articles and images of inspiration we see daily to change and transform.
If we have already established healthy patterns then likely we are managing the upset in our lives with proactive misery reducing movement. If we don’t have healthy patterns established than our reactive patterns are amplified and solidified leaving us with discomfort, discolour, and discord.
‘The question is whether we harness the brain’s positive capacity for change, or whether we let its negative potential for change harness us.’ Bo Forbes, Yoga for Emotional Balance (2011)
Neuroscience continues to validate that everything is interconnected. For example, ones repetitive negative thoughts can show up in headaches, low energy, insomnia, frequent illness, appetite changes, constant anxiety and pessimism. Our body’s interior environment activates when our outer environment senses vulnerability or danger. The interior environment being our nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is our fight or flight response. When we sense vulnerability or danger our heart rate goes up, we perspire, we breathe shallow and faster, our mind races, adrenaline and other stress hormones are released.
The parasympathetic nervous system is our relaxation response; we are at ease and in comfort in our bodies and thoughts. The parasympathetic nervous system undoes the work of the sympathetic nervous system once we’ve experienced the worst of a threat.
This means we need both. Certainly in our lives there will be legitimate vulnerabilities that require us to react quickly in order to reduce the danger we are exposed to, however some of us are frenzied with a reactive quality to all of lifes difficult experiences, depleting our vitality and trust in the resiliency we are already secured with.
We are in a state of harmony when our nervous systems work in balance, they exchange with one another when needed. We can reclaim our authority to generate this harmony so that that positive change is processed and embodied. This means optimal emotional and physical health is a practice. Our practice is never perfect and not to be judged. With every glimpse of healthier patterns do we gain momentum to solidify our practice making it more accessible, familiar, and nourishing each time. A good place to begin is by exploring the relationship you have you with your breath. Like most of us, we breathe all day long taking little notice or appreciation of this life giving activity.
Our breath, as we are aware of it can become our dimmer switch to an overactive sympathetic nervous system.
Choose a quiet place in your home. Lay your yoga mat on the floor, or a blanket long enough so your entire body is on it. Have another blanket to cover yourself as if you’re going to have a nap! Have a pillow to be placed under your head so your neck can be relaxed
Have a second pillow; a body pillow works great, or a rolled up thicker blanket to be placed under your knees parallel to the short edge of your mat. Use this if your low back pinches from laying with legs out long.
For this practice I like to have weight in my hands, I use medium sized rocks I have from my life long collection. If you have rocks in your garden, or anything weighted that can be comfortably placed in your hands, give it a try!
An aromatherapy eye pillow, if you have one, can be placed on your eyes. A face cloth folded with a few drops of a relaxing essential oil diluted works well too.
Have your arms out to your sides comfortably, palms up, fingers resting open, rock in the palm of each hand.
Check in with yourself by asking:
Have my thoughts been busy today?
Has my energy been high or low today?
Have I smiled and laughed enough today?
You can prompt yourself to surrender to the floor, so the body can be completely trusting of the support beneath you. You may whisper or in your mind say one or all three, ‘surrender, soften, let go.’
Begin naturally breathing, allowing the rise and the fall of your breath to happen at its own pace without controlling it. Bring your attention to your breath as if you were in a meaningful conversation with a friend, exchanging inhales and exhales. Softly smile as you practice this.
You can set a time before you start, or stay here as long as you’d like. If you fall asleep, that’s okay!
Check in with yourself after:
Do I feel more relaxed than I did before I tried this?
Is my mind quieter?
Does my breath feel more like a close friend?
If you’d like to take this practice further…
Rest the rocks aside and bring one hand to your lower stomach and the other to the side of where you collar bone meets your shoulder. Keeping your elbows connected to the floor is ideal to maintain the relaxation in the body. Now, with focus slowly draw in your inhale, sense the lift in your stomach, followed by your lower ribs, lastly your chest. As you exhale, release your air just as slow as the inhale and sense the fall first in your chest, followed by your lower ribs, lastly your stomach.
‘The yoga mat is more than a tool employed by the practitioner. It’s a metaphor that represents
the space in which our minds may experience relief from the unpredictable stressful nature of life.’ Yoga International
[inspirational pictures found on google images]