Life gets hectic when you are ambitious. By hectic I mean stressful with a capital S. All the deadlines, emails, problem solving, and expectations, build up over time leaving you stressed out and frazzled. But what if there was a magic wand you could wave and miraculously become joyful, at ease and non-reactive to stressors? There is a link between doing yoga and being resilient to external stress. I want to share some quick tips you can implement right away without even looking at a yoga mat. Excuse me while I break down how our nervous system is plotting to keep us stressed out.
YOU SEE THE WAY I’M WIRED…
Let’s look at the anatomy of the body’s response to stress. For example, you are at the airport checking in for an international flight and you hear last call for your flight tension hits, your mind may think, “Oh God I can’t miss this flight!” Your body has these innate reactions – your heart starts racing (hello, high BP!), your hands tense up in a fist, your eyes widen and vision tunnels so you can focus, if you started to run for the gate – you have more energy than expected or are faster than usual, AND you’re probably holding your breath without
knowing it! This is your nervous system in a “fight or flight” situation. Back in the caveman days, we had to be equipped to fight or quickly run away from wild animals and threatening situations for our survival. But as you know… in the modern day we are not running from lions or fighting gorillas! Unfortunately the nervous system has not evolve from the “fight or flight” setting (which has us in a constant state of biological reactions). This is what gives us a boost of hormones to help us run even when we aren’t going anywhere; stressed in front of the computer, which is the same hormone that makes us retain belly fat, ironically!
Now that we know our hard wiring is not in our favor, what do we do? We now have the option to live an intentional life where we are aware of our physical and psychological defaults but build the strength to rise above it.
This is where the practice of yoga becomes really useful. Yoga is a mindfulness practice – meaning we are practicing being aware without attaching any judgment of what we notice. Consider how often in the day you hear or say something is “good” or “bad?” It’s a big part of our society – to praise and criticise. “No food for lazy man” is the perfect example. If your nervous system has been on “fight or flight” mode for a few months – you need to rest and recover! A relative may walk in or call while you are in said state of rest and say, “When did you become so lazy?” Needless to say judgment is all around us. So intentionally stepping outside of the judgmental norm and saying I am taking time to practice mindfulness – through yoga, meditation or mindful eating – is something powerful. Attend a yoga class or look up “beginners yoga” on YouTube if no classes are in your area. Try watching your thoughts without judgment quietly for 2 minutes a day. Practice noticing without reacting. Over time you will build the internal muscle not to react as much to the external stimulus that can send our BP through the roof and make us want to scream.
IN HEAT OF THE MOMENT
What to do when you are in the
thick of it? When you are faced with acute
stress – you just had a fender bender and the cars are all honking, people start yelling, you start yelling…how do you find the calm? Pause and take a breath. No, really you have to intentionally breathe in and out slowly because your caveman/cavewoman instinct is to hold your breath.
Remember that you’re in control of how much you react to the situation. Look at the big picture and from an angle of gratitude to shift to calm. Shift your mind and you will shift your experience!
– Nsa Emodi
Nsa is a Certified Yoga instructor E-RYT 200 and founder of Proud Journey Yoga offering yoga classes, Certified Yoga Teacher Trainings and yoga retreats in Lagos. Learn more here: www.ProudJourney.com