A client asked me this just the other day. She loves the movement in our yoga classes but gets annoyed by the “wasted time” at the beginning of class, when we just sit and breathe.
When I explained that meditation and working with our breath is really the most important part of our yoga practice, she asked...”but WHY?”.
It’s an excellent question. As westerners, our lives are all about productivity. Being busy has become an art form. We rush from moment to moment, determined to tick one more thing off of our list, make more money, run kids to more classes and events, DO more of everything.
And yet, we’re no happier thanks to all we’re getting done. In fact, studies show that as a society we are feeling less fulfilled, less in touch with our friends and loved ones, less content.
That’s where meditation comes in. At it’s most basic, meditation is learning to sit quietly and just breathe. There are many techniques that your yoga instructor can teach you, to really get in touch with how you breathe and help identify what stress patterns you may have become entrenched in.
There is a protective mechanism that our bodies use to keep us safe, you’ve probably heard it labelled the “fight or flight response”. It is a way to keep our bodies on high alert, ready to face our aggressors or be ready to run, if necessary. The only problem with this response is that it can’t tell the difference between a true threat(an intruder) or emotional stress(a tight deadline at work). So our bodies respond in the same way to any stress and can remain in this hyper vigilant state for years. It can become the new norm and we forget how to relax and be calm. There are numerous health related issues to remaining in this “fight or flight” response, high blood pressure, tension headaches & digestive issues being just a few.
Learning to meditate is an incredibly valuable tool, as it can help us to take back control of our bodies.
It’s not that stress, anger, heart ache and fear won’t affect us anymore. It’s that we will have learned to not react to that which isn’t a legitimate threat to our physical safety.
Sitting with our breath calmly is actually training our brains to not react negatively to stresses. If you practice this daily, you may be able to calmly react to that difficult co-worker or belligerent toddler rather than reacting in frustration or anger.
Studies have shown that regular meditation lowers blood pressure, increases the immune system response and aids in digestion. Sounds crazy, I know..but what we’re essentially doing is activating the parasympathetic nervous system so that it can do it’s job.
Simple, really. And a yoga class can be a very safe place to give this a try. Your teacher can guide you, offer suggestions and be a sounding board for any challenges that come up for you.
I challenge you to give it a try, just 10 minutes a day for the next 30 days. See how you may approach stresses in a different, more effective way!