by Jessica Rosenberg, E-RYT 500, YACEP, Reiki Master, MID, RYS 200/500
It’s a time of information overload, life is moving at break neck speed, and adults and children lead a perpetually stressed-out, harried existence. The dilemma we are in is leading people to have anxiety, burnout, and exhaustion.
But wait! There is a cure to our dis-ease. Not a pill, magic food, or a drink (although a glass of wine or some dark chocolate always sounds good) but the ancient wisdom of yoga, mindful movement, and breathing; this is the next big health revolution. These practices help to put life into perspective and teach people of any age ways to release trauma, anxiety, and stress, so that they can stay calm in the center of a storm.
Yoga is a tool that will last a lifetime. The playful movement and positive psychology of the mindfulness practice offers people focus, clarity, alignment, and insight to our inner workings. Happiness is our birthright but sometimes we loose our way and yoga brings up back to our true, divine nature. Through the process of yoga practices we become firmly rooted like a tree and like a tree when people are healthy, nurtured, and flexible we grow roots to bear fruit and flourish.
When one feels supported and grounded through breath and movement practices, they settle into their bodies, inhabit their lives, find center, and drop-into mindful awareness. Only when we let go of the ‘busy-ness’ of our life, get quiet, and remember our deeper purpose can we live out loud and authentically.
Maybe things long ago were just as busy as they are now because yoga was created as a self-regulating skill and sensory integration tool to teach one to relax and find balance. The therapeutic, bilateral movement practice – and it is a habitual practice not a perfect! – helps students to rewire their brain through breath and gentle, flowing, joint-freeing actions.
When you think about it, the human body is an amazing, resilient machine powered by the breath.
Here is a rough overview of how it all works. Muscles are driven by brain and brain is driven by muscles. The more we move the more brain cells we build and regenerate. Our brain is the central computer in a human being that delivers messages and instructions to our limbs and internal organs through our nervous system. The brain helps our nervous system to function. The spine supports the health and healing of the central nervous system. It is the protector of our superhighway of the human machine that leads to our brain. The breath, just a simple inhale and a cathartic exhale, are the power, the energy, the pistons of our ‘super human’ engine that keep our systems fine-tuned, free of disease, and in harmony.
A great teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar, once stated that, “Our brain is the hardest part to adjust in asana.” Hashtag #TRUTH! The postures of yoga are accessible. The mind is a trickster and our worst critic. It’s amazing how humans can spend our days in constant turmoil of the ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. This ruminating thought spiral will only lead to pain.
As you probably have felt at one time in your life, when we are off kilter and the body is in flux, we are not aligned, and things can get out of hand. When this happens, it is just plain old, bad news! Our nervous system is not functioning properly, we send erratic messages to our brain, and there is a glitch in the programming.
At this point we are either breathing through our mouth or completely holding our breath, stressing out, and activating our body to produce cortisol, the stress hormone. (In women cortisol is a huge reason for ‘muffin top’ and ‘beer belly’!) When this happens the body becomes stuck in the lower levels of our neurological system, called the amygdala. We are in our reptilian brain, caught in a loop of fight, flight, and freeze.
This is the time to choose. Give up, stay in the negative, and live in a state of anxiety or use the tools of the practice to stop the downward spiral. My suggestion, choose ease. Choose freedom! Realize that you are not the content of your thoughts and learn to condition your body to, “Inhale the good sh*t, exhale the bullsh*t!” Use the practice of yoga to get rid of the suffering and step back, reframe, reboot the body-mind, press play, and begin again.
Yogis learn how to begin again by engaging in a conscious, active breath in and out of the nostrils. This deep diaphragmatic breath helps to regulate the body and teach emotional stability. The rhythmic response learned in yoga breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and helps to raise our vibrations from lower level to higher brain functioning. Our body lights up the prefrontal cortex and relaxes the amygdala, creates an automatic relaxation response, calming us down, and increasing the production of serotonin and dopamine, the happy hormones, to be produced. Then we are in proper alignment and we are able to harness the pure potentiality of the breath, integrating the right and left-brain, allowing us to find emotional balance.
Instead of getting triggered and ‘flipping our lid’, the discipline of yoga teaches us to become familiar with the triggers and stop them in their tracks. We learn to understand how our mind works, to see and observe thoughts, and to respond wisely to things rather then reacting blindly. It allows us to be proactive vs. reactive. This skill is important during challenging, stressful times where we need good coping mechanisms to navigate life’s twists and turns.
Scientific studies abound that support yoga and mindfulness have very real and measurable positive effects. Every day new research is proving evidence showing the neuroplasticity of the brain, that humans can refine the mind, and that muscle memory is a conditioned response that can be ingrained into our lives.
People learn all kinds of useful skills – typing, sewing, cooking, reading, writing, and programming – now it is time that we should to add in the skill of yoga. Humans deserve to be taught strategies and tools to focus, combat stress, and easily manage chaotic circumstances so that we do not get swept away in the fluctuations of the mind.
The incredible, transformational practice and discipline of yoga is pragmatic resiliency training. It offers tools to create integration within. Then we have space to enjoy every moment and be present, centered, connected, and grounded in our own BE-ing. Though the practice we realize that we have the capacity to be free to rise up to our best self with a tenderness of heart and peace of mind so that our daily experiences will be more blissful and we can lead a fulfilling, joyful life.
A recovering product designer for corporate America, Jes has been teaching yoga for over 13 years and is a 500 E-RYT & 200/500 RYS certified instructor in a multitude of disciplines (even Chair Yoga for the office!) and comes from a strong lineage of amazing mentors. A Wanderlust teacher and festival goer. She is a national educator, a teachers teacher, who has been practicing yoga since a teenager. Her passion for mindfulness and movement has allowed her to cultivate a unique blended teaching style that offers students inspiration to tap into the pure potentiality of the breath. She is a true ‘purveyor of the oxygen cocktail’!
Jes’s talents have been recognized in numerous print publications including Star Tribune, Mpls St. Paul Magazine and Yoga Journal.