You guys know that feeling when you very first like someone and it feels like the world is moving super fast and super slow at the exact same time? It sort of makes you into a crazy person. And it definitely affects the ability of the body to function. In the extremes sleeping and eating even become impossible.
Okay, this might be me right now. My brain is a swarm of bees. My heart is running at top speed.
So, what to do with all this mind chatter and pukey feelings? Why, turn it into a yoga lesson, of course!
It is totally astounding to me to see how easily my body and brain just absolutely fall apart on something like this. My nervous system is totally haywire. After a certain point of years of yoga practice, you think that you can exert some control over your body and mind. But damn, if it isn't really really hard.
But, guess what? You probably already know what I'm going to say, right?
This yoga shit works! Seriously.
Guess when I've been able to actually calm down and relax my jack-hammering heart? Guess when I have been able to remove myself (very slightly) from the tumult that used to be a relatively calm mind? Yoga class, of course. And it's not instantaneous. It's not. It takes about half of class. And that is half of class of seriously focusing on my breath and my breath alone. And it's taken years and years of cultivation of yoga skills to even get to this point.
It takes every fiber of my being investing in a state of calm. But I can do it. And that's the important thing.
A decade of practice may seem like a lot, but it's a drop in the bucket. No worthwhile lasting change can come quickly. This ability to calm oneself down through yoga is usually years and years and hours and hours of practice in the making. It means getting on the mat and sitting down on the cushion even when (especially when) you don't feel like it.
So, how does it work? How can yoga be a useful tool and not just a way to exercise?
Take a look at the right side of this chart. I was (am) literally experiencing all of those symptoms. My sympathetic nervous system is in a tizzy. It's like a textbook example. It literally is a textbook example.
The work of yoga is to tap into the parasympathetic system—you can see it on the chart! When you practice well, the heart rate slows. The breath slows. You are less affected by external stimuli.
When you consistently come to practice, you learn to use your parasympathetic system. When the asana work is challenging, you teach yourself to slow your breath down. You teach yourself to get out of your mind and experience fully the body and breath. You respond to the bodily stimulation by encouraging it to chill out.
This is what I want yoga to be for everyone. When I teach, I try to approach it as scientifically as possible, with complete emphasis on breath. Breath as the gateway between body and mind. Breath as the tool that sets yoga apart from other disciplines. Breath as the switch for the parasympathetic nervous system. We need more calm and peace in this world.
Calm of body, soft of breath, quiet of mind.
And in this way, I like to think that yoga can be a most useful tool. So that you can inhabit the beautiful container that is your body, breathe with ease, and fill your mind with peace.