Thank you to all who attended the “Yoga for Stress” workshop. As promised, here are the “Cole’s Notes” from our session together!
Tip #1: You are not your stress
We cannot control the things that happen to us, but we can manage our reactions to those situations, people, events. Instead of living in a constant state of an aroused sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight), complete with increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol that result in irritability, tension, inflammation, decreased immune responses, build up of fat around the belly, insomnia, high blood pressure, we can find ways to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and lower cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, ease tension and inflammation, enhance the immune system
and encourage deep, nourishing sleep.
Tip #2: You are not your thoughts, or your emotions
When stressful things occur, we spend a lot of time thinking about them. Our minds spin around and around, often going over the problems over and over again. For every thought we think, an emotion is generated.
But, we are not our thoughts, or our emotions. There is something in us that is greater than that, and if we move our attention away from our endlessly chattering minds, we can re-connect with a deep inner peace.
The experiment we tried – of observing, labelling (not judging) and then releasing our thoughts and or emotions showed us three very important things:
1. Thoughts generate emotion – positive and negative – and your body can’t tell the difference between a thought and what is actually occurring right now. For your body, it is exactly the same thing.
2. You can control your thoughts, and therefore you can control your emotions.
3. If you can control your thoughts, who is doing the controlling? The answer is the self-aware consciousness that lies deep within us; that part of us that is always peaceful, calm and joyful.
How do we tap into that inner calm?
Tip #3: Lose your mind by grounding your body
How to stop the “monkey mind”? Use our bodies and our breath to focus our awareness on the present moment. If we can, through regular practice, learn to pull our awareness away from the endless brain chatter and focus it on our bodies, we discover that the chatter begins to quiet.
Tip #4. The Breath of Life
• Dirga Breathing
• Ujaiyii breath
• Linking breath and movement exercise (Inhale love; Exhale fear. Inhale compassion; Exhale judgement)
Tip #5: Live in the present moment and love what it is
By practicing regularly, we develop our ability to be mindful of what we are thinking, feeling and doing and more importantly, we develop tolerance and compassion for the experiences we are having. We also learn to be “with” discomfort and not identify with the unpleasant sensations; we can be feeling them, acknowledge them and not react to them. We love where ever we are in our practice; we are perfect just the way we are. No comparisons, no competition, no striving. Just breathe and be.
Top #6: Use asanas to ground and centre us
These asanas promote the calming effects of the parasympathetic nervous system, and help to centre us. Do whatever your body tells you is right, and don’t push yourself- accept yourself:
• Tadasana (Mountain pose)
• Warm up with half Sun Salutations
• Warm up with beginning of Moon Salutation
• Uttanasana (Hanging Standing Forward Fold)
• Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Fold)
• Trikoasana (Triangle)
• Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2)
• Vrksasana (Tree pose)
• Chandra Namaskara (Moon Salutation)
• Dandasana (Seated Staff)
• Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold)
• Janu Sirasana (One-legged Forward Fold)
• Baddha Konasana (Cobbler’s Pose)
• Jathara Parivartanasana (Reclined Twist)
• Pindasana (Embryo Pose)
Tip #7: Stop Perseverating; Start Appreciating
Research into neurophysiology has shown that “What fires together, wires together!” To put it another way, the synapses (the places where thought impulses are transmitted) in the prefrontal cortex – actually show increased activity, and more importantly, more of them, when people meditated regularly, the areas of the brain involved in emotional balance or regulation, showed increased activity – or firing.
But what is really interesting, is that after a period of regular meditation (just eight weeks), the number of synapses and the grey matter in these areas actually increased. In other words, you can physically change the geography of your brain in a positive or a negative way.
So watch your thoughts – they are not only generating emotions, they are changing the geography of your brain, making it harder, or easier, to experience love or suffering and to influence the way we feel about the things that are happening in our lives.
The ancient yogis knew this without the benefit of MRI’s and PET scans – that what we regularly focus on becomes the reality. So, if we allow our thoughts to “peat and repeat” unpleasant thoughts, we begin to have more of them. If we dwell on the things that generate the stress response in us, we actually encourage the stress response to continue.
Tip #8: Moon Breathing
Chandra Bedhana breathing with 4/6 count: 10 times
Tip #9: Turn Your World Upside Down To Help Your Life Turn Right Side Up
• Legs up wall with mantra Om Santi
Tip #10: Surrender to the flow of life
Guided meditation from Deepak Chopra “21 Day Loving Heart” Meditation Challenge”. The link to purchase this and the other meditations is: http://www.chopracentermeditation.com/bestsellers/LandingPage.aspx?bookid=170
Note that there will soon be a new, FREE 21 Day Meditation Challenge by Deepak Chopra, starting on November 5. Here is the link: https://www.chopracentermeditation.com/Bestsellers/LandingPage.aspx?BookId=172
Bonus Tip #11: Detach from your outcomes
Let go of the attachment to the results of your actions. Pursue with passion those things that ignite the fire in you, but release your attachments to the results of those actions because they are out of our control. The self-delusion of control causes us great stress and suffering as we attempt to wrestle our lives into the results we want. Let go and be at peace with what is; not what we want it to be.
Choose one or two of the techniques and practice them every day, even if it is only for five minutes or a few breaths. It will make a difference in your life – and your stress. Many thanks again to all of you who attended the workshop; I truly hope that some of these tips resonated with you and help bring you closer to the consciousness within you that is peaceful, calm and joyous.
Our November 18th workshop is, “Searching for Happiness.” Please join us from 1:00 to 2:30 at the Radiant Joy Yoga studio as we explore ways in which yoga can enhance your joy, bring more contentment into your life, and attract abundance with every breath you take. I hope you can join us.