Adults returning to yoga and exercise after lockdown and a break in their practice.
“Yoga begins right where I am - not where I was yesterday or where I long to be.” Linda Sparrowe.
This quote is a lovely reminder that we must come to our yoga practice with an open mind and heart. Each and every time we come step on to our mat we should remember that being in the moment is all that matters, it doesn’t matter where we were with our practice yesterday, last week or last month all that matters is where we are now, here in this present moment.
Have you had a break from your exercise routine and or yoga practice? Because you haven’t been able to get to your classes, and your once regular routine went out of the window or because of the Covid 19 pandemic? Well you are not alone!
Do you feel nervous about getting back into your practice because of the long break and/or because you have been affected by ‘Long Covid’? Many people are feeling anxious and nervous about ‘starting again’ or ‘rebuilding’ their fitness levels. Once more you are not alone in this thinking.
The wonderful thing about yoga is that when we step on to our mat we come with the attitude that every time we begin our practice it is as it were the first time. We don’t compare ourselves to where we were at yesterday, last week, last month or last year. We need to honour the body in the here and now, everyday is a new day. Knowing that we can accept where we are in this moment rather than comparing ourselves to how we were before.
In our yoga practice we nurture the the body and the mind. Treating ourselves with love and respect rather than harming the body by throwing ourselves into a hard core fitness regime which actually can be quite damaging to the physical body and inevitably ends up with feelings of inadequacy and frustration. Everybody is different, and everyone’s needs are different. With yoga we come to accept these differences and learn to be proud of what we can achieve rather than what we can’t do.
My advice to new students who come to my classes is to do what you can and don’t compare yourself to anyone else and to imagine that your mat is an island and that what you do on your island is your own personal yoga practice. Although it is good to challenge ones self, it isn’t good to force and push the body over and above it’s present limitation. The yoga philosophy of ‘ahimsa’ says that we must avoid hurting anything and anyone, that same philosophy also applies to ourselves too, especially in our yoga practice.
If you are looking for a yoga class where you can feel comfortable and be yourself where you can be with like minded people and not worry that you aren’t as flexible as you used to be or that you won’t be able to keep up in a fast paced class then please speak to me about your needs.
I will be starting a new class that will be suitable for people who want a gentle yoga class whether that be due to a previous physical challenges or injuries, illness or maybe it’s just down to low physical or mental energy levels. Or maybe you are just looking for a class to enjoy a combination of gentle stretching and bodily strengthening with time too mentally and emotionally unwind through the practice of yoga breathing techniques and meditation. I will also be continuing my previous class for more experienced students.
Since the arrival of Covid 19 and lockdowns, there have been what we would have thought of as unbelievable restrictions on our normal way of life. Consequently many many people have suffered increased levels of stress and anxiety. Prolonged periods of stress and anxiety will build up in the body and mind physically and emotionally, making it harder for a person to relax. This build up of the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenalin will then manifest in the body as dis-ease. Physically the body will feel tight, muscles especially in the neck and shoulders start to ache and become tensed, this then can lead to tension headaches. The stomach can also be affected, creating that gut anxious feeling of worry, loss of appetite, fear and even panic.
Stress and anxiety is a part of life and a normal emotion to feel but when a person becomes overly stressed it can then affect the body’s immune system to fight infection, consequently the body is more vulnerable to attack from infections and diseases. And at this present time it is even more important to keep the body in optimum health, strength and vitality.
When we practice yoga the physical aspects of moving the body especially the large muscle groups aid to increase circulation of the blood and the lymphatic systems. Stress hormones suppress the the formation of new lymphocyte and their release and length of time they can actually circulate through the lymphatic system doing their job of suppress and fighting attacks from disease and infections. This is one reason why effective stress management is so important for proper immune system function. Yoga involves moving all the large skeletal muscle groups along with moving the spinal column in all directions, flexion, extension, axil rotation (twisting), and lateral flexion. When we move our large muscle groups (the arms and legs for example), and the spine, we naturally squeeze and help pump the circulatory systems along aiding in flushing out the build up of stress hormones.
Stress and anxiety also effects our mental and emotional wellbeing. Leading to deep feelings of fear, inadequacies, depression, loss of self-esteem and a general feeling of being unable to cope with everyday life. In our yoga practice the breath is an important function. When we learn to use the breath we can actively calm the nervous system down which will then calm down the mind. When we are feeling stressed our minds go into hyperdrive, thinking about the past, the present, the future, memories and day dreams worrying about this that and the other. In this state of mind which we call the chattering monkey mind in yoga, our thoughts take over and we lose a sense of living in the present moment and our thoughts then become our realities when actually they are literally just puffs of information. By using the breath we can become more focused and grounded in the moment rather than being mentally all over the place living in a state of anxiety.
Focused attention on the breath, slowing the breath down, taking deep inhalations and extending the out-breath automatically activates the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest mode, calming the sympathetic nervous system which is our fight or flight mode. When we encounter a stressor the sympathetic nervous system kicks in, which is natural. The stress hormones give the body a boost so that it may run from what ever is stressful. However if the body isn’t in a position to take flight that is when stress builds up. And as more and more stress builds that is when we feel like we just snap because eventually something will have to give.
This is where a good yoga practice can help alleviate the feelings of stress and anxiety. Yoga gets you moving the body, stretching, unclenching, releasing and then finally relaxing all the muscles. The relaxation at the end is a very important aspect of yoga, it’s not only a nice way to end the practice it is also a very important time of physical and emotional integration. This is when the magic of yoga really starts to happen, when we enter stillness, when we have what is called the rebound effect and all the strengthening and stretching and the boost in the circulatory systems come together and the body absorbs and integrates all the benefits of the practice. It is also essential for the mind to have these few moments of stillness and in those few moments we can allow the mind and body to come together to become one through the breath. This is YOGA.