Yoga is a big trend in our culture today. All we hear or read about is hot yoga, aerial yoga, power yoga, yoga with puppies, and even yoga with goats! What is the big deal?
Yoga is a Sanskrit word which refers to the combination of breath and movement. In truth, you have already been practicing yoga from the day you were born! How? Because the first movement we make as a baby is taking a big breath. By practicing yoga, you become aware of your breath and intentionally align it with movement.
Has anyone ever told you to “calm down take a deep breath?” Why do we say this? As the popularity of yoga has grown, so has the study of what it does to the body physically and neurologically. We now know that taking that breath begins a cascade of good things to our body.
The breath, or respiratory system, is the one body system that is unconsciously controlled (you will continue to breathe even when you aren’t trying to) and consciously controlled (you can deepen or hold your breath at will). This means that breath is the one action that connects our conscious with the subconscious.
Why is this important? If you are an adult in America there is a 99.99% chance that you have experienced trauma or stress, whether it is something you are aware of or not. This stress can be obvious and known to you, for example: a car accident, a divorce, or as subtle and common as being late for a meeting or having a busy schedule. Whatever the cause, our body’s automatic reaction is to initiate the fight/flight/freeze response when we experience stress. This is what keeps us alive and safe in dangerous situations. With repetition over time, this system keeps running on auto pilot even when we are not in a dangerous or stressful situation and it continues in our subconscious. This can be damaging to our physical and mental health.
Consciously taking that deep breath to calm down is the “switch” that begins to regulate our stress response. You may not even recognize that you need to flip this switch. Try it right now: take a deep slow breath and let your shoulders relax. Unless you are already aware of your breath, you probably were holding some tension and felt it release with that breath. Practicing breathing with gentle movement will allow your body to reset and recover from being in an over stressed and stimulated state.
How do you find out what kind of yoga is best for you? The answer is simple. Try one!
Yoga teachers (or “yogis”), such as myself, are happy to talk with you about what to expect in their class, especially if you are a beginner. If you have experienced trauma, I highly recommend finding a class with a trauma-informed yoga teacher or TIYT. If the class doesn’t specify, ask the teacher if they practice trauma-informed or trauma-sensitive yoga. Finding a TIYT will provide a safe foundation for your practice and then you can branch out in tree pose with puppies or goats!
Want to learn more? You can reach me by phone at 515-724-8920 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributed by Bari Lloyd, RYT200, TIYT