These words alone can quicken the heart beat and steal the breath.
When you ‘know better’ but find yourself hot-blooded over what ‘he said’ or ‘she did’ it’s because pathways in your brain, developed by repetitive thought patterns, are like deep river banks running through your mind space: the thoughts like many drops rushing down that path. There is evidence that attachments, emotional patterns, and lack of spiritual foundation all lead to states of stress. Yoga targets every single one of those cases. It is a universal therapy. The physical asanas (poses) and concentration on the breath reroute neural pathways and release emotional blocks. The sutras teach us how to ‘let go’ in foundational ways like breathing deeper, mindful meditation, and slowing down the monkey mind. Scientifically and historically based wisdom cuts through dis-ease and despair. Scientific and medical research is growing and proving these age old theories daily. One study says:
“There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.”
Lana, a teacher at Vitality Yoga tells us more about how Yoga rose her up from anxiety and depression (that caused her to fall asleep with clenched fists) to an overall more light-hearted experience in life; flying in acro yoga and inspiring others in her acro, flow, and restorative yoga classes. She says:
“I love watching people walk through the door and sigh of relief to be at the yoga studio. I love that they show up with the goal of making their lives better and often are so grateful after class. I love watching the progress of those who come consistently.”
Sometimes those suffering from anxiety or depression get stuck comparing themselves to others and it intimidates them from trying Yoga. She advises her students to be inspired by those on higher levels. “When I first started practicing, my teachers would always say ‘Don’t compare yourself to other people.’ What I would add to that, is when you can’t help but look at the people practicing around you, be inspired by their progress. Instead of saying ‘I can’t do that,’ say ‘I can’t do it YET’ and imagine the potential that you have!”
Lana relates to that ‘monkey mind’ tendency, a term referred to by mindfulness research as moving quickly from one thought to the next without pause and control (compared visually to a monkey swinging from tree to tree). It’s a state that robs us of enjoying the present moment and feeling calm. It can feel like your thoughts are running away with you and can lead to being in a state that is more analytical than heart felt. Lana compassionately guide’s students back to the present moment while enjoying the fun and playful side of practicing arm balances and inversions, weaving both into her classes.
Anxiety or not, busy schedules create a sense of wanting the effort to get to class to feel worth it. It can be discouraging to create time and space and energy to get to Yoga, only to feel the teacher was uninspired and the class wasn’t helpful. That is one thing students will not have to feel at Vitality. Lana keeps her classes feeling fresh and inspired because she hones her own practice daily. Her challenging acrobatics practice is a source she pulls from to weave little gems of those skills into class in an accessible way.
Sometimes it just takes the willingness to begin and try. Before she started doing yoga, she couldn’t touch her toes and would fall asleep with her hands clenched in fists due to constant anxiety and depression. Now she laughs a lot more, sleeps well, and has tools to deal with life when it gets hard. Her transformation is motivating and allows her to truly help others move through their own challenges; on and off the mat.