If you have practiced yoga more than a few times you know the greatest benefit is that your energy level seems off of the charts. You know it comes from the yoga. You come out of class, and even though you might have felt tired, hungry, sick, and uncomfortable as you moved from posture to posture, on the drive home from the studio you feel your spirit soar, your energy level increase, and all of the silly stuff that life has offered you that day simply seems just that – silly. What changed?
Well, a lot has changed of course. Your prefrontal cortex has been fired up, making you think clearer. The vagus nerve sends a message to your internal organs to simply chill out. Your resting heart rate improves. The adrenal glands decrease their production of the stress hormone cortisol. Your immune system is primed to fight off infections. Your balance, physically and emotionally, has improved. You’ve become a teeny bit more flexible and you’ve improved the strength of your overall body.
These are just a few things that have changed from the beginning of class to that drive home and of course, if you combine all of these factors, you would see an increase in your energy levels. But the one that I think we are not thinking about, that cannot be scientifically proven is how open you are after class.
Throughout the class your have stretched and bent into what sometimes seems perfectly impossible positions until you are there, in the moment, doing it. Most importantly though are those back bends. Every back bend is a huge release. To truly go after a backbend you must trust your body’s strength and flexibility, as well, as thrust your chest forward and open up the front side of your hips. Every backbend increases the spaces in your heart, forcing you to open it in ways that you won’t find outside of the yoga class.
This week I am rereading Michael Singer’s, “The Untethered Soul.” For some reason I was drawn to pick it up again, having read it 3 years ago. Within the book he discusses that we all have an unlimited resource of energy available to us if we simply keep the heart open. The heart acts like a valve – we either open it and let everyone and every experience in, or we close it to protect ourselves throughout the day. Each time we close the heart we are draining our energy source.
Think about a time when you had first fallen in love with someone. You have so much energy! Your heart is wide open. You don’t need too much food or sleep – you are high on life. You are in love. What if you could capture that kind of energy everyday? Well you can. It simply takes some awareness and some work.
Going to yoga is the first step. Let the yoga help you open up that heart of yours, as well as, process those old buried emotions trapped in the hips and shoulders. After class it’s up to you to keep yourself open to every experience and person.
Pay attention to your thoughts. Are they positive or are they fear based? Fear based thoughts include: worries, frustrations, anxieties, and overall depression. Whenever I find my mind headed in this direction I like to use mantras to change it around for myself. The ones I use the most are, “All is well,” and “Only good things happen to me.” It might sound cheesy, but I promise it works to dissipate the spinning mind as you repeat the mantra over and over again.
Notice when you start to close. Closing your heart is easy. It’s easy to gossip, tell a sarcastic joke, get angry, blame others, and literally freak out. The hard work is noticing when you are going to close and decide, instead, to stay open. You’ll know it’s happening because closing your heart doesn’t feel so great. Your senses dull, there is somewhat of an ache in your chest as the heart feels heavy and no longer light, and you suddenly feel a bit drained.
Don’t get frustrated. Deciding to stay open is hard work. It means your don’t have to always be right, that people are going to do things you don’t agree with and that’s okay, and knowing that no situation is worth losing a piece of your personal energy for. The more you practice staying open, the more you will get out of your life and the more positive people will surround you each day.
If at the end of the day you feel drained instead of perfectly tired because the day was used in the best way and for good, great, fantastic people and activities, see if you can make a change. Say no to the things that no longer serve you, or take too much instead of give back, and start saying yes to you and your life. Your life is important and you are worthy of having the best one possible.
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