The last yoga class I taught was themed “Even Yoga Teachers Get The Blues.” Although I absolutely love my work of massage and yoga, it still involves the grueling elements of marketing, scheduling, bookkeeping and, most recently in my face, dreaded taxes. I can feel that I haven’t taken a break for a few months now.
Just like many of you, I fall into the trap of the glorification of busyness. Subconsciously I believe that I’m not doing a good enough job if I’m not running from one thing to the next, crossing things off my list, working late into the night and then rising in the wee hours of the morning to work again. As much as it benefits others, my career is not immune to stressful deadlines and schedules.
Today a friend innocently asked me “So, how are you?” When I paused long enough to bypass the automatic answer of “Fine,” I realized that I didn't know how I truly AM doing. I haven’t made time to CHECK IN and LISTEN. And I’ve been hypocritical, too, because this slowing down is exactly what I preach to my students in Yin yoga classes. I guess it’s time to start listening to my own words!
Yin and Restorative yoga focus on this pausing, reflecting and relating to the reality of the present moment. In class we take the time to feel and check in with our own hearts. Yin yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function. What good medicine!
I know from my own experience that exhaustion is the number one cause of getting sick. My body’s healing capabilities are miraculous, but I must live in a restful way for it to do the work needed to keep me healthy and able to bounch back. We all need the time and space to process, digest, and move through things. Otherwise our experiences get stuck. We get sick, or in a funk. We get emotionally, mentally and physically constipated.
Of course appropriate stress hormones are important and valuable. But when we run a level of underlying and chronic stress, worry and anxiety, the body acts in the same way it would when faced with a real, big stress factor and therefore never lets go of those crazy stress hormones. This means that we stay in the sympathetic nervous system, avoiding the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes healing. Luckily we yogis can consciously shift into parasympathetic with appropriate asanas and breath patterns.
Too often we forget to listen deeply to what our body needs, which is often rest, and keep pushing ourselves, even in our asana practice. Yoga allows us to revitalize with true healing. But sometimes we get lost in the gymnastics of yoga asana, when we really need to to take a break and slow down. Let’s instead turn to the nurturing and meditative practices of Yin and Restorative yoga. Let’s slow down, allow some things on the list to remain undone, take a deep breath and notice. This pause, on and off the yoga mat, ultimately equals freedom and renewal. Give it a try and see what you think!
By Elise Fabricant
Elise has been practicing yoga since 1993 and sharing her love of it by teaching since 2002. Her friendly, down-to-earth approach to teaching has helped make it accessible to hundreds of people of all ages and abilities. It is her aim as a yoga teacher to encourage her students to become body-aware, to establish a relationship with their breath, and to develop a compassionate and joyful attitude towards themselves and the world around them. Elise teaches many styles of yoga, but is especially drawn to teaching Yin for its sweet, nurturing qualities. Elise believes that Yin Yoga can help balance her students in physical, emotional and mental ways that no other yoga practice can. Elise takes the Yin principles into her massage practice, too, and joyfully offers bodywork out of Half Moon Studios.
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