Nerves, Trauma and Yoga
Yoga. Yes. Really good. I have done yoga sporadically for years and now as an Old Tomato, I realize I should have done away with the sporadic and gone for the steady and serious. What was easy a few years ago is now hard because I basically have to start over with this new(old) body. But if I want to survive well in this rush rush, eat fast on the go, defensive driving, breathless shopping, run run, stop and crash, not enough sleep world of contemporary life, that many of us live, then I need yoga. And, neuroscience now tells us why.
Yoga with it's meditative focus, its slow steady stretch and hold, coordinated with The Calming Breath strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system from which all things that sooth us flow. The fast rush breathless pace of contemporary life revs us up and puts us in that hypervigilent mode of flight, fight or freeze that sets stress hormones coursing through our bodies. Stress breeds stress. So much of our lives are lived as though there is a very aggressive and speedy wooly mammouth on our tails and we are running for our lives. Only we aren't. Really. We are running for the bus, the train, the snack cart, the car pool, the bottom line or the report that has to be done by tomorrow at 9:00 am but guess what our bodies don't know this is self induced stress. Yoga brings the nervous system out of fight and flight and into balance. Now, this is not going to happen immediately. It takes time but until you have those new neuropathways, you have to keep at it until discipline turns into habit. It takes a couple of months without slacking off -- for some it's quicker and for others longer. But if you don't want the whole package, you can leave the yoga poses behind -- though I hope you don't --and roll up The Calming Breath along in that lime green mat you bought at The Yoga Hut or Barnes and Noble. Be sure you at least take that. Because. Breath is enough. And what I like is that breath is something we always have and can control any time we want to take charge. Any where. Any time. Breath: Consistent. Deep. Rhythmic. Slow. Inhale. Count. Hold it. Count. Exhale squeezing all the air out of your lungs. Count. Do this five minutes at both ends of the day and you have a practice that will yield results. When I do this, I am less reactive. I sleep better and I am more resilient. Negative feelings don't last as long.
People doing disaster work offer The Calming Breath first thing. Well, maybe not the very first thing but it is right up there. It is simple. It's effective. And if you want to do yoga to prevent or heal traumatic stress, there is a great workshop being offered at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in western Massachusetts by Bessel van der Kolk, a former Harvard psychiatrist who is the international king of all things trauma. It has only been the past couple of years that he publicly said that traditional psychotherapy has failed to resolve trauma and affirms yoga as a treatment of choice which has all sorts of implications about who works with traumatic stress. Yogi's have been doing this for a few thousand years and they didn't have mental health licenses. Of course they had/have other kinds of licenses or certifications In this class Dr. van der Kolk teaches the neuroscience of trauma along with a yoga teacher. it's great in that the student gets the whole thing: didactic and experiential -- the theory and then the experience in the yoga. Can't beat that.
I say. Go. Take the Class. Learn. Become a teacher if you are called to it. Do yoga for yourself and teach yoga to combat vets who get very little treatment for their PTSD. Or you can wait until we offer the classes through Ashlar.
There will more here on on yoga as one of brilliant young colleagues bringing you the latest scientific news.