by Loretta Zedella
The practice of yoga provides an accessible system to bring the whole human body, mind, and breath into a balanced, healthy state. It is a system also in which our body and mind can uncoil from habitual patterns. We are not designed to feel optimal while sitting at a desk, allowing our minds and emotions to be overwhelmed. Yoga, then, is a system we can use instinctively to feel better throughout the day.
How can we become more attentive to these instincts on a daily basis? On the busiest of days, we may find ourselves stretching our legs or pausing to just “take a breather.” These are signs to notice, not to ignore. Yoga can help with not just physical comfort, but also psychological healing, personal growth and radical self-acceptance. Yoga brings us back to a comfortable state that we see often in babies and toddlers.
Through attention, we can learn to calm our monkey-minds that may seem to jump from limb to limb. We may also be able to sense our connection to all living beings.
BKS Iyengar stated, “Yoga is like music, the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul creates the symphony of life.” How can we apply such an esoteric statement?
We’d prefer a sense of flow in the body and in life. Katy Bowman of Aligned and Well states that mindful movement addresses the three major substances of a healthy body:
- Electricity: Communication between brain and body; the nervous system
- Blood: Nutrition that creates oxygen and food for body cells
- Lymph: Gutter system of the body that removes waste; includes the immune system
All require moving each of our muscles while allowing the overworked ones to relax. By using ALL of our muscles, we can allay pain, disease and discomfort.
How can this also benefit the nervous system? Through movement and massage, we hydrate our fascia network. Massaging the fascia, a connected web located just under the skin, rehydrates connective tissue and rebalances the nervous system. By incorporating self-massage using foam rollers or yoga therapy balls in our yoga practice, we are practicing self-maintenance and self-care.
Yogic breathing techniques can help each of us constructively channel stress and manage our mood. As our body begins to feel sluggish, so can our mood. It is possible to help avert major drops in mood and energy with breathing and movement techniques. Yoga can be an organized way to help us reveal a feeling of ease that is hidden often under surface tension.
Try a quick yoga break right now. Notice yourself breathing and slow down the breath as you count to four on the inhale and four on the exhale. Take your time. Can you smooth out the breath? Allow yourself to turn inward. Detach from any self-criticism. Try easing the base of your skull back over the tailbone while keeping your head level. Shrug one shoulder, then the other back behind yourself. Then lift your hands overhead and extend your ribs up away from your hips. Breathe and notice how you feel. Be as kind to yourself as you would your best friend. Do you feel a bit more centered, or even peaceful?
When I began practicing yoga 30 years ago, I found it in one place in town: a church basement. Now we can find yoga all over town, so lucky us! You can continue your own yoga practice while you find a teacher who speaks to you.
Be patient with the process of being attentive. To unroll a yoga mat is optional as we unclench muscles and unravel our minds. Our reward may be a satisfying undercurrent of ease and quiet contentment. As we erase pain and tension, we may reveal ease of body and peace of mind. The esoteric becomes immediately useful.
Loretta Zedella has taught yoga at Ohio Wesleyan University since 2004. In addition, she offers yoga and fascia release classes throughout Central Ohio. She is the founder of Yoga Outreach Columbus, a nonprofit organization dedicated to uniting the local yoga community and benefitting local community assistance groups. She is also known as The Duchess while assisting her husband, a plant-based chef known as The Duke of Fork. Connect at LorettaYoga.com.