I hate the world today…
Have you ever had one of those days, where literally you hate the world, and perhaps yourself in the process? Where not only are you frustrated by the annoyances of the moment, but you are so seriously crusty that you even dig up previous grievances to relive them in your brain just to fuel the fire of your fury? I had one of those days last week. And truthfully, it wasn’t pleasant for anyone.
It was around the same time I was reading various scientific articles on yoga’s impact on the brain. I know February is the month of hearts, a wonderful organ, for which yoga is also great. But, it was probably better that I was concentrating on the brain, any discussion of opening one’s heart probably would have simply increased my animosity to the point of no return.
Anyway, in these articles on yoga and the brain, it explained how there are two divisions of your autonomic nervous system; the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which produces the “fight or flight” response; and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), where we access our ability to “rest and digest”, essentially where one chills out. The SNS is very important and quite honestly why we have survived as a race; however, because this part of our brain was developed when stress literally was often a life or death situation, our SNS can cause struggles by creating a very primal response (literally fight or flight) to a very non-life-threatening situation (for example: my clearly first world problems absolutely did not require the strong visceral reaction I was having).
Yoga lowers our cortisol, allowing our brains to move from our SNS where we are preparing to hide or battle, into the PNS, the area which manages discipline and self-control. Here our logic can take over and decide if the situation is literally life-threatening or simply annoying and choose our reaction accordingly.
Controlled breathing, slow asanas and meditation create activity in your PNS. And while more vigorous yoga, sun salutations, flow etc. does create activity in your SNS, your practice helps you burn off that excess energy (read stress) so that when you do move to Savanasa (or any passive yoga) your brain moves even deeper into your PNS.
So, upon reading the article, honestly, I unrolled my mat and spent 10 minutes doing yoga, just 10. Did I feel the February love? No. I would have needed an hour of yoga for that. I did however, create enough activity in my Parasympathetic Nervous System to realize that if I just said goodnight and went to bed, it would be much better for everyone. And it was.
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