Yoga, by definition, is more than just an exercise method. It is described as providing a path to control over your mind and to well being. I remember all of this…during class. I control my breath and movements, and my mind stills and the vague but constant feeling of anxiety lifts from my chest. I flow through the different postures, challenged but calm, sweating but content to be within each moment. I even can manage something pretty close to real stillness during our final savasana. I’m lucky to practice yoga in a studio that has a great vibe and excellent teachers. The space does half the work for me. Once I get back into the world, it’s usually only a matter of minutes before I become disconnected and allow the troubles of life, in all their big and small manifestations, to fill me and replace any sort of centeredness I work toward. This week, someone I’m close to was in an accident, and as I was waiting to hear news (they’re fine, thankfully), I stopped breathing. Not entirely, of course. I didn’t pass out at my desk or anything dramatic like that. But it became shallow and erratic, as it does to so many of us during moments of tension. I texted a friend about my state of worry, and she said, “Time for all your yoga breathing and focus to kick in.”
Oh yeah. That’s a thing I have at my disposal. I’ve spent years doing yoga, but it’s so difficult to let it permeate into life off the mat. So I took her advice and began to count my inhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And my heart rate slowed down, and I began to see with a little more clarity that it does no good for anyone for me to be in a panic.
Another thing we do (and by “we” I mean most of us: overly busy stressed out American working adults) is carry tension in our bodies. I’m sure you’ve felt it in your neck, after a long day at work. You’ve sighed as your body relaxes in a hot shower. There’s a reason why we say we’re going home to unwind. Well, I bet you’ve rarely given thought to the stress you hold in your tongue. I bet, without even realizing it, many of you reading this are pressing your tongues to the roofs of your mouths right now. Let it go. Breathe in. Notice how much more breath you get when you’re not blocking the way with your own tongue? (I know; the word tongue is getting weird to read.) Seriously though, it’s such a small thing that I never would have thought about without yoga, but I find myself doing it all the time. I am aware of the amount of stress and tension I carry, even when I don’t feel particularly burdened.
It’s hard to bring yogi principles into the hustle of the work week. It’s difficult to even carve out the time to make it to the mat, much less develop habits built from that time. But since the alternatives are to either flee to an ashram in India or live with a constant weight of general unease and stress, I think being mindful, relaxing my tongue (which was already back up on the roof of my mouth, pressed as though it has the job of holding up my whole head), and remembering to just breathe will certainly help me through.