So, how do you present yoga to a group of people who may not know anything about it? It reminded me that exercise is a stress we intentionally put on our bodies. We exercise with the goal that we will become stronger, faster, and more fit. As we stress our bodies in this intentional matter, they adapt. The body is all about adaptation, both physical and physiologically. When you run, for example, the body increases the amount of blood that flows to your muscles when you run so that you can run harder for longer. This is the goal of the training program; to gradually increase participants’ cardio output (how much blood we can pump) as well as how much oxygen our muscles can utilize at any given moment. Just as you wouldn’t walk into a gym and pick up a 200 lb barbell on your first outing, same goes for running.
So how does this relate to yoga? Well, if you spend all day at work in a slightly stressed state, and then go to the gym to stress your body intentionally, and then head home where there are a million things to do and you get stressed, you spend ALL day with your sympathetic (commonly referred to as the “fight or flight”) nervous system in overload.
Yoga challenges you to calm down. To slow down. To stop and observe your body and breath. Without this polar opposite of intense cardiovascular exercise, your body will always live in a stressed out state and will adapt to that. Relax enough to fall asleep at night? No way. Relax enough to decrease your stress hormones that are wreaking havoc on your organs and vessels? HA! Yeah, right.
Yes, you can get stronger and more flexible in yoga, that is also a goal, but at the same time you are given the space to bear witness to your body and it’s inherent strengths, weaknesses, and wonders. I don’t know about you, but the last time I went to the gym, I don’t recall my step instructor asking me to think about the relationship between all the joints in my body (even though she was fabulous!). I’m not saying that you should give up everything to do yoga. Nor should you give up everything and just run all the time. Our bodies do best with a variety of exercise so that it will adapt to everything. Then, you can be ready for anything.
So, join me on the mat to explore the opposite end of the spectrum. If you are in the LA area, there is a super Amazon Local deal going on ($39 for 10 classes) for Yoga At the Village, where I am at Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm for Yoga Tune Up®.