It’s a mid-October rainy day here in New England, which by contrast brings out the rich fall colors that are now reaching their peak. Just like a normal Fall! Except nothing’s normal this Fall, it’s all upside down. When we are all used to moving together for the cold months, we’re facing a period of moving apart – still. In fact, you might be experiencing stresses you didn’t even know were possible before the Pandemic. There’s seemingly no way to avoid stress, but there are ways to cope with the unexpected.
Were you aware that the stress response can help us in challenging situations? You might be familiar with the fight/flight/freeze response that sends stress hormones through the body when there is uncertainty or fear. Those stress hormones can become trapped and lead to imbalances or pain in the body. But there is also a positive stress response, which can help you to focus, rouse energy, and find resilience in challenges. Through yoga, in fact, you can access those positive aspects and make them a resource for tough times. How?
When you hold a pose, when you try a new balance, when you increase or decrease your pace – based on feedback from muscles and breath, and using your power of attention – you are modulating your stress level. Sometimes this is referred to as “safe activation” of the nervous system, because you are in control – you can rest, you can release the pose, or you can move more slowly. With practice, you can remember that you have the power to bring your system back toward balance when a challenge presents itself.
Off the mat, then, you can call on the resources of body, breath, and awareness in challenging situations – the kind that “take your breath away” – to face whatever stresses you are living with. In this way, yoga is the opposite of escapism; yoga supports us to fully engage with life, in each moment. Please come to yoga this week, this month, to continue or restart your practice, and develop helpful resources for relating to stress. See you there!