This video came to mind as I was attempting to explain to someone that slow, mindful yoga isn’t yoga for “old people.” Slow yoga benefits ALL of us because of it’s ability to sooth our nervous system and help us build resilience.
As a society, we come to take great pride in the busyness of our individual lives as though it proves our worth. Think about it. Have you ever noticed that when you ask someone, “How are you?”, the automatic response is “busy”? Even when feeling exhausted, most adults find it difficult to slow down. What we don’t recognize is that our busy, no-time-to-stop lifestyle leaves us sleep-deprived, stressed, anxious and irritable.
A slow, mindful yoga practice provides a perfect opportunity to move at a gentler pace and “chillax.” Studies confirm that slow yoga practices serve to increase resiliency, promote neuroplasticity and reduce chronic inflammation. For now, let’s look at how slow yoga builds resiliency.
Resilience is the capacity to deal with life’s ups and downs. When we are resilient, we respond appropriately to changes in our environment and to stressful experiences. This is not to say we don’t experience stress, but resilient people have strong coping skills. They tend to view life’s difficulties as challenges and respond accordingly with action, rather than with fear, self-pity, blame or a “victim mentality.” Resilient individuals are aware of their own emotional reactions as well as the behavior of those around them. They understand that life is full of challenges and seek to remain open, flexible, and willing to adapt to change.
Slow, mindful yoga practices support resiliency by helping us develop a particular kind of awareness called interoception. Interoception is the capacity to feel and sense into our bodies. Researchers suggest that poor interoception is linked to insomnia, anxiety and depression as well as chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. But like any skill, interoception is learnable.
For example, when you notice that clenching in your stomach before giving a presentation, your accessing your interoceptive awareness of your emotions, in this case fear or anxiety. Your body responds to this fear by tightening muscles, increasing heart rate, slowing digestion and increasing respiration. Using interoceptive awareness, we can recognize these physical signs of stress and take control. We can choose to take a deep breath, acknowledge our fears as well as recognize our capability to handle the situation and then, best of all, choose to proceed forward.
Slow, Mindful Yoga
All the practice of yoga—such as postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana)— foster interoception awareness. When we move slowly rather than quickly, we recruit different parts of our brain and nervous system. At the same time, slow movement teaches the brain and nervous system how to slow down and adapt so we can let go when appropriate, such as when we are trying to fall asleep. You can’t get this from fast, more aerobic kinds of exercise. This ability to adapt to the current situation and “chillax” is at the heart of resilience as well as our mental, emotional and physical well-being.
To help you get started on building greater resilience, enjoy the grounding yoga practice below. And stay tuned for my next post for more on the benefits of slow yoga.
Sending love and light,