Mind Your Body: Yoga for Emotional Calmness

Healing Yoga schedule

Tuesday, Sept. 1

Fall Yoga Session begins!

Thursday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m.

Intro to Effortless Meditation with Greg Schweitzer.

Call 610-670-6700 to register through Greg.

Friday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.

Yummy Friday with Ann Murphy – Healthy cooking class.

Saturday, Sept. 20 & Saturday, Sept. 27 at 1:30 p.m.

Reiki I with Dorian Abel

Sunday, Sept. 21 2 - 4 p.m.

Thai Yoga Massage with April Showman

Who doesn’t want more peace in their lives? Now that most of us are plugged in most of the time, we are inundated with information—personal, community-wide, national, and international. There is too much to process and too little time in which to do it. And much of what we call “news” is distressing and overwhelming. It is hard to find a place of peace within.

Anxiety and depression are commonplace. Insomnia is rampant. Addictive behaviors, which sociologist and researcher Brene Brown refers to as numbing behaviors, abound. Drugs and alcohol might come to mind first, but the list of things that can numb us is long: food, prescription medications, shopping, sex, work, perfectionism, exercise, staying busy, the internet, texting. Numbing and distractions are temporary fixes, but do not bring inner peace or inner strength, and can lead to a never-ending cycle of more numbing and distractions.

How does yoga help us establish emotional calmness? There are two main ways: one is through practices that literally cultivate calmness; the second is through the development of stress hardiness.

Practices that cultivate calmness include breathing techniques, physical postures, and techniques for the mind.

There are scores of breathing practices in the yoga tradition. Perhaps the most important thing to consider in regard to calmness is the establishment of full, relaxed, rhythmic breath, through diaphragmatic breathing.

Breathing is tied to the nervous system. Just think about how you breathe when you are happy (expansive and effortless); sad (tight and restricted), and anxious (erratic and choppy). As we steady the breath, the mind seems to settle, and the body relaxes.

The yoga poses elongate the spine and move it in many directions, which dislodges tension from the core of the body. As the body moves and warms up along with rhythmic breathing, the internal organs and glands are nourished, and stuck energy begins to move. Neuromuscular tightness and holding are released, which brings feelings of overall well-being. Aches and pains ease. The body feels more spacious and alive. The nervous system becomes settled and feeds messages to the body that everything is okay, which promotes a greater sense of wholeness and calm.

The moment-to-moment awareness in the yoga practice allows our minds to become focused and clear. Yoga also teaches us to focus on positive mental qualities, such as gratitude, acceptance, compassion, peace, forgiveness, and humility. Meditation, guided imagery, and deep relaxation help us to be still, steady, and calm; to simply be present to ourselves. (“Don’t just do something, sit there!”)

What about the other side of yoga, the things that help us develop stress hardiness? Life itself, whether it is the small, daily things that stress us (traffic on the way to work, losing your keys, you have an exam tomorrow) or big, life-changing events, often puts us in uncomfortable positions.

In our yoga practice, we voluntarily put ourselves in uncomfortable positions, and then stay present with relaxed, kind awareness. The uncomfortable position may be a literal one, a yoga pose (perhaps picturing a pretzel-y twist is appropriate here), a breathing practice which requires counting, sustaining our breath, and staying focused; or a meditation in which we need to sit still and remain aware, no matter what our emotional state may be.

Dorian Abel, MS, RYT is the owner of Healing Yoga in Douglassville. An Integrative Yoga Therapist, Reiki Master-Teacher, and consultant on mind/body health, she can be reached at dorian@healingyogapa.com.