At first glance, this posture doesn’t look like it’s doing much, but there’s a lot more happening than simply opening the hips. Gomukhasana, or cow-face pose, benefits digestion, and when you add the forward fold, it can release the upper back, lengthening and offering release to the lumbar spine. We typically feel the sensation in the hips, so if we’re not careful, we can put stress on the back that we don’t necessarily feel. If one finds themselves rounding in the back, then simply allow the back to rest in a rounding position and place some support (such as a blanket) under the hips. If the back and hips are more open, and one can hinge at the hips, the forward fold becomes more active and leading with the heart may be appropriate. If uncertain, be gentle with yourself!
Over the last week, it’s been necessary to fall back on my Buddhist psychology tools. One of the ideas of Buddhist psychology is to give ourselves permission to feel whatever we are feeling at the moment and meeting that moment and those feelings with complete and total compassion. If you’ve been in my classes lately, you’ve heard me reference Jill Bolte-Taylor, a neuroscientist who had a stroke at a young age and wrote about her experience in her book “A Stroke of Insight “ (as well as spoke about it in a very well received TED talk). In her book, she talks about how our brains only recognize an emotion for 90 seconds. N-I-N-E-T-Y seconds. What allows the emotion to continue is that a story takes root, which continues to validate and reinforce the emotion. And then we suffer. This idea of meeting ourselves exactly where we can be extremely effective and allow us to cope in a way that serves our overall well being. We see the thought/emotion, we recognize and acknowledge it and we move on.
One of my main coping tools over the years has been anger. If I’m being completely honest, I’d say it was an addiction. The adrenaline rush and the wanting to “fight” (albeit somewhat subconsciously which is very common with people who have PTSD) was very stimulating but exhausting emotionally and physically, not to mention depleting to my heart and soul, and often ended up with someone I care about getting hurt and always ended up with me hurting myself as I’d sit with deep regret afterwards. Of course I’m human and I still do get angry but not nearly to the degree that I used to. By meeting myself exactly where I am has allowed me the ability to meet everyone in my life where they are. If I’m doing this right, and it is absolutely a practice, more often than not, I’m doing my best to meet them with love and compassion regardless of whether or not I agree with them. Because the truth is, everyone is entitled to their experience. Being confrontational, judgmental, and self-righteous is a hard samskara to break….trust me as I know this all too well. What would happen if we allowed everyone to have their own experience and not try to convince them to see it our way? That doesn’t mean we condone supporting things that we don’t believe in but we use emotions, feelings, and beliefs to thrust us into action in a way that serves us, our conscious, and inspires others. If we tell people they need to feel a certain way, speak a certain way, or process a certain way….we lose them as well as an opportunity for dialogue…..not convincing them (which something I’m still working on too) but dialogue.
Join me today for restorative at 4:15 and Core Release and Restore at 7:30. We will practice sitting with our emotions and then we’ll just see what happens. As I learned in the silent retreat a couple of weeks ago…the physical practice brings ease into the body but the sitting brings clarity. We will be doing some metta again today as I think it’s necessary and can be extremely helpful in shifting our frame of mind. I hope to see you.
In the meantime, be kind, loving and compassionate to yourself and others. Peace on Earth.
What happens to our nervous system, brain, and body during stressful times?
Not every challenging event becomes traumatic because we are pretty resilient. We can be confronted with difficulty but maybe we have support, we’re feeling good about ourselves and we may move through something somewhat unaffected.
When it becomes too much (financial or ongoing stressful or traumatic situations) the nervous system deregulates, things shut down, and the brain can’t manage what’s taking place. When the nervous system deregulates the brain’s threat response is stuck on a constant high alert. We are not designed to stay on high alert all the time. We are supposed to, ideally, respond to the “threat” when it happens, do what we need to do about it and then come back into a relaxation response.
From a physiological perspective, the body remembers everything. So tension from these events are absorbed into the body’s tissues. In order for the nervous system and the body to regulate, the stress (which becomes tension when absorbed) needs to be released.
Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and TRE can help to re-regulate the nervous system so that is stays in a normal or “baseline” range allowing to sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to be activated as needed allowing us to make our way back to the relaxation response as it was designed to do. Releasing tension in the body also can reduce pain, and, by discharging tension energetically, create a shift in negative muscle patterns.