Updated: Apr 29, 2020
I truly believe that yoga is such a powerful practice. Anyone that has practised yoga for some time will know that yoga is not a fitness exercise. Yes, it is a movement practice, but it is so much more.
Yoga has the power to change our lives by shifting our perspective, reprogramming our mind patterns and raising our consciousness.
Something that I have experienced throughout these years of practising yoga is how it has determined the lifestyle choices I now make. What I mean by that is how the practice has altered the way I react to stress, sadness, change, and strong emotions.
We all have instinctive reactions to how we respond to a stressful situation, or how we deal with intense emotions that come up. For most people, turning to food, alcohol, drugs, Netflix or any other kind of escape is a common instinctive reaction. We don’t want to face the emotions we are feeling so what do we do? We try to distract ourselves from them, by turning to one of the above.
For me, food used to be my downfall. If I was feeling sad, lonely, depressed or stressed I would ‘treat myself’ to a big takeaway meal and a giant chocolate bar, which I would consume in bed in the space of an hour, whilst watching Netflix.
Of course, doing this now and again is not too harmful, but in this day and age how often is it that we feel stress, anxiety, loneliness, uncertainty, sadness?
And this is the problem. Anytime we experience a negative emotion we turn to whatever ‘our escape’ is. We tell ourselves it will make us feel better, which it may do for an hour or so, but then we usually end up feeling even worse. What we are doing is avoiding our feelings, pushing them away, and not dealing with them. And worse yet, once we start to react to stress in an unhealthy way, it can easily become a downward spiral, throwing us off track in all areas of our life.
You see, we choose how we respond to stressors. However, for many of us the choices we make when we are in this low vibration can be unconscious. Sometimes we don't even stop to think about the choice we are making. Or, we think about it briefly, we realize it is not a healthy choice, but we don’t know any other way, so we make the unhealthy choice regardless.
When we are feeling good, it is much easier to make healthy lifestyle choices. We have more willpower and desire to choose to eat healthy, to choose not to drink alcohol, to choose to exercise or go for a walk instead of spending the evening watching TV. So how can we make healthy lifestyle choices when we aren't feeling so good?
I’ve noticed over the last couple of years, how increasingly less I have been making unhealthy lifestyle choices when I've been feeling stressed, down or anxious. The one-off times that I have ended up with a giant chocolate bar have become fewer and fewer.
My life involves a lot of change and transitions, which causes feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and sadness. These are times when I could easily slip up and find myself in a downward spiral of unhealthy choices. But thankfully, my mindfulness practice has given me valuable techniques to implement in these situations.
Recently I found myself having to adjust to a change in my personal life, and this brought up some intense emotions - I was feeling A LOT! My first instance was to stop off at the supermarket on the way home and stock out on some junk food to ‘make myself feel better’. However, as quickly as I had this thought, I became aware that this was not the right way to deal with it.
So what did I do instead? I went home, sat on my mat, closed my eyes and put my hands over my heart. I started to breathe into the feelings, allowing the emotions to be there, instead of trying to ignore them or push them away.
After only a few minutes, I felt a wonderful feeling of acceptance and surrender, as I was completely allowing myself to feel, allowing what is to be.
And when the emotions got intense again the next day, I did the same thing. I brought my awareness to my breath, directed it to my heart and calmed my nervous system. The power of our breath!
The practice of yoga and meditation gives us these tools and techniques that we can turn to during hard times. These practices can help us to become conscious before we make an unhealthy choice, and guide us towards something which is much more healing and nurturing - allowing, accepting, surrendering.