“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” -Kahlil Gibran
It’s no overstatement to say our nervous systems have been through it this year. With our lives upturned by the pandemic, there’s never been a better time for yoga, which is a powerful tool for dealing with the stress and uncertainty of the times.
At Haven on the Lake, we’re taking these healing effects up a notch with a four-week online course specifically designed to rebalance the nervous system and activate the relaxation response. Haven yoga instructor Olga Campora will guide participants through the science behind certain yoga, meditation, breathing and mindfulness practices to relieve stress and anxiety.
This course is open for all ages and will take place on December 1, 8, 15 and 22 from 5-6 pm. To register, call 410-715-3020.
Yoga as a Tool For Leaning into the Present
For centuries, yoga has been helping people feel more present. Because anxiety so often stems from projecting into the future, it makes sense that dropping into the present moment is incredibly therapeutic.
“Just by practicing poses and breathing, you begin to calm down as you realize you have the power to slow down,” said Campora, who has 30 years of experience working specifically with people who are dealing with depression and anxiety. “The breath is what starts to soften the mind. So if you know how to control your breath, you can control your mind and therefore your anxiety.”
In addition to breathwork, mindfulness is another component of yoga that aims to quiet the mind and cultivate greater peace. Mindfulness doesn’t mean being totally enlightened or blissed out 24/7; rather, it’s the capability to be present with whatever is arising in your life.
“Mindfulness means you can sit with the feeling or thought you have without just trying to push it away,” said Campora. “A human being has about 70,000 thoughts per day, so we know it’s all temporary. It comes and goes. When you acknowledge that you’re sad and can embrace that sensation, it tends to pass through more quickly than when you resist it.”
In our modern lives, it’s all too easy to push away these feelings — after all, we’re surrounded by distractions and numbing agents. The beauty of yoga is that it directs our attention inward, introducing us to how it feels to sit with our emotions. Because we’re all experiencing the highs and lows of this strange and unprecedented year, yoga is a wonderful tool for riding the waves of “the 2020 experience” with more peace and resilience.
Beyond boosting your emotional state, yoga also acts as a buffer from the damaging physical effects of stress. Because stress causes your body to pump out an excess of cortisol, it can lead to inflammation over time — plus, it lowers your lymphocytes, the white blood cells that fight off infection, which means you’re that much more vulnerable to viruses when your levels take a dip.
“Whenever we are in a unique challenge or trial, it can either crush us or be a huge learning tool,” said Campora. “Because we need to dig deeper under these circumstances, we are asked to go to a different type of resource: our internal resources. There’s no better time for self-care than stormy circumstances. We need to choose the tools that work best for us, and what’s cool about yoga is that it works!”