How I Found My Flow Just by Moving My Body!

How I Found My Flow Just by Moving My Body!

Picture a peaceful, serene area or zen garden where you move through the poses of yoga with ease. You’re so in-tune with yourself and feel so connected to the vibrant natural world around you. 

Ah.. what bliss… 

Wait a minute. 

This is a dream, right? My days and schedule are so busy, I don’t even know if I have the time for this. 

If any of these thoughts crossed your mind, you are in good company. I too was where you are today. 

My perspective of yoga was that it was merely a nice thought or idea. Not something I could ever imagine myself actually doing on a regular basis. 

My days were filled with working regular 8 to 10 hour (even 12 hour) shifts in healthcare Monday through Friday. Weekends were spent recuperating and getting ready to go at it all over again the next week. I couldn’t imagine that I had or could find the time to participate in this practice. 

All I knew about yoga was that it was for:

  • flexible and physically fit people
  • people who had a lot of time
  • a workout in or outside a gym

What I would soon realize is that yoga can be practiced by and benefit anyone. Yep, you heard me right…anyone!

While yoga can often be utilized as a workout to tone and firm muscles of the body, it’s also an exercise in a therapeutic technique of mindfulness. The movements in a yoga practice help you develop a connection and communication with your body, mind and spirit. 

This new concept is what piqued my own curiosity and interest in the practice. It provided an open door to my own spiritual journey. 

If you have been on the fence about doing yoga, I would encourage you to give it a try. It’s a mindful modality that helps you feel centered. It’s affordable at yoga studios or recreation centers. It can even be free with an at-home practice!

Just a little can go a long way with your health and well being!

A Deeper Dive into the Body, Mind and Spirit with Yoga

When I first decided to give it a try, I began with short practices. I learned that it wasn’t about getting into the pose perfectly, but something so much more. I became fascinated.

Although the poses do have so many physiological benefits for your body, one of the main concepts of yoga is that it’s a communication with your body, mind, and breath. This communication works towards a common goal. 

More than that… it moves tense stagnant energy through your body to be released. 

The phrase breathe into it is often heard in a yoga practice. But what exactly does this mean? What happens when you work with your breath to get into a position that seems tricky to find balance with? 

As human beings, we are physically made up of many communities of cells within our bodies. As you take a moment to do something as simple as breathing deeply, it’s a domino effect throughout your whole body. 

On a deeper level, it helps work with the neurons (your brain cells) to fire at a more harmonious rate. Helping create and send endorphins throughout your body that help you feel centered, joyful, peaceful and even relaxed.

A process commonly referred to as the rest and digest response in the parasympathetic nervous system.

To back up for a moment, we’ll explore the physicality of our brains to learn more about these functions and how a yoga practice can help create balance in body, mind, and spirit.

In the human brain, we have what’s called the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls the functions of the heart, liver, intestines, and other internal organs. This system is made up of two branches that work together to create balance. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The sympathetic nervous system, along with stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, influence physical changes within your body including raising blood pressure, heart rate as well as dilating your pupils. These changes, known as the fight-or-flight response, help in a crisis situation so you can escape to safety.

While the SNS helps in responding to a stressor, the parasympathetic nervous system is what slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure to allow recovery after an intense situation. During this process, the blood that was shunted to the extremities to assist with the fight-or-flight response returns to the internal organs.

And of course my curious inner-student desired to discover more about this relationship. Studies have shown just how the PNS can be increased by practices of yoga.

In a 2012 study, researchers (Streeter, et al), discovered how the physical effects of yoga practices positively influence the human body in the PNS. This is largely due to yogic breathing practices. For example:

A controlled study of 183 survivors of the 2004 Southeast Asia tsunami found that within one week, an eight-hour yoga breathing intervention resulted in a 60% decline in scores on the Post-traumatic Stress Disorders Checklist (PCL-17) and a 90% drop in scores on the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). These improvements were sustained at 6-week and 6-month follow-up. In comparison, no significant change occurred in PCL-17 or BDI scores between baseline and 6-weeks in the wait-list control group [30]. 

This demonstrates how yoga breathing practices assist in harmonizing the human body. In addition, their study recognized the following from researchers Brown and Gerbarg:

[Scientists] describe a neurophysiologic model for the effects of yoga breathing in which stretch receptors in the alveoli, baroreceptors, chemoreceptors, and sensors throughout the respiratory structures send information about the state and activity of the respiratory system through vagal afferents and brainstem relay stations to other CNS structures where they influence perception, cognition, emotion regulation, somatic expression, and behavior. (2005 and 2009)

Through additional research by (Nemeroff, et al.), Streeter and Co concluded that “the therapeutic effects of yoga can be understood through the direct effect it has with the ANS and indirectly affects the GABA system”. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks certain brain signals and decreases SNS activity This induces a calming effect in the body. Their evidence also suggests that yoga practices are effective treatments and can increase both PNS and GABA activity.

When you deeply breathe, you slow down your heart rate (with the PNS response) and create this beautiful feeling of “I am safe”. This feeling helps the muscles and all cells in your body relax. When relaxed, they work together to find their way to achieve your goal.

Now that we’ve explored these benefits of and science behind yoga, the little road bump still remaining is finding the time and place to practice.

Oh, the Places to Practice Yoga…

The most challenging part with a yoga practice is often said to be creating the time to get onto the mat. 

True story – I too have had those days, weeks, etc where I didn’t feel that I had time to get on the mat and practice. However, every time I choose to get on the mat, I remember just how much I enjoy it. I remember how fun it is and how good I feel with each practice. 

It’s during these times where I wonder, “why did it take me so long to get back into it?”

I love that yoga is so flexible (pun intended!) and it can be practiced anywhere! You can choose to participate in or outside of a class. In a class you can feel that sense of oneness and coherence with your community and classmates. 

If you feel more comfortable outside a classroom, a home yoga practice also has amazing benefits. It’s free. You can practice it on the go (in a park or simply standing in line at the store!)! And you can participate with instructors with online videos on YouTube! 

What blew me away was the understanding that you can even do yoga in a chair at home or while you’re at the office. Without a yoga mat!

Say what?! Yoga without a yoga mat?! 

Yes indeed, you heard me right! 

If getting down to the floor is tricky for you…you can simply sit in a chair for the practice!

If you’re working long days in the office (home office or elsewhere)…you can follow some simple techniques that can be done in a chair or just by standing up!

When I worked the Monday-Friday healthcare industry job (a mixture of hands-on activity and charting at the computer for 8-12 hours), I would take a moment to stand up and do a few simple yoga stretches. Oh and let me tell you… this helped so much! The saying a little goes a long way …rang true!

Most of the time, I practice with the Yoga with Adriene online community on YouTube. I absolutely love and highly recommend this for anyone interested in practicing yoga at any level! At other times, I will unroll my mat and go with what my body naturally needs to do to find what feels good– ranging from extended cat-cow to a vinyasa and child’s pose. 

I love how each time being on the mat is so unique (what a metaphor)! Some days it’s working on getting that sense of mind-body connection.. working with your body to release pent up stress within. And some days it’s an exciting adventure flowing with each vinyasa. 

The duration of any given practice can range from merely 5 minutes to 1 hour. Totally up to you and what you’re needing. You can do full body routines or mainly focus on one specific area. Even when you do focus on one specific area, it affects other areas of your body as well because everything is connected. 

Wow! What amazing ways to find, see, and bring forth into your awareness the oneness within! Now that we’ve covered the when and where of the practice, I’m happy to share with you the common supplies that may enhance your practice.

Yoga Supplies to Enhance your Practice:

When I first got into practicing yoga, I legit had next to nothing of what I had seen in all the pictures and magazines regarding typical yoga supplies. My first mat (I call it my starter mat) was a thin mat that I found at my local TJ Maxx- for a great bargain I might add! 

At the time, I hadn’t fully committed to practicing yoga until I found myself a mat. In retrospect, I must say that the mat found me. And thus I committed to the practice, wearing what I would usually wear for a work out – a tshirt and sweatpants.

Good times, however I have since expanded greatly from then! Haha!

Here are a few examples of supplies I currently have for my yoga practices:

  • A yoga mat (or a towel to practice on if you don’t have a yoga mat) 
  • Nice and flexible material clothing (yoga tank tops and yoga pants/leggings)
  • Folded blanket(s) (providing extra cushion and support to bottom, knees & wrists as needed) 
  • A stack of thick books as a sub for yoga blocks (a work in progress with my leg flexibility and will soon buy yoga blocks to help bring the Earth to me until I can easily forward-fold and touch the mat with my palms!)
  • A cozy area to practice in
  • An open mind

While a towel can be substituted for a yoga mat during short-term, I personally recommend using an actual yoga mat in the long run for safety reasons regarding types of flooring surfaces (safety first!). 

There are so many beautiful ways that you can incorporate and practice yoga in your own way that works best for you and your daily routines! So many simple things that you can do to practice this activity and I just love the versatility of it!

I do recommend however, to give it your full intention and effort while practicing.

From my own practice and education, I learned that yoga is also about taking the time for yourself to explore, play and find what feels good to you. As you do this, you develop and maintain communication with your body. This also inspires the sense of oneness and connectedness to the community within yourself. 

This, my friend, is an act of self-love.

You know that saying that goes, “may we live like the lotus, at home in the muddy water”? I literally felt the truth of this phrase after I finished one of my home yoga routines. 

I felt a strong sense of connection and oneness with everything around me. I was one with the world in every beautiful way possible.

And no matter what I had experienced at my place of work that day or what housework I needed to get done… the oneness that I felt illustrated to me how everything, including myself, would be okay.

And it was. Plus I was inspired to continue another yoga practice!

Whether it is trying yoga for the first time or getting back into it after a bit of a hiatus, I encourage you to take that first step with this practice. 

That little bit of guided movement connecting my body and mind helped me find my flow of being centered in this dance of life! With this experience, I can validate the phrase..a little goes a long way!

P.S. I would love to know: Where do you prefer practicing yoga and what inspired this area?

Feel free to share this with me and also how your own practice goes in the comment section below! 

References

Nemeroff CB, Mayberg HS, Krahl SE, McNamara J, Frazer A, Henry TR, et al. VNS therapy in treatment-resistant depression: clinical evidence and putative neurobiological mechanisms. Neuropsychopharmacology 2006;31:1345–55.

Streeter CC et al. Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Med Hypotheses (2012), doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2012.01.021

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