I am not savvy when it comes to politics. To me it’s always been a game of dirty pool. I prefer to keep my delicate mind and body in a much cleaner playing field if I’m going to engage deeply, emotionally and intellectually on a topic. After all, a toxic mind creates a toxic body and I try my best to pay deep attention to things that increase my joy, health and well-being. Politics was never one of them.
That said, I do pay enough attention to be aware of what’s going on outside my personal bubble, especially because my dad and a few close friends are obsessed with politics. Also, I feel it’s important to be well rounded and be able to engage, share or learn about topics that interest those you care about or love.
The other day I received an email from my dad about Hillary Clinton’s answer to how she survived an eleven hour grilling session from a bunch of testosterone filled dudes (I mean politicians). Yoga! This was a really big deal for several reasons. The most personal being that my dad, who now does yoga with me, felt even more validated by his efforts. He truly hates doing it, but loves how he feels after.
Even though there are numerous articles in all the major periodicals, scientific journals and dedicated magazines covering the benefits of Yoga, I still run into someone on a weekly basis who says something like this, ” You teach yoga? I can’t do yoga. I can’t even touch my toes.”
Sigh. And I live and teach yoga in the most populated yoga place on the planet, L.A.
The statement Hillary Clinton made after sitting through the Benghazi hearing for eleven hours wasn’t about her being flexible enough to sit in a chair that long. For those of you who watched the eleven hour footage you probably felt just as exhausted as she did. Many of you were aggravated, riled up, annoyed, frustrated and impatient. I’m sure she was too and yet there wasn’t a moment that she broke her calm demeanor despite her grueling situation.
Yoga doesn’t just work on our bodies. Yoga works our minds, our emotions and our ability to manage stress. I always tell my students that the mindfulness techniques they use in yoga while moving through challenging postures (asanas) is teaching them more than they realize.
Learning to deepen and slow the breath down, like we do in yoga, is a direct pipeline to handling your central nervous system in a way that reduces the havoc on the body and mind when you are under stress. When the body feels tense due to sympathetic arousal ( fight, flight or freeze) deepening the breath brings you back into control when the alarm bells go off.
Practicing mindfulness meditation while doing yoga teaches you how to pay more attention to what’s going on inside as it relates to the manipulation of the outside. In the yoga classroom the “outside” is the body and the environment in which you practice yoga. Working our bodies can be very stressful depending on many factors such as how we feel about our bodies, the condition they are in and whether we are dealing with injuries. Also, we don’t always have the luxury of a calm, quiet environment in which we practice. There can be a lot of noises, smells and visual distractions in the yoga room which makes it very challenging to stay calm.
Secretary Clinton was correct. When yoga is practiced mindfully and not just as an exercise fad or another place to escape from the stresses of life, the benefits it can give you physically and emotionally can help you to manage stress more than you realize. Just look at the way she handled eleven hours of trial. Then ask yourself how you would have fared under those circumstances? Maybe it’s time to start doing yoga, mindfully.