YOGA FOR A CONNECTED HEART

YOGA FOR A CONNECTED HEART

Yoga for A Connected Heart

Have you ever felt that deep direction from universal forces and at the same time complete free will? Well that’s when your air element is home. It’s place in our body is obviously the lungs and heart. The hands and arms are extensions and express the power air through our bodies. Through them we move forward, change activities, create, express, share and receive.

The power of air, of give and take and exchange, searches for, creates and finds new openings, ways, beginnings and connections. It seeks freedom and deeper relations through movement, change and redirecting our wiring, pathways and channels. It’s very versatile and agile, just like our emotions. 

Feeling Free & Connected

Air that’s balanced allows us to feel carefree, peaceful and connected to something wholesome whilst we move, exchange and interact with others. It instils deep trust by seeing all things as being interconnected. And enthuses us with curiosity to try out new things, places, activities and meet new people. 

Through this movement and exchange of experiences new pathways are discovered and we’re inspired. We create new projects, concepts and arts from these fresh impressions and connections. We feel in flow in the grand scheme of things. Connected and free simultaneously.

Excess/ deficient -pain point & causes

Too much of the air element makes us feel spaced out, wired, spread too thin and overwhelmed. When anxiety, doubt, uncertainty and panic are symptoms. 

Our boundaries are most probably weak. Either we let in too much, or give away too much, depleting our sense of self, which we developed through our fire element. Discerning who we are and what we value becomes a vague notion when we are too busy giving, creating and over producing. 

Too little of the air manifests as lack of inspiration, motivation, creativity and energy, rigidity, denial and expert syndrome. Closed to others’ ideas, ideals, concepts and projects. We can become depressed and lack interest in new aspects of self, life and others. 

Without exchange and an influx of fresh ideas we won’t discover new insights and experiences, learn new aspects of ourselves and therefore life becomes boring and meaningless. This can become a cycle of stagnation. 

Yoga for a Courageous Heart

A balanced air element needs movement. We need to follow the cycles of ebb and flow, give and take. Full, empty and everything in between.  Life is the desire to live. And living includes growth, change and death for the new to arise.

Create balance between flexibility and strength, from physical to psychological, try new things and experiment. Confront activities, attitudes, thoughts and beliefs you hold dear, and see you’re openness, or lack of, through new experiences and expressions. Build up strength on those new found activities, attitudes and beliefs and then dare to expand a little more from that new expression of self.

  1. Embody a Courageous Heart

Working with the lungs, heart, arms and hands will activate the air element. When air is excessive, anxiety, doubt or restlessness is present, we need to strengthen the muscles and organs of this area, both back and front of heart, ribs, lungs and shoulders. Think side plank, plank, push-ups against the wall, east side stretch, and arms extended behind the back while holding a block between the hands.

If air is deficient we need to open the heart area. Yoga that extends arms up, out, back and over the head frees the heart. Spread your fingers, open and expand the chest and heart.

  • Energetic Attitude of Fresh Air

Breathe fully, taking in the full spectrum of life and releasing and expressing ourselves as fuller expression of self. In case of excess, breathe into belly area, breathe out slower with a ratio in 6: out 10. In cases of deficiency, breathe more fully into the chest, breathe out slowly and strong, with a ratio of in 8: out 6.

  • Mental Stance of Steady Openness

When excess air evokes anxiety, stop checking your phone, internet and what others are doing and focus on You. Stay in your lane and take time to rest, take a warm bath, light a candle journal get to know yourself again. It takes time to settle a mind that is vast and used to moving all the time, grant yourself all the time needed, whether hours or weeks. 

When deficient in air allow yourself to see and experience through new eyes and another’s mind. Don’t get stuck in your ways, the expert syndrome, try something new daily. Make notes of your resistance to other opinions, ideas and practices, and then dare to try them for yourself.

  • Freedom to Express & Listen

Socially air gives a sense of freedom to express, create, receive and share our very deepest self. 

Excessive air in our beliefs manifests as doubt, uncertainty and being wishy-washy. Nothing holds and nowhere to connect. Journal on your core values, see if some are influenced by outside; your loved ones, society, peers, old levels of consciousness.

Deficient air in our psyche looks like rigidity in our beliefs system. We ‘know’ everything already, often too afraid to look or listen to another’s perspective or expression of self. Denial is huge here. Journaling on what ideas or conversation we find confronting and our degree of aversion, shed light on what concepts are being questioned, and why we fear opening up to new concepts on this topic.

Ultimately Yoga is about having deep, honest and fulfilling relationships with self and others. To give and take. To create and share from the exchange. To be respons-able; able to respond openly, freely, unapologetically. 

When we live, breathe and relate fully we come from that courageous heart. One that dares to express and experience herself fully, without fear, shame, blame, guilt or judgement. We except ourselves and our shortcomings, we see these as growth opportunities, rather than threat. We know we’re perfectly imperfect just as we are. We have self love, self-appreciation and self- approval and therefore we can love, appreciate and approve of others. There is no fight, hostility or fear in a courageous heart.

EMOTIONALLY EMPOWERED BY SEEING YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

EMOTIONALLY EMPOWERED BY SEEING YOUR LIMITING BELIEFS

We can empower ourselves emotionally and live fuller lives. These two simple steps will help you overcome fears and understand your limiting beliefs. Giving you more control, calm and resilience. 

Last weeks blog about was about how feelings and thoughts can’t be divorced. And how our vagal nerve allows us to enhance our relaxation response with a smooth, slow and rhythmic practice, of breath and movement. Helping us switch from active to responsive. Using the body to calm the nervous system and mind.
Yet sometimes, even though we do relaxing activities, our body is still tense and our mind restless. “Where on earth has peace and calm wandered this time?” I find myself wondering.


We all know we have the power in our hands to create health in body and mind. Especially when we educate ourselves and apply that knowledge. But even then, sometimes it’s really hard to switch from active to calm, and somehow, we jump to reactive.Trivial events trigger us. And it feels violent when we have a ‘Creating world harmony’ ideal.
Even after practicing mindfulness and yoga for over 29 years, it’s still a work in progress.
Why?  

Obviously, emotions.

Emotions, those wonderful messengers between body and mind. Energy in motion. They’re transient. They have no substance, but they’re very powerful forces!
There is an inherent intelligence behind each emotion. A message between our inner experience and the outer stimulus. Underneath each emotion lies our body-mind intelligence communicating with us in waves of change. And the way we experience and express that e-motion, depends on many things.
Often our inner experience is strongly influenced by past memories, thoughts and perceptions associated with the outer event.

The crashing of fear

And the strongest wave is that of fear. Because our brain was intensely wired to fear for more than 2 million years, ensuring our survival, we have a fear bias. Fear triggers us to react and fast.
Using the vagal nerve is called a bottom up approach.
This week it’s a top down approach. Using the mind to understand our fear and calm the mind, nerves and soma. Both bottom up and top down complement and enhance each other. To move us away from fear we need to use all tools in our toolbox.

Somatic practice and psychology is a beautiful marriage  

1. Create Mental Space to See Triggers
Using the body, breath and mind to create mental space we can start to see triggers earlier.
The reflective moments we create through yoga and meditative practice, especially breath centred, calms the nerves and creates more mental space. Chittakasha is expanded.
Because there’s more space in our minds, we take distance from our fears. Emotions are like waves, the come crashing on the shore of our consciousness from the unconscious. Spacious mind sees the waves of fear coming from afar.
This spaciousness let’s us see what undercurrent thoughts triggered the emotion. Emotions don’t happen to us, but move through us to change. A better change, a positive change. Opportunities to improve next time round. And there’s always a next time. (Remember nothing is perfect, especially the first time, we have many opportunities to try again.)

2. Find the underlying thought 
As we see the wave of emotion coming earlier the underlying thought also becomes clear. Underneath any reaction surges a fear. And behind every fear lies a good intention. Every negative habit has a positive intent. To protect us. Find that positive intent. Hear the fear behind it. Most reactions stem from one of 5 fears.
Martina Sheehan and Susan Pearse in Wired for Lifespeak of 5 fundamental fears:
1 Fear of rejection or standing out
2 Fear of losing out or scarcity mentality
3 Fear of losing control
4 Fear of failure or not good enough
5 Fear of facing the truth or being responsible
Socially, we need acceptance of our ‘tribe’, to survive. This desire to fit in is deeply ingrained and stems from our brain, the limbic system, the oldest part of our brain. All emotional triggers, especially fear, ensure we please our tribe. That may be our society, family, peers, colleagues or friends.
So find the fear. Hear the story you keep telling yourself subconsciously.

And then take action, move with emotion

Let that energy move through you not to you. 

1 Fear of standing out – Find our voice. Diversity is beauty. Only you define yourself, not the opinion of others.  
2 Fear of losing out – See the abundance. Know whatever you have to offer, there are people out their who need your gift. Think win/win, not win/lose. When others succeed see it as prove that you can too.
3 Fear of losing control – Let go. Accept things as they are. Uncertainty holds opportunity. 
4 Fear of failure – Take the chance, the challenge and grow. Progress not perfection is key to moving forward.
5 Fear of facing the truth – Take responsibility. Own your life, thoughts, feelings, actions and situation. Then take the steps to create the life You want to live.

So, hear the story you keep telling yourself, and find the underlying push your subconscious is trying to give you to move you toward a greater self. A less limited self. And if you dare to be really brave, a limitless self in a world with certain limits.
Namaste dear friend, so much love to You, Be that brave One,

Shira.

 Next time reaction happens ask which of the fears is asking You to change and move forward.

 What limiting belief or fear holds You back?

ONE NERVE TO EASE OR DIS-EASE

ONE NERVE TO EASE OR DIS-EASE

The Vagus Nerve

A hype in Yoga therapy circles, adamant I wasn’t joining in, for years, it sat on the shelf. Then Ganesh Mohan mentioned Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory at the Yoga therapy training, thrice. Finally, I dove in… 

Why hadn’t I done so earlier?!

Mindset, fear, limiting beliefs, lack of self confidence, resistance, procrastination, lethargy. Take your pick. If you ask me, a little of each. 

The vagus nerve affects all of these, and so much more, for better or for worse, depending on which pathway our vagus activates easier.

Two paths, two very different outcomes

The Vagus nerve has two pathways one to excite, sympathetic, and the other to relax and rebalance, parasympathetic. Yoga-based practices intrinsically promote vagal tone and decrease the wear and tear of the body. Yoga practiced intentionally, with slow rhythmic breathing during the physical, emotional and mental challenges of practice, allows us to exercise non-reactiveness in stressful situations. It increases parasympathetic vagal tone.

So you might ask, “What does that mean for me?”

Well, the tone of our vagus nerve directly impacts our wellbeing and physiology. If we work more in the activated and excited state,that most of us are in daily, we strengthen the tone and circuitry of sympathetic- fight or flight response. and if we are great at relaxing, allow our bodies to rest and restore when it asks for it, we increase parasympathetic- rest and digest response circuitry.  

This impacts everything from our weight, sleep, immunity, inflammation of organs and tissues, stress response, general wellbeing, to our ability to relax, the shine of our hair, the health of our skin, our energy levels, which affect depression and anxiety are affected by vagal tone!

How it Works its Wonders through Wandering 

Its name comes from the Latin vagus,means wandering. And like a vagabond it’s dedicated to travelling from all the organs to communicate our organic state. Our perception of it’s value is vague because it moves so subtly. 

If we wander with the longest cranial nerve in the body on a journey from brainstem, striated muscles in the face, head, neck, back of the tongue, ears, down the throat to the lungs, heart, and deep down into the gut, we touch all feeling tissues. The vagus nerve connects skin, muscles and our entire visceral body. Viscera means deeply feeling. Its our innate organ sensing and communicates with our brain how we feel. Basically, its our emotional pathway.

Most nerves are either able to sense or enable us to move, the vagal does both. It controls sense and motor communication between feeling and acting. It’s importance as pathway of bodily intelligence, is finally beginning to surface in modern medicine. Physiologically interwoven throughout our entire system, Yoga benefits the vagal nerve. Vagal tone is strongly impacted by slow rhythmic breathing of Yoga, and movement enhances our sensitivity to our inner states.[i]

Pretty influential, when you feel it.

Visceral messages like gut feelings, butterflies, instinct, intuition, are all initiated by this amazingly wondrous nerve. Called Neuroception, this perception of the body’s neurons without awareness of the mind instinctively sense our environment and another’s neural signals. These feelings draw our awareness and attention within the body. These sensations tell us we need to make some changes. Either in the lifestyle or dietary habits, or our environment, the people we hang out with or the work we do. 

When we ignore the body’s intelligence that something’s wrong, again and again, we’ll develop dis-ease. This is just the body’s way to say, “Hello, you’re not listening! Hey, you up there, you need to make some changes!”. Continue to ignore the cues, due to insensitivity, lack of will, or ignorance, and it builds up into deep seated dis-ease. Ayurveda calls this process Samprapti. It becomes chronic. 

What You can do to Tone that Wandering Nerve  

1. Feel Safe and Welcome

One of the most important things for our vagus nerve is feel safe. Feeling safe is the precursor of healing and thriving. That bodily sensation of safety, when we relax, rest and digest. When the nervous system rests, the vagal nerve switches from sympathetic mode, meaning active, ready to run, escape or fight, to parasympathetic, meaning passive, ready to restore, absorb and enjoy. 


Our organs of digestion, reparation and growth, are only nourished when we’re relaxed. Feeling safe is basis for a healthy relationships, social engagement and play. Safety is the foundation for higher brain function and higher states of awareness, which gives way to our creative, intuitive and joyous nature.  

2. Slow Rhythmic Breathing

The wandering nerve will wander less aimlessly if we breathe slowly and with the intention to breathe rhythmically. Especially the out breath will enhance the parasympathetic nervous system. If you find it hard to relax, then breathing out slower then in will bring the ralation mode into play. Breathe out for 8 seconds and in for 4-6, as you feel comfortable. Do this for at least 10 rounds. But the more the merrier 🙂

3. Practice Yoga with Slow Rhythmic Movement

Yoga movement practiced slow and with rhythmic intention deepens the breath, strengthening core muscles and enhances our baroreceptor sensitivity. [i]  It also makes sure our awareness is switched on. This in and of itself assures calming the nervous system, stilling the mind and regulates emotions and energy levels because we’re more attuned. 


We can use the body to engage the relaxation part of the Vagus by doing simple movements such as cat cow, or gentle or modified sun salutations.

4. Use a Positive Affirmation that Creates a Sense of Welcome

Whatever fear comes up, ask what the thought is behind that fear, hear the words and then find the exact opposite words to strengthen your positive intention to feel safe, welcome and accepted. The Vagus works both top down and bottoms up. Meaning we can override it from our bodily sensations, or with thoughts.

So we want to create a smooth slow and rhythmic practice, both of the breath, the movement and mental patterns.

The intention and the intensity will also benefit your Wandering nerve, the wandering mind and our sometimes wandering health, while we wonder where in heavens it went this time…. 

Know you have the power in your hands, body and mind, when You educate yourself and apply that knowledge!! Begin to move with your Wandering Nerve. Start that journey of wondering with life, it’s complexity, it’s completeness and your capabilities.


Namaste, much love, safety and nourishment to Your Soul,

Shira.

 
 
[i]Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, Lorenzo Cohen, Timothy McCall, Shirley Telles- The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care