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  • Writer's pictureGayle Fleming

Yoga: The Art of Just Being (Part 2)












“We tend to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we are not doing anything we are wasting our time. But that is not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive. To be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And that is what the world needs most.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh


Many people think of Yoga as doing some physical poses that help a practitioner to become more flexible—and oh, yes—it can help to relax as well. This is often enough for a person to give Yoga a try. And that is a good thing. But on a deeper level, and I must say more important level, yoga helps us to balance our energies—to find a balance between our doing energy and our being energy. This will undoubtedly lead to a mentally and physically healthier you.


Until we die, we can never stop doing. But by learning to bring more balance between the doing and being parts of ourselves, we can greatly reduce our stress and anxiety levels. Think about this. If you drive a car and never put your foot on the brake, one of two things will happen. You will either run out of gas and be forced to stop, or you will crash into something and be forced to stop. This is analogous to what we often do to ourselves. We run ourselves physically and mentally ragged.


Yoga can help us to recognize that we are out of balance and offers us tools beyond the asanas (poses) we do in class that can help us change the imbalanced energies of doing and being.


When we are anxious and/or stressed, we involuntarily tense up muscles in our bodies. We clench our jaws, hunch our shoulders, tighten our bellies, breathe shallowly, etc. These are all natural reactions to fear, stress, and danger. But here’s the thing. Your autonomic nervous system, particularly the sympathetic nervous system doesn’t know the difference between something dangerous that is actually happening to harm you or something you are thinking about, that causes you fear, stress, or anxiety. So, if you are walking in the woods and see a snake curled up in the brush, your nervous system goes on high alert in case you have to run away or fight the snake. Your breathing becomes shallow, your heart rate speeds up and your muscles tighten. But wait. That isn’t a snake. That’s a wavy stick. When you recognize this, your parasympathetic nervous system kicks back in and you continue your walk. But your sympathetic nervous system reacted to what you thought you saw, not what you actually saw.


We are living in a world that constantly bombards us with stressful, anxiety-provoking, and fear-provoking news. Our personal lives are often lived at a pace that doesn’t allow for enough physical or mental rest.


So, in as little as 10-20 minutes, here are 3 things you can do to help you relax and “BE” in the moment. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.


Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). As I mentioned, when stress builds up, we unconsciously tense muscles and never relax them. Studies have shown that PMR is extremely helpful in relieving stress, and anxiety and can even help with depression. Click here for a video I made to take you through the exercise.


Take a walk, sans everything except your body Taking a walk without headphones, Air Pods, etc. allows you to be present and in the moment. Take a 10-20 minute walk at a normal pace. While you are walking pay attention to the feel of your feet hitting the ground. Notice the swing of your arms. Listen to the sounds outside, even if the sound is traffic. Don’t tune it out. If you start thinking about anything not happening on your walk, as soon as you notice it, shift your attention back to your body, your breath, or the sounds around you.


Have a meal or a snack all alone—just you and your food. Sit down to eat with the intention of really noticing the food you’re eating. No books, TV, phones, tablets, etc. Pay attention to every mouthful. Notice the fork or spoon going into your mouth. Notice your mouth chewing, notice the texture of the food. Notice the taste. Notice yourself swallowing. Notice yourself paying attention instead of being distracted.

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