When the days become shorter and colder, our body tells us to slow down, go to bed earlier, make our lifestyle a bit more nurturing. However, as the holiday season approaches, I find that life often gets busier and more frantic…
According to Ayurveda, autumn is the Vata Dosha season. What does this mean? Vata literally means “wind” - a mix of air and Ether/space; Dosha means that which tends to go out of balance. The signs of excess Vata are anxiety, fear, spaciness and exhaustion. There are a number of things we can do to reduce Vata, and feel more grounded and nurtured.
First of all, look after our diet and eat warm, grounding food with plenty of root vegetables.
Second, look after your joints by massaging the body with warm organic, untoasted sesame oil, before having a shower or a bath. It gives a warm nurturing feeling and instant wellbeing.
Finally, and most importantly, slow down your practice: even if you are keen on Yang types of activities or yoga which requires stamina and muscle power (power yoga, hot yoga, vinyasa yoga etc.), it is important to allow time for more Yin (gentle, calming) practices such as Restorative Yoga, Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation with a slight trace of awareness), Pranayama and Meditation.
Regardless of the time of the year, fast pace modern life, multi-tasking, too much time spent on electronic devices, often triggers stress, fatigue and anxiety, even more so in a busy capital city like London. Stress is a very natural and necessary process which in small doses, helps us to keep motivated, pro-active, and eager to achieve something. Stress can also be a life saver when we are presented with a life threatening /dangerous situation. The mind alerts the body that danger is present and as a result, the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys starts secreting “stress hormones”, which act upon the autonomic nervous system, and prepare the body for the “fight or flight response”. The heart beats faster, increasing the blood pressure, the mind becomes more alert. The muscle tension is increased, ready for “spring/ explosive action”.
However, when stress becomes too much and too often, the mind becomes confused and starts triggering the “fight or flight” physiological response, even though there is no dangerous situation as such. As a result, the adrenal glands become depleted, affecting notably the kidney chi (the pranic energy/ vital force in the kidneys). In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered amongst the most important organs as their health reflects on the smooth running of other vital organs, the cardio-vascular and digestive systems, and also the joints and the bones. “Bad stress” also affects the metabolism, and the ratio of good/bad cholesterol in the body. It creates physical and mental tension, often leading to poor posture and shallow breathing, and also affects the quality of sleep. In time, this can lead to a state of chronic fatigue, anxiety, and can act as an “activator” to all kinds of dormant medical conditions.
Relaxation is the antidote. A good way to start is by introducing “Relaxation snacks”, so that on a daily basis you get some kind of quality time for yourself, whether it means to spend time in silence to walk in a park, read a book, paint or play music. Something which fits into your lifestyle and that you will easily keep up with. The next step to reduce stress and build reservoirs of energy is to practice Yoga, especially Restorative and Yin Yoga, which both focuses on holding postures for a longer period of time, often using props (bolsters, blankets, bricks and blocks,etc.) . This allows the body to safely open and release stress and tension. It creates space in the body and the mind, so that our innate natural healing process can occur. As stated by Judith Hanson Lasater, renowned ‘Relax & Renew’ yoga teacher and therapist: “We work very hard in our lives, and while we may sleep, we rarely take time to rest. Restorative yoga poses help us learn to relax and rest deeply and completely. During deep relaxation, all the organ systems of the body are benefited, and a few of the measurable results of deep relaxation are the reduction of blood pressure, serum triglycerides and blood sugar levels in the blood, the increase of the “good cholesterol” levels, as well as improvement in digestion, fertility, elimination, the reduction of muscle tension, insomnia and generalized fatigue.”
So, see how you can start bringing more relaxation into your life and let it work its magic… In time and with consistency, notice how it makes you feel, how it impacts your life in general, and how you carry this into the world… how it reflects on your surroundings and your relationship with those around you.
Written by Berenice Wurz-Smith
Berenice's next restorative yoga workshop will take place on Friday 4 November at 6pm.