How Your Body Helps You to Relax
The body is immaculate but unfortunately often taken for granted. I learned that every cell of my body is loyal and designed to do one thing: SUPPORT ME!
Unfortunately before this discovery my body had no say whatsoever and I gave it no time to relax.
I’ve done so much to my body. Nights without sleep, being incredibly overworked and yet again taking on another intense dance job. Where did my body get that energy from?
From my daily dance lessons at school I took the train to perform at a dinner show in the evening. It was an intense four-hour show. Then I immediately went back to Amsterdam by train, where I bought two burgers at McDonald’s and ate them in the dressing room of the famous night club IT, before showing my moves to the eccentric guests.
And believe me,
I wasn’t holding back
on that stage!
After the last round of dance, around three in the morning, I was ready to go out to enjoy myself.
So we went to an after party somewhere in town where narcotics were also on the table. When “the after party” was finished, the night sauna or someone’s house became the place to be. I often came home the (next) afternoon to get some sleep, before I had to gather my dancing gear again.
And I could repeat this for many days in a row. I spent several nights a week awake.
There was a drive in me
that could handle it all.
That drive didn’t take
my body into account.
My body had nothing to say.
It wasn’t long after my dance career had ended that injuries started to plague me. I had issues with my shins, tight calf muscles,, and I had problems with my lower back and pelvis. These in turn caused me to have radiation in my legs and a constant cramp in my feet. It became clear to me that I had to learn to relax.
so how do you relax
when you are
Step 1: Wake up
You need to wake up from that constant active state of being. That’s what yoga taught me. As a dancer I knew how to stretch, so I stretched first. And then stretching became yoga and I was hooked.
Step 2: Do Yoga
As you will probably already realise, yoga has many different effects that are directly (physically) measurable and noticeable, so let’s point out some medical stuff.
Yoga induces a relaxation response in your body. This lowers the stress hormones in your blood, such as cortisol and adrenaline.
For example, various studies have shown that people who meditate or/and practice yoga still produce cortisol during moments of stress, but that this level drops very quickly after the stressful event has passed. However, this is not the case with the people who do not practice yoga and/or meditation.
So people who practice yoga and meditation do not build long-term physical damage due to stress. Their body also retains the ability to continue to recover and regenerate after a stressful experience. While this is often not the case with people who do not regularly meditate or practice yoga.
As a result of doing yoga:
- the heart muscles are strengthened.
- the blood flow is improved, because you have more blood vessels that transport oxygen and nutrition to your cells.
- it regulates the secretion of certain hormones.
Yoga also affects your autonomic nervous system. This is the nervous system that controls functions over which you have no conscious control. Just think of your digestion, the muscle movement, which is necessary for all your organs to function.
The autonomic nervous system consists of two other nervous systems; the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
While the sympathetic nervous system is connected with all physical reactions that we experience as stress and tension (active), the parasympathetic nervous system regulates all relaxation response (passive).
By doing yoga, for example, you balance these two nervous systems. The aim is certainly not to decrease the sympathetic activity per se, but to increase the parasympathetic response. In other words, your body just learns to relax much faster, and will eventually do this automatically.
What you do during a hatha yoga practice is to balance active poses with passive poses. This way your body learns how to become passive. Your mind won’t resist as much, because it ‘secretly’ likes the effect, and you will feel better. Further on this blog post you’ll find a yoga pose that represents passiveness and a link to a yoga-class for stress-relief.
By the way, animals do it naturally after they’ve been chased by a predator. They literally shake the stress off after a run. We aren’t taught to shake it off. In our fast-paced living yoga is an amazing tool that is the antidote. It reminds us to shake off the stress. It reminds us to relax, so that the body can restore itself.
When you don’t have the time
to do a yoga-class
you can easily use
the body for relaxation
using my STOP-method.
A method I use in my coaching is the STOP-method. You can use it whenever and wherever you are.
S = Slow down
When you’re aware that you’re too high in your energy, you’re overwhelmed, an emotion takes over, you want to lash out or shut down, then slow down. Literally stop with what you’re doing.
T = Take a breath
Turn to the body and take as many deep breaths as you need to calm down so you become more present and mindful. Forget whatever is happening around you, be unapologetic when it comes to your health. This is the moment when your body restores itself with some passiveness, creating relaxation.
O = Observe
Observe the moment with new fresh eyes. The last thing you need is to judge yourself, so be compassionate instead of judgemental.
P = Pursue
When you feel relaxed and ‘more you’, you can slowly pursue whatever task you were doing.
You can apply the STOP-method always and as many times as needed. AGAIN; never NOT do the STOP-method because of what other people might think of you. Be unapologetic!
Savasana / Corpse Pose
Corpse pose or Savasana (Sanskrit) is a very important passive pose that can also serve you in a stressful overwhelming moment.
Lie on your back, with your legs long on the floor, relaxed and falling out. Your arms are at a 40-degree angle from your body with the palms facing up. Your hands and fingers are relaxed. Your eyes are closed and your whole body is completely relaxed and heavy. Your attention is focused on the breath.
Savasana is probably
the most important pose.
It is where the whole
hatha yoga class
Try it out today if you come home and you feel you need to shake some stress off. Lie down in Savasana and allow your body to guide you towards relaxation.
Here’s also a link to a yoga for stress relief class. During this 15-minute class you will witness how your body will create relaxation and your mind will calm down.
Click on the video below.
If you have any questions for me regarding this blog or you would like to share your experience after Savasana, the yoga-class or the STOP-method, I’d love for you to connect with me! Leave a message below or mail me at email@example.com
At your service, with love
P.S For online yoga classes click here.