Life is hectic. I often like to think of my own prana/energy like a little battery. You know those ones where you can press the buttons and you get a reading of how much is left. Currently I am running on about 60% - room for more, but def not dragging my legs which is nice :)
Just like any interaction or exchange in life – everything in your life has an energy exchange – an energy impact on you. Everything – from yoga, to talking, work, relationships, friends, family, TV shows, phones, food, thoughts – EVERYTHING effects your energy – your ability to function, your stress levels, your sleep, your immune system, and more. Everything impacts your energy battery reading!! Everything either serves you ... or it does not.
Negative thoughts will zap energy out of you like you are fuelling a bulldozer whilst positive thoughts can give you more fuel to persist and continuous positively can lift you up. Watch your thoughts... can you choose ones that give you energy. Gratitude, positivity, acceptance, surrender and LOVE all go a LONG way to helping build your energy.
For example imagine resisting something that you have no control over. Being negative or dwelling over a situation you can do absolutely nothing about. HOW INSANE IS THIS!!! What would be a bigger waste of time and energy than focusing and stressing about things you have NO CONTROL over... instead try to accept things as they are and focus on the positives. You will be amazed at how your outlook and energy shifts.
People can have a positive, negative or neutral impact on you. Over the last year or so there has been much mentioned about emotional or energy vampires – you know those people in your life that you catch up with for half an hour and all of a sudden you walk away feeling like you have been hit by a car or in need of a life support machine. Drainers. Pause. Can you identify energy drainers in your life?
And of course on the opposite end of the spectrum there are those people you love, those people you walk away feeling up lifted and inspired, those people you would love to spend more time with. Pause. Can you identify people who give you energy?
Are you a habitual ‘Yes’ person? Do you have difficulties saying no? Do you find yourself in social situations to please others? Situations just like everything else impact your energy. As an introvert I often need a day to recover if I am dragged out to socialise in a big loud group of people. I can wake up feeling hung-over (even though I don’t drink) and like I just want to crawl into a cave. Conversely an afternoon walk in the sunshine makes me feel recharged and ready to take on the world. What activities and social environments fuel your soul?
Of course there is the huge food element....this is a big one. Some food is good for us and some is not. Its not as easy as listening to the media because most of that is rubbish. Some foods will make you tired, some will freshen you up, and some will warm the cockles of your heart. Its an individual thing so make sure you start to take notice of how different foods impact YOU...
Your mission should you choose to accept it, is firstly to observe your energy levels and watch what impacts you. Observe how you feel after each meal, after catching up with different friends, after being outside, after different activities.
Secondly is to start to minimise and eliminate things that do not serve you – aka energy drainers. Whether that is people (you may limit your interactions with them, choose to part ways, or change the circumstance in which you are interacting), food, thoughts – any drainers. Start to make time in your schedule for activities, people and things that nourish your soul and recharge your batteries.
Observe your life. Increase your awareness. Grow your consciousness.
Go Slow! aka Avoiding the Myotatic Stretch Reflex
So, you’re bouncing through a high speed sun salutation with a breath count of 1 second and get 10 rounds and a few quick warrior 2’s punched out in 5mins. Morning yoga done! Then you head off to work feeling flushed and end up stiff as a board 30 mins after you sit down because your muscles have all shortened.
Yoga’s supposed to make you flexible right? Let me introduce the myotatic stretch reflex. It’s a lightning fast muscle response circuit that enables you to run and jump, and then makes it really hard to touch your toes afterwards.
At its most basic, the human body consists of a skeleton, with a bunch of muscles attached to it that enable joints to move. As we live on Earth and not, say, on a space station, gravity presents a force that we simply evolved to deal with. The fact that gravity is there means that bouncy agile animals like humans have developed neat response mechanisms to enable moving quickly.
Take running. As you run, the front leg hits the ground and sends a big spike of force into the leg. If you had to consciously control the big quadriceps muscles each time you landed, you’d probably never get anywhere as you’d just fall down. The exacting muscle response to a single legged jump with enough rebound to keep momentum and balance is pretty much automatic. The conscious brain isn’t that fast to respond to outside events, there are all these little automatic response nerves that take care of stuff like running or jumping – or any quick powerful movement. If you jumped and those automatic response nerves – the myotatic stretch reflex receptors – didn’t fire, you’d simple pancake hard. Gravity is not your friend in this action.
So, those little receptors – think of them as poking sticks – are scattered all over the body, with most of them in places that will take notice of big gravity punches – like the knees, elbows, hips. You step, and the one in the knee pokes the lower motor neuron in your spinal column, which immediately flexes the quadriceps while completely ignoring to tell the brain anything happened. You’ll notice it eventually, because you’ll feel the shoe change around your foot, and your shorts will get real tight around your suddenly bulging upper leg. But you aren’t in control the big quad flex that kept you off the floor.
The next fun fact about this stretch reflex (which is named backwards I think) is this. When it pokes a muscle into forceful reaction, the muscle gets tighter. That’s why when you run you end up so stiff. You’ve send 1000’s of continuous pokes through this superfast response loop to keep taking landing shock which also makes them stiffen up. So the stretch reflex makes your muscles stiff and inflexible.
This is the important aspect for yoga. Fast movements equal unconscious movement. Those nerve receptors are doing the work of controlling big muscle groups. Your conscious control is floating around doing hardly anything. Mindful muscle engagement means you have to move slowly to avoid triggering the automatic responses.
Rushing down and back up in a plank to chatarunga transition (pushup) is not the same as a slow controlled exhale and lower with straight back, keeping the spine from sinking under the shoulder blades with elbows hard in the ribs, pausing, then inhaling back up.
Try it. Do 2x20 quick blasting pushups, have a 5-10min break, then do 1 pushup that takes 10 seconds to decend, 5 seconds pause, then 10 seconds to rise. Exhale on the way down, inhale on the way up. Keeping the chest cavity moving is another way to keep these reflexes calm.
Slow muscle moves take significantly more effort to control. There isn’t any valid shortcuts, because any speed will poke automatic responses, taking the mindfulness out of the practice. If you want to build strength, you’ll get far superior results if you slow down poses, and especially transitions – that’s why a slow float is so damn hard compared to a jump. You’ll build clearer body awareness, which will increase your ability to engage different muscles in every situation. And you wont end up stiff and sore because you over poked the myotatic receptors.
Lastly – if you a lot of the GR stretch/beginner classes, you’ll be aware of how staggeringly strong all of those slow poses can be.
Scientific Keys, Ray Long, MD
Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, H. David Coulter, PhD.
KORINNE McNEILL: Yoga is life for Korinne. Creator of the Green Room Korinne is grateful everyday that she gets to share her passion with others.