It all came down to nervous system regulation. Not words I was familiar with at the beginning.
I started yoga with commitment when I was 29, after a couple of years of trying out classes occasionally.
What got me hooked was my first Ashtanga class.
90 super tough minutes of led primary series, which left my entire body trembling on the two hour journey home across London. I walked through the door and said to my partner, “I’ve found it.”
I hadn’t consciously been looking for anything. I can’t recollect what motivated me to start going to yoga classes, most of which left me bemused, or in the back row of mats next to my best friend, suppressing hysterics.
But here ‘it’ was.
I felt really, really calm. My mind was so quiet. I felt in my body, with a strange, unfamiliar sense of positivity and contentment.
I didn’t have the self awareness or the words to express it at the time, but I was struggling with constant anxiety and low level depression. It is a common story…..My life was outwardly successful, but I didn’t like living in a city, or my stressful job, I was ignoring that my relationship was in trouble and I was low in energy all the time.
I have an essay worth of constructively critical things to say about the Ashtanga yoga system, but it did its job that day.
I didn’t really understand what had happened, but I started to grasp how the stress off switch had been activated (hello parasympathetic response). I started to practice every day. I didn’t care that I was really weak and stiff, I never really cared about what I could and couldn’t do, I just needed to keep going for over an hour and I would feel calm and embodied and have some perspective on my life. Compared to a taught class, I loved the quiet and sweaty focus of self practice. It became my place of strength and refuge.
Now I understand that I was regulating my nervous system. I needed to learn how to quieten an anxious mind by switching to the parasympathetic (rest and restore) response better, AND for me, I also needed the challenge of physical strength/movement to have a healthier sympathetic response. I needed more stamina and to widen my ‘window of tolerance’ of what perceived stress I could handle without feeling wiped out.
Yoga provided this integration of focus, breath and being in the body which develops more balance in the nervous system.
A very winding path continued from there, but yoga stayed as my lifelong practice, it is my own wild and positive experiences which have led me to teach and now to be sharing what I find useful about the effects of yoga on the nervous system with you.