Not All Yoga is Relaxing! Here’s Why This is Freaking Awesome…
Some of you have read in my previous posts that I am passionate about stress management! Not too long ago, I was practicing yoga regularly, and thinking that this was helping me to reduce stress. In certain ways, it was! I was ALWAYS in a better mood after class, I was moving my body and stretching, taking time away from screens, doing something solely for myself, and experiencing feelings of joy that were directly related to practicing yoga. All good things.
What I didn’t realize was that the relaxing effect I experienced was surface level. I had reduced stress for that series of moments (whether it lasted for the rest of the week or only until I got cut off on my drive home from class…), but I wasn’t necessarily creating patterns of long-term change in my inner being. And I certainly had no idea that certain types of postures and breathing practices could actually CONTRIBUTE TO AGITATION.
Now let me pause and acknowledge a few general things:
Moving your body is ALWAYS good.
Getting your blood flowing and generally being more active can help to improve sleep, immunity, confidence, digestion, mindset, and generally keep you healthy. We are not meant to be sedentary!
All of these things may contribute to managing stress and your wellbeing to a certain extent.
HOWEVER, have you ever been to a yoga class at night and then not been able to sleep? Or noticed that you’re agitated later or the next day? Or experienced feelings of anger and irritability EVEN after an awesome class?
Our beings are so beautifully complex and intricate, and we respond deeply to energetics that we aren’t even aware of! We truly are designed intelligently. We not only pick up on the energy that is all around us, but the way we move and breathe profoundly influences our physical state, mental patterns, and physiology. So. Freaking. Cool. Right?
The ancient teachings of yoga provide principles for how to use energetics throughout our practice to influence the deep corners of our being in a powerful way. The effect you get comes from a combination of the chosen postures (Asana-s), breathing techniques and patterns (Pranayama), chanting if you practice that, and the WAY that you practice all of these things in relation to one another. For example, you can create energizing and nourishing effects from things like backbends and working with the inhale (we call this Brmhana – “BRAHM-hah-nah”); you can create calming effects from things like forward bends and working with exhale (this is called Langhana – “LONG-hah-nah”); or you can emphasize balance through a combination of the two (Samana – “sah-MAH-nah”). So to put it very simply, if someone is already agitated (or has a tendency toward that) doing a ton of backbends can drive you bonkers whether you realize it’s happening or not! Or for someone who wakes up sleepy every morning, doing a bunch of forward bends when you wake up is not going to support you energetically when you get to work – you will literally need so much coffee because you just told your body we are back in sleep mode! On the flipside, if you are like me and have so much trouble calming down (ever) and not being spastic at the end of the day, a Langhana practice in the evening can seriously serve you! We are all unique, so the energetic influence of our practice will affect us each totally differently, including at different times of the day. What’s so cool is that we can use this to our advantage if we approach yoga intentionally.
OK so getting realistic, what can you take away from this? 2 things.
Observe yourself after you practice – if you feel like you’re getting funny effects from whatever class you took, see if there are other classes on the schedule that might serve you better! (for example try going to a power yoga rather than gentle or restorative, or vice versa). Yoga will serve you as long as you are mindful of and attentive to what you need physically and energetically and honor that. I’m always here to help you choose a better fit!
Yoga is literally always here for you through all phases of life! (YAY! THANKS YOGA!) Whether you are stressed, feeling dull, feeling regular, depressed, anxious, joyful, young, old, fit, inflexible, annoyed – there are postures, breathing, chanting, meditations, rituals, and all kinds of tools to serve your individual needs on an ever-changing and fluctuating day-to-day basis. It can energize you or get you grounded. It can heal you. It can help you reach your fullest potential when used appropriately. Yoga is so much more than just down dog (though we DO love down dog!) If you’re not getting what you need from group classes, find someone to design a personal practice for you, catered to your needs and interests! Viniyoga teachers are always dependable for individualized stuff – you can find one HERE!
Yoga is about YOU. The practitioner.
If you’ve ever felt funny after a class, I hope this has given you some basic education on why that might be. I invite you to observe how you feel after class! This stuff is super powerful and can really benefit us as individuals, but sometimes it could totally exacerbate your probs if you are going to a class that isn't appropriate for what you, specifically, are needing!
If you are a yoga practitioner and are interested in developing a personal practice catered to your individual needs, I’d be happy to help put you on an awesome yoga path that truly serves you! OR if you are a teacher that is interested in learning how to design sequences in a way that is energetically appropriate for your classes, hit me up!
Would love to hear your questions and comments! Please let me know if you’ve enjoyed this post.