Consciously uncouple from your stress patterns
So let’s set our intention to consciously uncouple! Not from each other, but from the pattern of stress. Because if there is one pattern that is endemic today it is the pattern of chronic stress.
Stress is also a root pattern.
Locking into stress locks us into all sorts of behaviour patterns – mental, emotional, physical and energetic. So loosening ourselves from stress is a great starting point when we grow to loosen ourselves from other patterns we are entangled in.
Many of us discover yoga when we want to de-stress.
We take our first yoga class because we have heard that it is great for relaxation. And it is – it works! It works both in and of itself – for example when we experience that feeling of total-being relaxation after a fast-flowing Vinyasa class. And it works through paying specific attention to where we feel tension in our physical bodies – for example in a Yin class. We keep coming back for more. So how can we take that feeling of ease and relaxation off our mats and into our worlds?
Our study of self
One of the three pillars of all forms of all yoga is Svadhyaya or self-study. Which basically means using our faculty of awareness to observe and study ourselves. We do this on and off our mats. Now the tricky thing about stress is that it is good at hiding! Which means we may all be a bit more stressed than we think we are. Stress is good at hiding because our nervous system works on so-called change messages – it registers and reacts to changes in our system. So that if we chronically sustain a higher level of stress our nervous system takes this as the new normal. It is only when our stress becomes even higher that it notices change. This means we need to look really good at ourselves to find our signposts of stress.
One of the places to find our stress signposts is in our behaviour.
Which means we have to start observing ourselves in everyday situations – at work, at home, alone, and with friends and family. Behaviours such as the following could be an indication of stress:
- Being easily irritated in interactions with others – colleagues, friends and family
- Getting regularly knocked off balance when the unexpected happens
- An inability to pay attention to the task at hand – finding ourselves easily distracted
- Difficulty relaxing or disturbed sleep patterns
The list above is not exhaustive – and other factors could be at play. And, whether the above speak to you or not, we each have to do our own work to grow our awareness of our stress signposts.
- For a more detailed exploration of the above – including a fun ‘stress recognition’ exercise and a micro-break practice – you can watch my video for EkhartYoga “The Pattern of Stress“
And then – and most importantly – we have to intervene.
The best intervention strategy is to disrupt the pattern.
And a great way to disrupt the pattern of stress is to take a step back. To take a micro-break. A couple of minutes where we just sit and breathe. We turn our attention from whatever may be going on outside and in our heads. We focus on the breath coming in and out, and on the sensations in our body. A couple of minutes is really all it takes. Then after disrupting our stress, we can re-engage with the situation from a position of openness.
The pattern of yoga as a pill
One of the patterns we can get entangled in is what has been called “yoga as a pill”. This is exactly the behaviour I described at the beginning of this post – that we get caught in the pattern of using our yoga practice as our weekly or daily pill to relax from the stresses of the rest of our life.
Once we take our study of self off our mats to explore stress, and we start to disrupt our stress reactions, we bring ourselves into an overall lower level of stress. Our new normal is a lower overall level of stress. So that when we roll out our mats and practise, our yoga becomes less of a pill and we literally have more space to explore and grow.