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Yoga for Mental Wellness

Yoga for Mental Wellness is an educational experience and yoga practice.  Learn different movements, breathing, functional anatomy and physiology to help regulate emotions, release stress, feel relaxed and grounded.

Drawing on 5 Pillars of wellness,  each week we will explore different aspects of Wellness:

Physical Wellness – focus on benefits of yogic movement (Asana)  practice to create more fluidity and blood flow in the body.

Emotional Wellness – Negative and repressed emotions are a drain on energy.  Focus on hips, chest and the core which are common areas of blocked emotional energy.

Intellectual Wellness – learning stimulates and expands resilience.  Learn anatomy and the physics of breathing.

Spiritual wellness – targeting chest and arms to open the heart energy, feel connected and joyous.

Environmental and Social wellness – It’s all about relationships.  Starting with our environment and self, creating a safe “space” to practice in, increasing our awareness of negative self talk during our practice.

It is recommended for students to commit to weekly classes to experience each of the 5 pillars.  However attendance to single classes is also welcome.

“Yoga helps up to move through life with greater ease and grace. “

What is mental wellness and how does yoga help?

What does mental wellness look like for you?

Learn more

Consider that wellness of any kind is not a destination – but a continuum – and that at any week, month, year, day or minute that we are somewhere along that continuum, moving either in the direction towards or away from wellness.

What does emotional wellness look like for you? How will it feel and play out in your life if you are moving toward the wellness part. Perhaps it could be having a more conscious awareness of emotions as they are being experienced, having an appropriate window of tolerance and self regulation. Self regulation is the ability to manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviours in such a way as to maintain focus and direction to one’s overall life goals and intentions.

A few helpful things to understand – and please remember that these insights are a basic summation of my understanding of the way things work – there is definitely more detail and accuracy available from much more learned people than I … but here is what makes sense for me.

Negative Bias – our nervous system is wired to keep us safe and so our “psyche” has a negative bias –our mind and awareness is hard wired to notice the negative / the bad in our world – sometimes to the complete exclusion of “good”. This can be overwhelming and can lead to feelings of exasperation, helplessness and depression.

But the exciting thing is that we can change, re wire – enter the concept of Neuroplasticity – neurons that fire together wire together. So by giving attention to the good, soaking in the positive can help to tilt the brain focus more towards positive. I find sankalpas are a really potent tool in helping to bump away from negative bias – “ I am …….steady and awake”. Also working within personal limits in a physical yoga practice, establishing a practice that it is a positive and enjoyable experience, every practice.

How is it that the negative emotions can sometimes “burst out of nowhere” charging into awareness with lightning spend and the grace of a bull in a china shop!!

Physiology of the brain – the hippocampus (memory bank) and the amygdala are responsible for initiating fear and strong emotional reactions and can react so fast that we sometimes have a fright response before we even know what has scared us. The danger message has bypassed the cortex, the thinking and problem solving part of the brain . The amygdala is already functioning in utero but the cortex is much slower and requires training to develop. When the cortex realises that we are actually safe , a biochemical response is initiated, reducing neuronal excitability and generally calming us down . So how do we strengthen our cortex’s ability to calm strong emotions and un-necessary stress response?

Meet the vagus nerve – the vagus nerve acts like a brake on the cortex as it regulates breath, heart rate and digestion in response and is the main conduit of parasympathetic information from the brain to the heart lungs and tissues. So practices that tone and stimulate vagus nerve can improve learning and mood and reduce sympathetic activation. In yoga, breath centred poses, relaxation, humming, singing, are all tools to stimulate vagus nerve function.

So having a bottom up approach to wellness – using a yoga practice rich in personal choices, having a familiar practice which helps us to come to a calm place – tones vagal nerve , helps to regulate the activation of the amygdala, and improve our ability for self regulation.

Carolyn

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” Viktor Frankl