The Total Self

"You don't get over the shadows inside you simply by walking away from them." - Pico Iyer, The Art of Stillness

[I have a love of neurological research and psychological tools. I believe they provide outstanding support to the ancient traditions of yoga. Students often ask me if the sensations they experience in class are 'normal'. Oh yes. And here's a bit on why. With much love and encouragement, Martha]

This month's practice is a kriya entitled The Total Self - the sum of all your parts. Energetically you are expanding your capacity to feel, to express, to inhabit your total self. In so doing there is the chance for deep healing. Not to become healed and thereby feel whole. But rather, by knowing yourselves as whole right now, you are healed.

You have the opportunity in your practice to learn to trust your body. Listen to it - not to the specific circumstances of the moment, but to the deep primal messages of your evolutionary heritage:

I am at risk / I am safe.
I am broken / I am whole.
I am lost / I am home.


The emotions you may feel in class are an energetic release of held tension related to an emotional or stressful moment that you set aside as inappropriate at the time they arose. In her insightful book, Come As You Are, Dr. Emily Nagoski writes, 

"The key to managing stress is not simply 'relaxing' or 'calming down.' It's allowing the stress response cycle to complete. Allow it to discharge fully. Let your body move all the way from 'I am at risk' to 'I am safe.'"

You have the power to complete the stressor cycle, to move yourself from 'I am broken,' to 'I am whole.' This is potent medicine. 

There is neurochemical research to support the theory of a stressor cycle. In sum, the massive biochemical change characterized by floods of adrenaline and cortisol to your bloodstream is your body's response to a stressor - something that indicates danger or distress. This is the chemical underpinning to the 'fight or flight' response. At the most basic level, you would survive the danger by killing or be killed or escape, thereby the stressor cycle is completed. 

However, in modern times the danger and stress of a conflict with family, work, traffic, or the myriad roadblocks you may stumble into during a day are rarely completed. Instead they slowly accumulate in your minds and bodies. You may shut down. You may break down. You may grow ill or angry or depressed. You may overeat, drink, smoke, or holler all because your stressor cycle is incomplete.

"If an animal survives an intense threat to its life, then it does an extraordinary thing. It shakes. It trembles, paws vibrating in the air. It heaves a great sigh. And then it gets up, shakes itself off, and trots away."

Your nervous system is built to handle danger and stress. But it needs a beginning (cause), middle (feeling), and end (release). All too often self-inhibition trumps a primal scream or a good cry. Your practice can be a safe time, space, and strategy to discharge your stress response cycles.

Physical activity is the single most efficient known strategy for completing the stressor response cycle and recalibrating your central nervous system into a calm state. 

Come practice. Again. And again. Move, breathe, notice. And feel your whole self ~ safe, whole, and home. Again, much love, Martha