Listening to the body is fundamental for health and wellbeing. When under stress, however, the body wants to remove the immediate problem as quickly as possible and often the quick fix is not the healthiest choice. For example, when you don’t eat breakfast, your blood sugar is so low and the brain uses so much energy that the body sends an emergency signal to eat something sweet - the fastest way to protect the brain. But eating sugar can start the insulin roller-coaster of high and low blood sugar, keeping the body out of balance. When the body is out of balance, it acts to save us from the emergency, not to maintain heath. Thus, it is important to recognize when the body is out of balance.
When relaxed and balanced, your body gives you subtle cues to help you maintain health. You might tune in and realize that a certain food sounds amazing – it might be because you need whatever vitamin or mineral it contains. Or maybe your neck hurts and you realize that you have been worrying about something that you need to address. Or maybe you are in a yoga pose and feel pain or notice your face scrunching up - your body is telling you to change something – breathe, or back off, or modify. Our bodies are full of wisdom that helps us heal and maintain health.
Resiliency is the ability to recover quickly, to easily return to the original state. In the nervous system resiliency looks like the ability to easily shift between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic kicks in when we experience stress so that we are ready to run away or fight to keep ourselves safe. When the threat is past, we reset to the parasympathetic nervous system for rest and digest. The parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of keeping our bodies healthy, while the sympathetic is emergency mode. So, while they each have an important role, we do not want to get stuck in either one.
Yoga and meditation both help to keep us resilient. Every time we rest and come back to the breath in child’s pose or any resting pose during an active yoga class, we are teaching the body how to easily transition from activity to rest, or from the sympathetic to parasympathetic. On an even deeper level, Meditation teaches us to watch our thoughts so that we are aware of when these thoughts activate our sympathetic nervous system. We can then begin to change our thinking so that our thoughts keep us in our parasympathetic nervous system, allowing us to keep ourselves healthy.
Our goals are not simply words like money, happiness, or success, but are stories fully experienced through our senses that define our relationship with that concept and the world. When we set a goal, we activate an entire framework through which we see the world that includes all our beliefs and expectations about that goal and how it relates to ourselves.
Furthermore, the brain helps us to quickly make sense of the world by ignoring what we don’t expect (check out the second episode of Brain Games on Netflix) and has a difficult time recognizing something that is not consistent with our own stories. For example, if my story is that success is something other people have, I could be queen and not be able to recognize that as success.
So instead of setting goals, we should be seeing goals. We need to examine our own neurological framework that we have created around our wishes – what connections, assumptions, sensations, and beliefs does thinking of the goal bring up? Once we dissolve these stories about ourselves that are no longer useful, these inaccurate connections, we can recognize the opportunities and the gifts in front of us.