Remember to Use your Tools!

Odd title for a yoga blog, you may be thinking.  Do I need a hammer, saw or screwdriver to do yoga?  Does she want me to do something to the “tool” down the street whose dog barks at 2:00 a.m.?   No and no.

In yoga, we learn lots of tools for dealing with everything from headache to stress (both physical and mental) to a stuffy nose to a lack of focus.  There are certainly people out there who think of yoga as mainly affecting the physical body, but between mediation, breathing, and kriyas, there are lots of other things that we learn that help us through our day to day life with less difficulty.  But even the most diligent yogi will forget from time to time.  You may be under alot of stress, suffering from hot flashes or a really tight low back.  Yoga can give you the ability to handle all those issues, and many more.

After a recent gynecological surgery, I started experiencing hot flashes – YAY! – super fun and just as miserable as everyone has told me they would be.  I know from my reading that breathing will help curb hot flashes.  But did I remember that the first time I had a hot flash?  Nope.  For the first week or two, I just suffered through not remembering that I already had the ability to help myself.

From  “Deep breathing techniques can shorten hot flashes and make them milder. Teach yourself to start slow, deep breaths as soon as you feel a flash coming on. Take as deep a breath as you can, and hold it a moment before letting it out slowly. Expanding your rib cage can help trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down and helps regulate temperature.

If you practice deep breathing techniques, like yoga breathing or Pilates breathing, before you actually need them, they will come more naturally during the stress and embarrassment of a hot flash episode. Train ahead of time, and then breathe through the heat. Relax, and let your breath shorten the flash.”

Let your breath shorten the flash … how many times in a yoga class have you heard your instructor talk about the breath …. hundreds.  Are you ever stuck in traffic or confronted with a whiney child and you take a deep breath in and out (perhaps more than once).  Your body is calming itself.  There are multiple types of breathing in yoga that can be used as tools to get you through a variety of situations, both physical and mental.

But here’s the thing – in the “heat” of the moment (no pun intended after all that hot flash talk) you may forget that you have all this information and knowledge at your fingertips.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced a stomach ache, cramps, or headache and contacted one of my teachers for assistance.  Most of the time when I get their feedback, in my head I’m thinking “Of course, I knew that.  Why didn’t I think of that?”

This is by no means meant to be an expansive treatise on the different aspects of yoga and how they can help you get through your day to day life, other than toning, strengthening and stretching the physical body.  This is simply meant to remind you – if you’ve ever taken a pranayama (breathing) workshop or meditation or you have experienced several different kriyas, don’t forget them.  Use them in your day to day life.  Spend five minutes in the morning and evening in a quiet, contemplative meditation and see just how that one ten-minute a day change can positively affect your life.  And don’t forget to use your tools!