It’s 7am and your alarm sounds, jolting you from sleep. Before you can blink your eyes open, your thoughts are racing to places far beyond your bedroom. “I’ll get the coffee started,” you tell yourself, “and eat breakfast on the way to work. I’ve got that lunch meeting, then a doctor’s appointment—and I can’t forget to pay the electric bill! I’ll figure out dinner on the way home from getting the kids at school…. ”
Does this routine sound familiar to you? If so, you have plenty of company. Of the three gunas (natural, essential energies), rajas is the dominant and active force within us that propels us into being overwhelmed, overworked and overloaded. This rajasic state rules the lives of many of us in the West, as evidenced by our constant engagement with some form of activity—or for some of us, our constant engagement with several activities at once. Though skipping out on our yoga practice can free up much needed time, it is often during these times of busy-ness that we need our practice the most. It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes, the secret to fulfilling the many responsibilities of life is in stopping long enough to breathe.
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Here some reasons why “not having time for yoga” might mean you should actually be practicing more.
1. Asana connects you with your body, making it a more efficient vehicle for life. I can speak for myself when I say that if I have a long to-do list running through my mind, I become disconnected with my body. I’ll stumble out the door, trip on the way to the car and barely remember to stop at stop signs. When I’m busy, I live more in my head than in my body. Some of this is understandable, as our brains are doing a lot of thinking and organizing of information. But if our bodies are the vehicles in which we move through our full-to-the-brim lives, it is important to be in tune with them by connecting our thoughts and actions. Practicing asana for thirty minutes before (or during) a busy day puts our awareness back inside the amazing tool that does so much work for us. When we are fully present in our bodies, we can accomplish our to-do’s with more grace, confidence and physical awareness.
2. Meditation trains your mind to work with you, not against you. When our bodies are always on the go, our minds usually are too. Stress, feeling overwhelmed and being tired can arouse scattered thoughts and emotions that limit our ability to focus and distract us from our goals. However, when we meditate, we learn see mind chatter for what it is, and are better equipped to work with the mind and recognize habits that restrict our functionality. This skill enhances life beyond the meditation cushion, and is worth the thirty (or more) minutes of daily meditation it sometimes takes to learn. (Bonus: meditation might increase immune function, protecting you during the busy season of colds and flus.)
3. The gift of self-care lessens feelings of being overwhelmed. Our bodies were designed to function optimally in parasympathetic state. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, we think more clearly, are more inclined to extend kindness and are generally more productive in all areas of life. In contrast, when the sympathetic nervous system is overactive, we exist in fight-or-flight response state. Though this fight-or-flight ability is useful in responding quickly in certain situations, when that state is prolonged (as it becomes during long periods of stress) the nervous system becomes taxed. When the nervous system is overworked, we show up less optimally, and are more prone to experience anxiety, over-reactivity and anger. Returning to a parasympathetic state as often as possible—especially during stressful times—prepares us to step into the world and make the most of our efforts. Activities that bring us back to this place include yoga practices like restorative asanas, yoga nidra, meditation, self massage and certain pranayama exercises designed for soothing the nervous system. Trust us, these are worth your time!
When you are on-the-go, what kinds of practices sustain and support your life?