Strength and ease can be found within each yoga posture (asana). Identifying these areas appropriately will allow you to move even deeper. For example, the strength in the cobra posture is in the back (lumbar spine). When you breathe into your chest and let go of the front side you can simultaneously strengthen your back. Alternatively, during a forward fold, your back can open up and relax even more if you strengthen your core.
Strength and ease plays its part overall during a session when you allow yourself to completely let go in between each asana. Your heart rate slows then accelerates. This variability will condition your body and physiological response for optimal performance.
High performance during times of stress rely on this rhythm within your body. Ideally you’re not operating out of your sympathetic nervous system to avoid burn out. Exceptional leaders understand this as they exhibit their calmness during times of crises. The real opportunity is to cultivate strength and ease within your herd.
The buzz of the airport & plane: I love being in the midst of so many people during one slice of time- yet being in my own world with my own soundtrack. So I thought I’d share with you how I maintain a sensational brain gig during travel:
1. GABA mints. Really nice. And then put your headphones on.
2. Nutritional yeast— easy to pack. Just add hot water, a little sea salt & lemon crystals and drink like a broth. The B vitamins are critical for those that don’t eat meat & if you’re deficient you’ll get a sweet niacin flush.
3. Magnesium calm powder— just add to your water bottle.
4. Eye candy In lieu of fashion magazines & porn— sign in to Instagram. I just use it as a voyeur. In one feed I can go from incredible National Geographic photos to yoga postures to sensual hairstyles (yes, there’s one that just shows hair), dance poses, a dog in Japan, back to splits.
5. In between flights, of course walk, walk, walk. And find the meditation room (Amsterdam has a wonderful one). There you need to do some inversions. You have to get your heart above your head for at least 7 minutes. It doesn’t have to be handstands. A 7 minute headstand is wonderful. Come down slowly & into childs pose. If you’re menstruating (or otherwise feel like a pussy), legs up the wall is still fantastic. You have to scootch your butt right up to the wall (so your lower back is ok) and swing your legs up. You’ll still feel it and it is so good to get the blood away from your legs after sitting for so long. Of course music is key (although it’s lovely to hear the variety of chanting in background). My go-to song is usually something from my wordless soundtrack. Gotta have yoga songs.
6. Psychobiotics: If you can get your hands on anything fermented it would be great. Tough to pack BUT there are some probiotic supplements that include some of the strains that encourage your brain to release serotonin, like any of the Bifidobacterium and also the L. helveticus & B longhum reduce cortisol levels. Even if you grab a yogurt every now and then it would be great.
You know I can’t have a travel list without including coconut oil. It doesn’t relate to this brain thread but it is the single best travel companion. As long as you double bag a big ole glob it’ll only soften & not melt. Put a handful into your mouth first thing in morning & eventually you’re swishing it around- it liquifies and “pulls” bad stuff out of mouth & teeth. Spit after 15 minutes. Many other things you can do w C oil!
Theme song: U2’s I Will Follow. Enjoy the 1980 throwback here.
In Think Like a Zebra the point is that it can take a real toll on your body to stress out about something that you have no control over. For example, zebras may hang out at a water hole with a lion nearby- but they’re not going to run from the predator until it is actually chasing them.
In the above video, you’ll see that when zebras do need to get moving, they do so in a pretty ordered fashion. That is, they follow one another along a known path. No sense wasting energy taking off in separate directions, over unknown ground. They have a plan.
It’s what I call an Emergency Dismount. When I was a girl, I took riding lessons from an old leathery faced woman named Mrs. Stephens. This little, soft spoken woman would have all of us kids riding our horses around the ring and then suddenly yell, “Emergency Dismount!” And we would all have to jump off our horses. A training exercise to teach us how to fall off. A plan.
I would ride through the fields on my horse with my arms raised high in delight- all because I knew how to fall off.
One way to ‘live in the moment’ is to have an Emergency Dismount.
Humans have a hard time turning the “off” switch. We have the ability to lie in bed, perfectly still and cozy away from harm, and yet our heart can race because of our thoughts. Think about it. Just a thought can change the functioning of the cells in our body.
For zebras, this stress response is saved for the 3 minute lion escape across the savanna. They’re not going to waste it on something that’s not going to kill them RIGHT NOW. In the 24s video above notice only a few seconds when the zebras react in a WTF? manner to our clicking cameras. Then, it’s over. They get back to business.* That’sliving in the moment. They don’t waste precious energy and we shouldn’t either.
Robert Sapolsky is awesome. He’s a neuroscientist & primatologist. Watch this video explanation of his work in Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.
If you or anyone you know suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, you get it: combat, abuse, and sadly many other forms of chronic trauma can actually have a shrinkingeffect on the hippocampus. For those of us lucky ones without PTSD, daily stressors can still screw with us. There is support for the health benefits of deep breathing techniques. You can actually feel it affect your vagus nerve as you slowww down your exhale.
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha. Om Ganesha Sharanam
I’m no Sanskrit scholar, but was told this loosely translates into: When the shit hits the fan, where do you go for shelter? (Thank you, Michael Johnson. Watch his asanas while he explains the essence of yoga.) Essentially, we should be more like zebras. Wait until the shit really hits the fan- then just breathe through it.
*Fun Fact: When zebras are together in a herd, they’re usually facing different directions to watch for danger. Asses in the middle, eyes out & around.