I’ve heard some version of this story many many times now: a fellow yoga teacher or student will tell me: “I feel so good at the end of class, so calm, but then when my kid yells at me or I’m anxious about something at work, I lose my cool. I can do it in the studio but not in my day-to-day life”.
The latest psychological and brain research shows that yoga is a wonderful way to cultivate a regulated nervous system and tools like breath, chanting and movement are highly effective in healing trauma.
However, many people find themselves in this frustrated situation, unable to do what’s needed to find calm again in the moment that it’s needed.
I believe there are a few reasons for this.
We face different patterns and intensity of stress in modern life than at the time these practices were first introduced. The modern nervous system has to cope with much more frequent stimulation, activation and demand - known as allostatic load. Therefore we need more frequent practice and regulation - multiple times a day.
We are not creating conscious awareness of what is happening. We are nourishing the nervous system during yoga practice but without conscious awareness of exactly what we are doing, the skill is not transferable to other contexts.
A mis-perception that we should stay calm at all times. A well-regulated nervous system is a flexible nervous system - one that can go to heightened states or calm states as needed, to meet the demands of the moment.
The way to remedy these issues is to KNOW what you are doing as you do it and to do it deliberately and regularly - before you REALLY need it.
In other words, consciously train your nervous system to respond more effectively and do it before your allostatic load is too high (the moment your kid is yelling or your boss asked you to do another project in an impossibly short time)....
Bringing this level of conscious awareness to what is happening helps you to feel safer with what is going on…(remember reactive states are all about not feeling safe).
The more you can cultivate a warm and confident attitude towards yourself and what is happening inside you, the quicker you will be able to help yourself “regulate” to find the right amount of energy or calm you need to meet the moment and the demands of your life.