One of the benefits often touted about yoga is the fact that obstacles on the yoga mat prepare us for the obstacles of life. If we can stay calm in a controlled environment while dealing with something that poses a serious physical challenge, there is a good chance we will be able to carry that over into real life situations. I have certainly found this to be true, not just of yoga, but of all physical endeavors that require focus and defeat. I regularly choose to work on things that are difficult for me, and I do the same with my clients. Sometimes it’s something that is simple and comes quickly, like learning how to hip hinge. Other times, it’s something that is more nuanced, such as shoulder blade position and a sense of external rotation during a plank (far harder than it sounds and has resulted in swear words being gently directed my way). I personally believe by learning how to have a sense of control over our physical selves it makes it a little bit easier to learn to control our emotions.
In “The Art of Learning,” the author discusses how interval training helped him perform better in world chess tournaments. Researchers at the Institute of Human Performance found how physiological recovery dictates capacity to endure and perform in stressful situations- or, put another way, how quickly we relax and recover determines how often we can handle high rates of stress. If we don’t ever truly relax, it would stand to reason our ability to handle stress would be drastically diminished over time. This idea that relaxation is key to high performance is something that is missing for most of us in our over-extended, busy lives. Before we can train relaxation and recovery we have to have an idea of what it feels like to relax our body and focus on one area, which is what any sort of mind-body based training does. Then, learning how to recover quickly after periods of hard work can have a dramatic impact on our response to the stress that is life.
*”Art of Learning” is by Josh Waitzkin and can be found Amazon.