In This Chapter
V Finding peace in a stressful world
V What meditation teaches us
V Reaching the yoga zone of flow
Life is not a war, it's not a contest, and it's not a race. Life is being. Yoga helps you see this truth and live it each moment. The need to name, label, evaluate, and analyze everything we come into contact with can be debilitating to the spirit. Yoga teaches you to look without classifying, to listen without judging, to feel without losing control, to learn without assuming you already know—simply, to be.
Everything is subjective. Realizing this will help bring peace to your busily categorizing mind and help you see the truth in difficult situations, people, and even yourself. Labels make perception seem easy, but perception isn't easy, so banish the labels and look harder and closer at yourself and the world. Let yoga show you how.
There's no doubt about it—we live in a stressful world! The human animal has a specific way to deal with stress, and it's called the fight-or-flight response. When confronted with a stressful situation, your adrenaline starts pumping. Your muscles tense. Your senses heighten. In essence, your body becomes primed to deal with the stress in two ways: either fight with the utmost energy and strength, or get away as fast as possible. How can fight or flight help you? It gives you energy. It gives you a quick reaction time. Your mind is sharper and clearer. If you recognize all this and work with your body, your experience of a stressful situation—say, presenting a new product line at work or teaching a class to a new group of students—will be vibrant and exciting.
The problem with the fight-or-flight response comes when it's engaged too often. Bodies can take only much stress, and if your body and mind are forced into a constant elevated state of stimulation, muscle tension, and excess energy, you're bound to break down. Maybe you'll get sick, collapse from exhaustion, or just plain lose your ability to communicate so that others can understand you. The problem with our world is that it constantly bombards us with stressful situations. What's more, our culture rewards those who take on the most stress. Who do you admire more—your colleagues who are always taking on projects and coming up with new ideas, working late every night, and helping everyone else who gets behind? Or the colleagues who relax at their desks talking on the phone, leave at five with overflowing in-boxes, and never seem in a hurry to get anything done?
We want the overachievers on our team: the high-powered, assertive, I-can-do-anything types. With that kind of pressure, it's no wonder we're all under so much stress.
Enter yoga! In a fight-or-flight world, yoga is like a daily trip to the spa. Not only will it relax you and calm your mind, it can fine-tune the fight-or-flight response. With yoga, you learn to clear your mind and listen. You learn to focus, concentrate, and tune in. Obstacles that confuse us and prohibit us from seeing clearly are gently washed away with yoga. When the fight-or-flight response kicks in, the yoga practitioner can channel it so that it's as productive as possible. When your muscles tense, you're aware of them and can direct their energy to stand straighter, move more quickly, and react more deftly. As your senses heighten and your thinking sharpens, you'll see how to clear your mind of everything but the task at hand. Answers will come to you. The perfect combination of words will flow effortlessly from your mouth. You'll be able to perceive your situation clearly—the motivations of others, your position in the circumstances, and what should be done. Panic is replaced by confidence.
Yoga isn't magic. It doesn't turn you into someone you aren't—but yoga is the key to making the fight-or-flight response work for you, because it gives you control over your physical and mental responses to this instinct.
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