Have you ever paused to truly feel your body’s and mind’s reactions after a good meal, massage, yoga class, or a beautiful sunset? And I mean like really concentrated on the feelings and sensations these events evoke in you. Have you noticed how your body reacts after watching a violent movie, listening to loud music, or wearing uncomfortable clothes the whole day?
We are continuously influenced by our environment. Our modern life often is fast paced and the amount of information our senses receive is huge! This leads to an overload of challenging situations and lessens the comforting circumstances. When this balance between pressure and calm, stress and relaxation is disturbed we loose the sense of inner equanimity. Most of the time our senses reach outwards gathering information from our surroundings. Through this outer input, we interpret the world around us as either safe, neutral, or threatening.
All that stimulation and information can have two kinds of effects on our nervous system; agitating or calming.
Loud noises, feeling cold or hot, ugly smells, disorder, and uncomfortable fabrics on our skin all contribute to an agitated and overloaded nervous system. If we sense our immediate environment being threatening and dangerous, our fight-or-flight reaction is switched on. This activation of the sympathetic nervous system washes our body with stress hormones. When these patterns repeat themselves our day-to-day life becomes stressful. And we become chronically stressed.
But, our daily life doesn’t have to be like that. We have a choice. There is a common need for tranquil, healing, and deep relaxation and countless ways to reach this blissful state of calm and connection.
In yoga, especially in meditation, we learn to withdraw ourselves from the outer world and bring our senses into our inner world. This gives us an invaluable opportunity to gather important information from our inner state and observe the effects of our surroundings on ourselves. When we become aware of how we feel and why we feel in a certain way we can make choices that improve our wellbeing. This awareness can only be reached when we turn inwards and give our senses a brake from the oftentimes hectic outer world and learn to FEEL. Yoga cultivates our ability to feel what’s good for us and what isn’t. Then, we can take action and reduce the input of stressors and introduce more of the things that make us feel good and calm.
The same way our nervous system can be agitated through our senses we can also calm the nervous system through our five senses. Choosing calming music over hectic one, sitting in silence instead of walking through a busy city, or doing restorative yoga instead of going for a run are choices that will soothe an agitated nervous system. Surrounding ourselves with beautiful things we automatically feel better, more balanced, and in harmony with our surroundings.
Watching a sunset, having flowers in your home, wearing comfortable clothes, taking (or giving) a massage, spending time in a harmonious space, listening to uplifting and calming music, hugging a loved one, diffusing essential oils, and spending time in nature are all things that nurture our nervous system and reduce stress. When we interpret our surroundings to be pleasant and peaceful, we have a response of calm and connection and our stress levels immediately drop. Our body is now flooded with feel good hormones like oxytocin and we have reached a state of inner balance.
In the end, it’s all about balance. We need stressors to grow and become stronger (physically and mentally) and we need relaxation so that we can restore, recover, and heal. When these systems of stress and release are in balance we can face the challenging situations in our everyday life with more calmness. When the nervous system is strong and resilient we don’t get triggered by every small thing that doesn’t please us but can look at the unpleasant things through a filter. Instead of immediately reacting we pause, feel, and make a choice from a place of calmness instead of anger and frustration.