guest blog by Amber Keating LCSW, PYT-C
Through my studies in Ginger’s Professional Yoga Therapy program, I have witnessed how the use of breath & movement can be deeply healing to women. In our fast-paced world, yoga benefits us by helping us to slow down and take time for ourselves. We give so much to those around us and often forget to refill our own energy stores. Here are three ways yoga can improve your emotional balance:
- Breathing through life’s challenges
Breath is essential for life; so essential that the body just does it for us most of the time. Even more than a necessity, our breath can help us to self-soothe and remain steady in whatever emotional storms life might have for us. Yoga teaches us how to focus on our breathing to make it deeper, longer, slower. You may have noticed that when you are stressed, your breath becomes shallow and fast, and your heart rate speeds up. Using yogic breathing techniques, you regain control of your body’s stress response and calm your nervous system. While the stressful event may still be present, by using yogic breathing, you are better equipped to respond calmly.
- Improving self-confidence
Yoga is powerful tool to bring greater confidence into your daily life and reconnect you with your inner strength. Many people think yoga simply teaches flexibility. What they do not realize is yoga’s strength-building qualities. From establishing good posture, strengthening core muscles, building outstanding breath techniques, developing greater balance, increasing strength and stamina, and overcoming fear in a challenging pose, yoga reminds us that we are far stronger than we realize. Every time you go to the mat with the weight of the world on your shoulders and practice your Warriors and Trees and Cobras, you are sloughing off what is no longer needed and reestablishing your knowledge of how amazing you really are.
- Regulating emotions
Much of my work as a mental health clinician and yoga therapist involves assisting people with emotion regulation. Our emotions can be a source of information about ourselves, others, & the situations we encounter, but they can be a hindrance when they overtake our best judgment. Yoga increases your ability to manage your emotions by allowing you to notice how you feel. We often function on auto-pilot and don’t realize we’re flooded with feelings. When you focus on your breath and movement, you become more aware of your emotions, where they are stored in your body (worry manifesting as tight belly muscles, for example), and how they are affecting your thoughts & behaviors. From this place of greater awareness, you can make choices about which emotions to foster and which ones to release. In addition, the practice of yoga creates space between your urges and your behaviors, turning reaction into conscious action.
Yoga is a perfect complement to any woman’s life. It can be practiced anywhere (think Mountain Pose in line at the grocery store) and for any amount of time. Whatever challenges you face, I wish you slow exhales and conscious decisions informed by thoughtful contemplation of your mind & emotions.
*photo is of Amber Keating, hugging the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park, April 2010