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  • Writer's pictureNicole Lovald

Harmony and Homeostasis




When I first started practicing yoga I remember being surprised by how relaxed I felt during savasana. I can recall how my mind had slowed down, my body felt more at ease and I was able to breathe more deeply. This was new to me and not something I was innately familiar with. As I reflected on how good I felt, I knew I wanted and needed to feel this way more often.


As a curious person I also wanted to better understand why yoga had this effect on me. I wanted to know what was shifting in both my body and mind and why it was causing changes in my energy and mood. I was beginning to recognize a greater sense of harmony and balance across all avenues of my life, yet I wasn’t completely sure how or why it was happening.

 

Through the combination of a yoga teacher training program and self-study, I began to understand how to create the right environment for moments of contentment. What I still struggled with was understanding the science behind why the practice of yoga was helping me to feel more balanced and at ease.

 

It wasn’t until I began to learn more about our nervous system that all the pieces began to come together for me. What I finally learned was that in order to be in harmony and have the feeling of being relaxed and content, we need to be in homeostasis. The state of homeostasis is when there is balance in our body and mind and all of our systems are working together in a regulated way. We are out of homeostasis when we are dysregulated in either our mind or body (or both). This often happens when we are in our stress response.

 

Our nervous system controls our ability to be in a calm and regulated state, and also causes us to be in a hyper-aroused or hypo-aroused and stressed state. When we practice yoga (and more specifically breathwork, meditation and asana) we are influencing our nervous systems state. If you think of homeostasis as a balanced place between hyper or hypo arousal, you can see where the calming and stimulating practices of yoga can help us find equilibrium.

 

Dr. Dan Siegel coined this state the Window of Tolerance. According to his research as a psychiatrist, this is the place where we are neither in a hyper-aroused state, or hypo-aroused state. Instead, we are in a more balanced place between the two. It is in this window that we experience homeostasis and can handle life’s stress from a place of ease and resiliency.

 

Pay attention to how you feel the next time you walk into your yoga class and roll our your mat. Is your breath shallow and in your chest? Are you feeling fidgety or fatigued in your body? Is your mind spiraling? If so, you are likely in the stress response and physiologically dysregulated (hyper or hypo aroused).

 

As you end your practice you might also begin to notice the shifts that occur. Instead of frenetic or low energy, you might feel more grounded, energized or calm and connected. If you feel your breath is deeper, or you are more present and calm in your body and mind, you have likely shifted into the window of tolerance.

 

By understanding the basics of neuroscience, we can make better sense of what is happening when we practice yoga and why we might feel so good after. Sometimes our practice might not feel so blissful and we can become dysregulated. When that happens you can work to come back to a harmonious state by using your breath, calming your mind, or moving your body.

 

By knowing what homeostasis feels like in your body and mind, you can use yoga as a way to continuously practice coming back to it to regulate yourself. Over time your window of tolerance can widen and you might begin to notice feeling more balance across all areas of your life, not just when you are on your mat.

 

 

By Nicole Lovald, LAMFT, E-RYT



 

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