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  • Writer's pictureAino

Calming exercises in yoga are good for everyone - or are they? 

Updated: Apr 29




If you are teaching yoga, you might have thought that long exhalations and other calming exercises are always a good option - they can’t harm anyone. I for sure have been doing this, thinking we all could use a little bit more calming down in our lives, right? 


Except that might not always be the case. According to recent studies in neuroscience, there are also occasions when all those long exhalations and other exercises promoting calming down might not be the most appropriate tool, especially when dealing with dysregulation. 


Understanding your nervous system is the key

It all comes to understanding your nervous system. We often think that stress automatically puts everyone in a state of hyperarousal, activating the sympathetic nervous system. So heart rate goes up, body feels ready for action and so on. And if that is the case, practicing calming down is the appropriate answer, even if it feels hard to concentrate and you feel distracted etc. That is normal when the body is in a hyperarousal state, and it can be then highly beneficial to practice your skills of slowing down. 


But it is also possible, especially after experiencing trauma, that instead of going to this hyperarousal state, your nervous system might go in the totally opposite direction when experiencing stress. This means slowing heart rate, feeling numb and lethargic. And if this is your case and then you try to take long exhalations and do other calming practices, the chances are that you are just taking yourself more towards immobilization, as you are slowing your (already slower than normal) heart rate and activating (your already active) parasympathetic nervous system.


When practicing savasana, calming breathwork or meditation, the idea is to bring your body to calmness that feels good, not into dissociation or immobilization. And the difference lies in your nervous system, more specifically in the vagus nerve. This is a nerve that has two branches - one of them activated when we are experiencing the good kind of relaxedness, and other one active when we are going towards dissociation. And both are part of the parasympathetic nervous system.


Yoga with trauma-informed approach

So if it has ever happened to you that what was supposed to be calming and relaxing practice just left you more dysregulated, just know that it is very normal reaction of nervous system. It doesn't mean that you can't never practice meditation or slow breathing, just that you have to be aware of your current state and practice first taking yourself towards regulation with more appropriate exercises when experiencing hypoarousal. And this is when trauma-informed approach comes into picture.


Are you familiar with this? Let me know what you think!


Lot of light,

Aino

Are you curious to learn more?

Somatic Essentials online course takes you to a journey of nervous system regulation, working with fascia and trauma-informed approach.



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