Soothing our nervous systems through yoga, meditation and the sacred pause
Modern life moves at a frenetic pace. Though technology was intended to make our lives simpler, it seems the consensus is quite the opposite. We are constantly bombarded by text messages, emails, phone calls, and countless other forms of stimulation that can actually have a perilous cumulative effect upon our health and wellbeing. In fact, over 90% of the people walking into a doctor’s office are there due to a stress-related issue.
There is no greater enemy to our health than stress. Yoga and meditation practices provide us with a means to step away from the stress of the rat race of life.
Travis Eliot guides a gentle 30-minute yoga flow for relaxation and vibrancy
In certain parts of southern India, people are often forced to walk great distances to acquire the most basic of needs, like food and water. It’s not uncommon for villagers to travel several miles on foot with a jug of water balanced strategically on their head. Periodically along the path, stone columns are placed to provide resting spots where the jug of water can be easily slid off and supported. Once refreshed, the water bearer can continue the journey back home.
Pressing the sacred pause button in life is like removing the heavy jug from your head. But instead of a jug of water, imagine releasing the stress of work, relationships, world news and daily responsibilities.
Although there is a time and need to take care of worldly affairs, there is also a time and need to shift from doing into being, from striving into arriving, and from grinding into allowing. Without, it’s easy to become suffocated by these stressful things.
Nonstop striving and grinding activate the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. This occurrence is often associated with the ‘fight or flight’ response of the limbic brain. In this sympathetic state, the body produces the stress hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. If these chemicals linger in the body and become chronic, they can trigger the following imbalances (nothing good):
- Increased food cravings
- Fat gain
- Shrinking of the brain
- Immune system suppression
- Diminished sex drive
- Decreased muscle mass
- Decreased bone density
- Increased anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Increased depression
- Mood swings
- Decreased brain function
- Increased PMS symptoms
The parasympathetic nervous system, in contrast to the sympathetic nervous system, is responsible for growth, recovery, regeneration, repair, and relaxation. Practicing yoga and meditation are an effective way of activating this healing energy. The more rest and restoration you experience, the more dominant the parasympathetic nervous system. And as a result:
- The more you can effectively manage stress
- The better your quality of sleep will be
- The more you will be able to regulate the body’s inflammation response
- The healthier the cells will be
- The better you will feel
- The higher your brain performance will be
- The more you will slow the ageing process
- The healthier and happier you will be
- The higher your quality of life will be
Doesn’t that sound like a better idea?
Poet Martha Postlewaite suggests you “create a clearing in the dense forest of your life.” Time on your yoga mat or meditation cushion can be such a clearing. In this place you pause, become still, and ultimately access your inner most essence. This essence is sacred. It is the very source of all that you are.
When you tap into this wellspring of sacredness, you replenish and recharge on a profound level.
The sacred pause can be an hour on your yoga mat or it can be just a few stolen moments in the middle of your day. Moments of deep beauty are endlessly unfolding around us in infinite ways. The question is, are we noticing? Mindfulness teaches us to be more present — to notice a stunning sunset, or tree leaves dancing in the wind, or a young child smiling, or the sparkle in a loved one’s eyes. These moments are sacred because they transcend time and space. They remind us that we are so much more than our job title, wardrobe, bank account or nationality. They are glimpses into our shared humanity.
A nurturing 19-minute meditation created by Travis Eliot & Lauren Eckstrom
It is estimated the average adult makes approximately 35,000 choices a day. How many times have we acted or spoke in a way we deeply regretted? We are all just one poor choice away from negatively altering our lives. Implementing the sacred pause throughout our day minimizes poor decisions and self-created suffering. The sacred pause also empowers us to rise above reactivity into a mindset free to act with compassion and integrity.
We all know you can’t give to others what you don’t have to give. When you pause, you are giving back to yourself. You are filling up your energetic cup, so you have the capacity to fully show up in all the various dimensions of life. Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, probably said it best: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”
Certain times of the day call for you to be a little ‘selfish’ in order to be ‘selfless.’ So, go ahead and take time to slow down, to be still, to allow the waves of the mind to settle. These simple, but powerful moments of initiating the sacred pause will benefit you — and everyone you meet.
Editor’s Note: Out of the ‘sacred pause’ of Travis Eliot (who began his spiritual journey at 9-years old when his mother introduced him to meditation), and following a near-death experience and the 2005 Tsunami in Thailand — a passion project emerged to teach yoga and meditation to people across the world who seek to live into their full potential.
He co-founded Inner Dimension Media with Lauren Eckstrom as a full-service media company which creates and distributes videos, books and music. Inner Dimension TV is a cinematic streaming site with a diversity of practices including power yoga, beginner’s yoga, yin yoga, restorative, gentle, meditation, functional fitness, and pranayama — that changed the game forever for the yoga CD culture. Their latest experience, California Dreaming, is the world’s first guided meditation program in virtual reality based in live natural settings. Teachers Travis and Lauren guide participants on a powerful meditative journey to some of California’s most iconic locations, including Yosemite National Park, Big Sur and Joshua Tree National Park, among others.
You may also enjoy reading Daring To Rest: The Post Trauma Healing Powers of Sleep by Karen Brody