Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space. It is one of the tests police use to test for drunkenness. Close your eyes and touch your nose. Walk a straight line. Stand on one foot. It is one of the things we lose when intoxicated. It is also one of the things we lose when we have trauma. Studies are starting to show that yoga, along with therapy and medication can help people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder heal more quickly. So what in the heck does yoga do?
Yoga itself is a meditation. Each position is called an “asana”, or focus. Meditation changes us on a cellular level. When used correctly, it helps the body know that it is OK and allows regular body processes, including basics such as digestion, to keep going. When in a state of stress these process are put off in preference of dealing with the stress and what the body perceives as a threat. When used for anger it continues the process of stress and anxiety. When you focus on letting your body experience each pose (as imperfect as it may be), and use your breath to move between poses, your body is allowed to begin to remove the cortisol and adrenalin that has been coursing through it to manage stress.
Yoga is also a test in accepting failure. When first starting a yoga practice, no matter how athletic you are, you are going to fail time and time again. Your balance will be off, you will fall out of poses, you won’t be able to transition smoothly in to poses, and you won’t be able to hold poses. If you are attending a class you will look at the people around you and think “they can do this, I should be able to as well!”. When you can let go of that expectation, and be OK with your body and what it is capable of, you have stepped up to the next level. When you can be OK when you can’t hit the inversion you did yesterday, or hold the pose, or lose your balance, you’ve gone even further. The final step is implementing this acceptance in the rest of your life. In life we will fall. We won’t be able to do today what we did yesterday. We will struggle and struggle. Failure builds muscle and helps us find solutions that success wouldn’t have let us see.
Yoga also helps us see successes. As you continue your yoga practice you will find that all of a sudden you can do the pose that has frustrated you for years. You will feel more confident in your balance not only psychically, but emotionally as well. You will find that because you don’t let the little things bother you as much.
Yoga isn’t wonderful for everyone. If it doesn’t work for you, find the thing that will do these things. The things that let you be OK with failure, that test your body and mind in different ways and encourage your to fall and fail. People tell me that they have running or swimming routines, and unfortunately that just doesn’t do it. It doesn’t test where your body is in time or space, and with both swimming and running you probably already know what you are doing. There are fewer chances for growth. If yoga isn’t for you, that isn’t a problem. But do find the thing that will do the above for you.
Yoga helps teach you where your body is in time and in space, and reminds you that you do have control over you. It reconnects your mind and your body, often after life situations that make you feel helpless with both.