The last few weeks have seemed to be an adult version of ‘the floor is lava’, but instead of lava it’s an invisible virus, its everywhere, everything can kill you, and there is no time out to get a juice box.
Like many in the CF world out there, my brain has has been going 100 miles a minute thinking about COVID-19 and the tornado of destruction and phlegm left in its path. I know for me personally, when things like this happen one of the hardest things to do is to S L O W D O W N.
I know I need to slow down because my brain is contemplating things like whether or not the can of Lysol I just bought is contaminated, and if it is . . . how will I Lysol a can of Lysol? Do I need to get more Lysol for my Lysol?!?! This is the exact reason I am teaching a “rest and relax” class for CF Yogi for the entire month of April.
So first, why do we need to relax?
Coming from someone who is one of the perpetual “I’m fine”-ers of the world, let me break it down. Relaxation is so important for the body to recharge its resources; physically, mentally, and emotionally. That is why we have the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system, or the rest and digest system, governs our bodies unconscious functions like regulating heart rate and digestion. On the flip side, the sympathetic nervous system is in charge of our “fight or flight” responses to the world around us. Both have to work in harmony for them to function properly.
Unfortunately, in a time like this our sympathetic nervous system is in constant state of crisis. This response was a biological necessity back when we had to run away from saber-toothed tigers in order to live—you would use 100% of your energy to get away from that tiger to stay alive. Now replace a saber tooth tiger with COVID-19. That is exactly what our body is doing right now 24/7. You can’t run away from a saber tooth tiger for hours on end because you would deplete all of your body’s resources. You also can’t spend your entire day thinking about and fighting this virus.
So, as silly as it sounds, the best way to combat coronavirus is to not think about coronavirus and let the body relax (or at least try). Not in the sense where if you don’t think about the bogeyman, the bogeyman will go away. But because the best way to keep yourself healthy is to not constantly be in that state of fight-or-flight. That way if you do happen to get COVID-19 (or any other virus), your body has the resources to fight it.
Relaxation is essential for healing
When our body is using all of its resources in this fight or flight response, the rest of the body falls to the wayside and the wheels start falling off the wagon. That is why we get sick from being stressed.
Relaxing in a yoga practice is much different than being asleep. When we are asleep we enter REM sleep, which activates our muscles, causes rapid eye movement, and engages the body. This is very different than deliberate and intentional moments to step out of the “monkey mind” of what is going on in the world and instead come home to the body. Check in with the body, check in with the breath, and take inventory of how we are doing internally.
Through focusing on the breath we can slow the heart rate, decrease the respiration rate, and bring that fight or flight response back into homeostasis where we can recharge.
Now you may be saying, “ya… sure… just relax, like that’s easy to do right now”. It’s not. It is not easy. Contrary to what many people think, restorative and yin yoga classes are much harder than the fast paced vinyasa classes. This is because it is so challenging to sit in silence with our thoughts void of distractions.
That is why yoga is a practice.
The more we practice relaxing, the easier it can become to pull ourselves back to our equilibrium. Rumi said, “the quieter you become the more you will be able to hear.” The goal of this yoga practice is to let the body become so quiet that we can sit with the mind, our inner thoughts, and feel the feelings we may be pushing aside. These classes won’t create a cure from this bogeyman virus that we all are running from, but they will allow you to develop the resources to handle this bogeyman (and many others).
So if any of this resonated with you, please join me on Thursdays in April at 7pm EDT for a Restorative / Yin style practice. We will be using this class to come home to the body, to be present with our minds, and to find that place of calm that resides in each of us. All of these classes will be done seated or laying down with the emphasis on letting go and allowing the body to fully soften and recharge. I hope to see you there this month, and please… let me know if I should be buying Lysol for my Lysol (or not).
Join Chelsea for Restorative / Yin Yoga on Thursday evenings at 7 PM EDT from April 2-30th. Classes are free to everyone in the CF community thanks to the support of the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Register for CF Yogi here and join us via the class schedule link in the member portal!
For additional benefits of relaxation and activating the parasympathetic nervous system, see Katie’s blog post “Rest & Digest: Making the Most of Trikafta” and our December 2019 series “Yoga for Inner Healing” and “Yoga Nidra” in the video archive.