Friday, May 6, 2011

Week 11: Re-framing and Breathing

Coming off of the season of Lent in which I had been reflecting on "forgiveness" and "reconciliation", I was none too astonished that the theme would continue from my introspective life and into my health classes. When it rains, it pours, no?

Mind you, it was no sermon, but a practical look at our dynamics, in human bodies and brains, that alternate between rousing the senses and body and restoring the rhythm, flow, and healing.

Most Americans, big surprise, function highly on the sympathetic side. This is the high stress, high movement, lots of worrying, lots of adrenaline side of our lives. All the stimulation leaves us primarily imbalanced, but also prone to cycles of the aforementioned; as in, the more you stress, the more likely you are to stress.

On the parasympathetic side of our system, is the yang to sympathetic's yin. This is the restorative sleep, no panic-attack, good growth and healing side to our lives. This is the "take a deep breath" side. This is where we "let go".

Turns out this yin and yang in our bodies carries over into our emotional lives and gives us choices. If someone cuts us off in traffic, we can REACT (thoughtlessly and instantaneously)by giving a half of a peace sign, swearing under our breath or retaliating with a deft NASCAR crash move. Conversely, we can RESPOND (thoughtfully and with delay)and say, "wow, they must need to be somewhere soon", and carefully brake to avoid an accident, thinking nothing more.

Our choice to respond or react has PROFOUND impact on how we perceive future events. If we were able to respond to an unexpected occasion, the event is here and gone. If we were reactionary, however, our body chemically codes and encapsulates the event, cleverly storing it away for future use. When we then physically have an event in a particular area, say a knee sprain, and there are chemical memories stored there, we relive the feelings of the previous event, even though that event wasn't PRESENTLY occurring. Yikes. Stress upon stress.

This would explain, however, something I had been quietly experiencing in workouts. "Mornings with Syd" cover the gamut: we run/jog/walk, practice interval training, slowly move through Pilates and yoga, do a few XP90 moves, grab weights, use our body mass, or do traditional things like jumping jacks. We also work on balance.

I have a hard time with balance because I have chronically injured my right ankle. Everything on my left side has had to work like a dream to compensate for the less-than-capable right side. While we were (successfully) practicing "tree" in yoga moves, one-legged stork-stands essentially, I would feel very emotional. It was brief but significant each time. Each time that ankle DIDN'T fail me, it was emotional in the same way it was negatively emotional each time I had pain in the past. The stretching of my physical and psychological abilities was producing an event that was releasing that memory of failure and everything I had associated with in through the years.I have been having to choose my RESPONSE to this emotional moment in my workouts.

Reactions cater to the fight/flight sympathetic side. Responses cater to the relax, be well, parasympathetic side. Both are necessary, yet we often fail to "restore" in our hectic days. Often every unexpected, potentially negative event is met with a reaction: "jerk!", "the sky is falling!", "why me?!", etc.

We, have however, a very unique ability to turn a negative event into a non-event through "re-framing". Some people grow up in cultures of re-framing and it comes as second nature. Someone cuts them off in line, and they say, without a hint of sarcasm, "my you must be in a hurry, please go ahead of me." Another eats a whole box of Girl Scout cookies with ice cold milk and after remembering her fat gram goal for the day says, "I'll go for a walk now and do better tomorrow."

How does this fit with forgiveness? For me, a particular series of interpersonal events has really jaded my perception and willingness to do certain tasks. I am experiencing small chemical releases when I go to complete these tasks and the resulting negative reactions to it. I am tired of the same reaction, the negativity, and the lack of "moving beyond". My goal this month is to "re-frame" those events in order to make them both non-events and to let them go.

In the meanwhile, we were taught a very simple exercise to do when our yin and yang were falling out of balance, (also helpful for panic attacks, waking up, going to sleep, etc.), called 4-4-8.

Sit calmly in a chair. Slowly inhale through the nose to a count of four. Hold the breath to a count of four. Release the breath through the mouth to a count of 8. Repeat 4 times and then resume breathing normally for a bit. You can repeat frequently, just be sure to return to normal breathing. It resets your parasympathetic responses and gives your body a wonderful dose of oxygen.

While I'm breathing, I know I'll be re-framing and relaxing and looking forward to better days, no matter what lies in them.

No comments:

Post a Comment