It’s midway through 2011 and I’m having one of the toughest years of my life. Struggling through a career change, the end of a long-term relationship, a death in the family, and a global disaster, I had sunk into a deep depression with no end in sight.
My name is Alex Artymiak, and if I could go tell myself one thing at the time, it would be “crisis precipitates evolution,” for 2011 would also be one of the greatest years of my life, the year I immersed myself in yoga.
I began my yoga practice as a way to cross-train my body for surfing but soon experienced the incredible effects that yoga has on the heart-mind, as well as the body.
With each class, I formed deeper connections with my body and began to notice how experiences off the mat would affect my energy. The more centered I became, the more sensitive to the world I felt. Life became more moving and vibrant than ever before and I sought to discover how this was happening.
I embraced the practices of eastern philosophy as well as the scientific approach of the west to understand and validate the experiences I had. I began to see how my perceptions of the world impacted my energy, and how my energy colored my thoughts and actions, which then reinforced my perceptions. I was stuck in a loop that I had created unknowingly.
When we perceive a threat, our nervous system directs energy to the survival of imminent danger, elevating blood pressure and flooding the body with hormones to fight or flee. The mind switches to unconscious reactions and reflexes and focuses solely on the problem at hand. This same biological response happens whether we are in physical danger or are worried about finances, relationships, or world events.
When we escape physical threat, our nervous system relaxes and we become calm, however, when we are absorbed in the problems of our life, the nervous system stays in fight or flight and we experience chronic stress. We live in a state of constant fear and anxiety from a possible threat that may never actually happen, causing us to live in reactivity rather than creativity. The sensitivity to observe our state of being and the ability to calm our nervous system down when appropriate is a life-changing gift of yoga.
In the yoga sutras, “ishvara pranidhana” translates to “surrender to a higher power.” When we think of a higher power, we generally think of something outside ourselves but consider the incredible power inside you that created an entire human body from nothing more than two microscopic cells. This loving intelligence materializes and sustains our bodies without any conscious control and guides us through our intuition when we are open and receptive.
My advice is to first see yoga as a practice of the nervous system that affects the physical body. It is a conversation of telling the body to move into a shape or transition while listening to the sensations that arise. As you become more sensitive physically, you become more sensitive to emotions and energy. When you can notice the moment you are shifting into fight or flight, you can course-correct by relaxing tension in the body and by slowing down the breath. Under stress, we see only problems, and when we surrender, we see opportunity and potential.
Crisis precipitates evolution. It is my hope that whatever challenges you face in life, you resolve to connect deeper to yourself. When we surrender to the powerful loving intelligence that exists within, we receive insights and realizations that can guide us to overcome any crisis and live a life of joy and intention. I look forward to connecting with you soon!
Inspired to take a class with Alex? Find his latest practices here.