It might seem counterintuitive that yoga can improve your ability to perform many seemingly unrelated activities. Improved strength and flexibility are a couple of reasons why this is so. But, perhaps more important, yoga gives the nervous system puzzles to solve. Yoga asanas force you to organize the body in ways you are not used to. How do you find a posture you have never been in before? How do you maintain balance when the proprioceptors are not lined up How do you keep breathing deeply when challenged? How do you maintain a calm mind while you struggle (After all, yoga therapy requires a stable mind and stable body.)
Once the movement system has solved the problems in yoga poses, you can see the effect. After practice, do an activity that you enjoy; you may find new options for movement. Try an activity that you have difficulty with and you will be amazed that it feels easier. Why is this? There may be many reasons why an activity suddenly feels easier or more efficient after asana practice. Our belief comes back to the movement system, especially the nervous system, learning something new when performing asanas. Once the movement and nervous systems have learned, they incorporate aspects of that new movement into other activities.
This is amplified if you perform the activities soon after the yoga practice. One of the beautiful aspects of yoga therapy is that it challenges the nervous system to organize the body outside of the habitual manner. Yoga therapy combines this new organization with awareness and increased mind–body sensitivity to create powerful opportunities to learn, build effectiveness, and enjoy life more. Yoga therapy incorporates all the key points of efficient learning, with special prowess in slow movements and focusing on the breath.
You can only transfer new movement skills to old activities if you are aware of the movement while learning it and incorporate it in new activities as soon as possible. When you are aware, you feel that the movement or activity is different after you do the asana practice than it was before. Without awareness, you move in the habitual way. Slowing down gives you a chance to reflect and become aware. Slow movements are more meditative and introspective, offering time to observe passing thoughts, how you move or rest, and how thoughts and movements relate. Today, too many people are stressed and overly influenced by the SNS.
For healing and learning to take place, you need to dampen its effect and allow the PNS to have more influence. Slowing the breath and coordinating it with movement helps this happen. While vigorous asanas paired with breath can have this effect, slow movements and slow coordinated breathing are more efficient in healing and learning new movement. If you choose a vigorous practice, remain aware of why you are performing it.
If it is for a workout, that’s great. If you wish to learn and challenge your nervous system, a slower, mindful practice will bring more benefit. Maybe slowing down will give you a chance to observe how stressed you are and how good you can feel when you perform asanas and slow movements with coordinated breathing and awareness.