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I recently wrote an article for 8 Limbs Yoga Centers on why discomfort can feel so unsafe. Head here for the full piece which includes a 12-minute guided meditation. Keep reading below for an excerpt – five ways to support sitting with discomfort.
Offer warm touch in the midst of discomfort. Place a hand, or hands, over your heart region, hold one hand in the other, put a hand to cheek, or give yourself a hug. Compassionate touch interrupts the sympathetic nervous system and engages the parasympathetic nervous system (our natural caregiving system).
Use kind words and tone. If your internal dialogue runs harsh, you’re not alone – we have an epidemic of harsh inner critics in our country. Experiment with talking to yourself as you would a child, your younger self or a loved one. Imagine how someone who loves you dearly one might talk to you. Kind speech also helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Take one step at a time. Much like we might encourage a young child to get their cry out before trying to fix something, give yourself space to simply feel a feeling on its own. Heightened emotional states are generally not the best time to multi-task.
Check out Hardwiring Happiness by neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. This accessible read unpacks the inner workings of our brains and concepts like negativity bias. Understanding what’s happening internally can make it easier to not personalize one’s humanness.
Try gentle titration. Briefly hold a mildly difficult situation in awareness, exploring any physical sensations that arise with curiosity rather than judgement. Then shift awareness to something soothing (i.e., breath, warm touch or grounding through feet). Repeat this cycle one or two times. Titration can help establish yourself, to your nervous system, as a safe person. (Click here for a 12-minute guided meditation using titration.)