Relationship Tip from Your Mat: Show Up by Sarah Griesemer, Ph.D.
Carving out time to unroll your mat emphasizes the importance that you place on your practice. When we take the time to unroll our mat we re-train our bodies and minds. We teach our bodies to recognize the feelings of muscular exertion while breathing slowly and steadily so that we can achieve calm during periods of intense effort. On our mat we learn to work hard while softening and breathing comfortably so that during the week we can soothe ourselves in times of stress. The work we do on the mat prepares and conditions us for our time off the mat.
When we practice meditation and self-awareness in yoga, we strengthen a part of our brain called the anterior insula. Dr. Daniel Siegel (www.drdansiegel.com) refers to this as the “information superhighway” in our brain because it connects the parts of our brain together that register emotions, feelings in our body, and thoughts. Without this connection, you might not be aware that thinking “he didn’t do the dishes again” starts to make your stomach churn and makes you angry. The name also helps explain how as we strengthen this part of the brain, this one-lane-road can indeed become a superhighway, allowing you to be aware of these sensations faster and understand their connections sooner.
Creating this superhighway in your brain is crucial in being able to manage the complicated emotions and thoughts within your relationship. Unfortunately, unless you make time to talk with your partner face-to-face, you open up opportunities for miscommunication. More and more often, clients come in telling me that they had this horrific fight… over text message. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t wired for virtual relationships. We require live, in-person information to understand a situation accurately.
When we are face-to-face, our brains are frantically working to take in every wrinkle of the eye, every movement of the mouth, every tilt of the head, in order to discern the intent and attitude of the speaker. These subtle signals that we are not conscious of either trigger us to be on guard or let us know we are safe and okay.
By “unrolling the mat” in our relationship, and taking the time to carve out space to talk face-to-face we are able to tune into how our partner is feeling and how we are feeling. Carving out time means postponing what we want to take care of in the moment. But good news! You’ve been strengthening your anterior insula with yoga and meditation! That means that you will be better able to notice that seeing that pile of dirty dishes for the tenth time this week makes you feel angry and causes you to have the urge to text your partner to pass that anger off to him. Now you can tune in, use that yogic breathing to calm down, and instead wait until your partner comes home to talk in person. Practice this week unrolling your mat for your partner and see how it can change the way you love and fight.
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