Stress and Evolution

I think it’s fair to say that for most people, their first-ever yoga teacher training is a “stressful experience.”  I’m in the middle of helping the bright and gracious BJ Galvan with Anusara Teacher Training 1 here in Bogotá, Colombia, and I’m seeing the stress – and the amazing leaps and bounds of learning — firsthand.  And it’s no coincidence that the stress and learning are coexisting in our little community space.

At BJ pointed out to us today, “stress” is not inherently a bad thing.  Check out this definition, from a medical perspective:

“Stress is the body’s reaction to a change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment or          response.”   (

Okay.  So something in the outside world is changing and we have to adjust to it.  Heck, that happens all the time in my world.  As we all know, change is the only constant we can rely upon.  The universe is pulsing and evolving all the time, and if we don’t pulse and evolve with it, we’re going to hurt, this we know.   How do we react to the change?  Now that’s the meaty question.

According to this definition, we react to change by feeling stress in our bodies.  Our hearts beat a little faster. We may sweat a bit and get focused quickly.  We get pushed to an edge where we have to make some quick decisions and try new ways of approaching a problem.

In our teacher training today, we asked folks to give directions by guiding each other into the basic forms of poses using as few words as possible.  Those who had never taught before had a fairly easy time with this, perhaps because they didn’t need to change, they just needed to do something new.  However, those that had done a lot of teaching struggled with this initially!  They already had a way of giving directions, but were being asked to change their style, pace, and word choice.  Yes, change!  The body’s reaction?  Stress!  In the form of rapid heart rate, mental resistance (“why are we doing this?  I already know how to give directions!”) or emotional contraction (“I’m no good at this, I’m making a fool of myself!”).  No surprise there, it’s hard to change a pattern.  But the participants in our training did it – every one of them — because they were invested in the process and the outcome, and because they trusted us when we said that this technique would be effective in the long run.  As a result, they are already better teachers, after only a few hours of practice – a terrific outcome.  On top of that, they have experienced a positive reaction to stress — stress made them better at something.  Not a bad take-away message.

Stressful situations force us to grow, plain and simple.  We have to adjust to a change.  That means we cannot fall back on our automatic responses, those default mechanisms that allow us to mentally check out of situations.  To adjust is to be present to the moment, to take it in and evaluate it, and to do the best we can to respond in the highest way possible.  That sounds a lot like conscious living to me…

To allow stress to encourage our evolution requires that we accept change.  If we fight change and fight the body’s attempts to “adjust” to change, things get ugly.  We get “stressed out” – and that looks like a constantly high heart rate and blood pressure, anxiety, impatience, and unhappiness.  It’s exactly  this kind of response that has given stress such a bad name in our society.  In fact, it’s not the stress that is causing the problem, but rather our underlying unwillingness to accept change and adapt to it.  The stress is inviting us to become better, brighter, and stronger.  I want that!  Which means I need to accept that invitation.  Which, in turn, means I need to be uncomfortable at times.

Alright then, I’d better buckle up for the ride.


~ by bridgetannlyons on December 1, 2011.

2 Responses to “Stress and Evolution”

  1. Brydget egos process has been life changing!!! Stress is leading us to a better life as we see it as an oportunity to grow

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